Doctor Who #531: Shada Part 4

"Think of me as a paradox in an anomaly and get on with your tea."
TECHNICAL SPECS: Unaired. Scroll back to Part 1 if you don't know why.

IN THIS ONE... Professor Chronotis is alive again, the Doctor gets information on Skagra, and a Krarg shows up.

REVIEW: Tom Baker's narration, sometimes accompanied by stills, fills in the ever increasing blanks, with less than 15 minutes of the episode actually existing. We're missing some crucial stuff, of course, including Skagra hauling Romana around as a witness to his plan, Krargs fantastically forming in vats, and K9 fighting the alien monsters. It's also not clear if the montage of quick clips that represents Skagra reviewing memories to unlock the book of Rassilon is the reconstruction's invention or if it was made for the episode itself. Regardless, it's a pretty cool conceit, slick and modern in its way. In fact, aside from some dodgier spaceship model effects (a quick fix from 1992), Shada looks quite good. Chronotis' office has a nice Wellsian feel, the Krargs would be beautiful even if that cool molten effect wasn't added to them, and there's plenty of attention to details, like the wizened old scientist's long curly fingernails.

The long scene we DO get at least tells us what the heck's going on. Who were those guys in Part 1? The greatest minds of their generation, tricked by evil genius Skagra into giving him all their brainpower. Why does he need the book? To free a very special mind, that of Time Lord criminal Salyevin, from the ancient, forcibly-forgotten Time Lord prison, Shada. A fantastic idea, though it's a bit much that the Doctor and Romana started talking about this guy just a couple of episodes ago. Still, he must be dangerous if Time Lord society erased all knowledge of the prison from (presumably) the Matrix. If the mention of Salyevin is too much of a coincidence, it's not the only stretch in the script. It also looks like the Doctor takes a normal spaceship and turns it into a TARDIS. Yeah right.

The one thing that might normally be hard to believe, but which I'll accept gladly, is Chronotis turning up alive again. Silly little Clare pushed a button and sent the whole apartment, actually an old TARDIS rescued from the scrap pile, into a state of timelessness. If I'm applying my own understanding of temporal whonanigans, it looks like the bond between TARDIS and pilot means the craft's shunt dragged Chronotis in with it, like a tangled-up piece of string. Chronotis is aware of his own death even if his body is apparently from earlier in his timeline. Simple enough. It would "explain" his vanishing corpse and even, if you like, all the holes in his memory and tendency to repeat moments (the tea). While these events happened earlier, it's a case of the cause (the sideways TARDIS trip) following the effect. And indeed, Chronotis is much more lucid now, though you can still get a cup of tea from him. I'm glad he's back!

- There are a couple of groaners, scientifically and coincidentally, but Part 4 is chock full of inspired ideas that make Time Lords look powerful and cool. This is no Holmesian take-down.



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