Doctor Who #533: Shada Part 6

"Romana explained how she found it hard to believe that the Professor was the great Salyavin when he was such a nice old man, and I speculated that in a few hundred years someone would meet me and say, is that really the Doctor? How strange. He seemed such a nice old man."
TECHNICAL SPECS: Unaired. Check out Part 1 as to why.

IN THIS ONE... Skagra is defeated as the Doctor takes control of the sphere, as everyone's back to Cambridge in time for morning tea.

REVIEW: Though 17 minutes were made, the climax really only occurs in narration, which is either too bad or merciful, depending on how well a huge Krarg fight that ends with them dissolving in vat gas would have looked. The Krargs do seem a waste, and we never find out why they were working with/for Skagra other than an anagrammatic affinity. His plan to turn everyone into him doesn't seem like the kind of thing that would attract many followers. There's really no reason not to have used them again, unless it was a question of paying royalties to Douglas Adams. They deserve a real shot. Tom Baker describes the action in colorful terms and makes it exciting, but the links are sometimes so brief, you're left feeling confused about the story. Not unlike Professor Chronotis, I suppose.

And just how insane and epic is the story? Not only is Skagra's plan completely bonkers, but there's a scene where a police box and a college room are flying together through the vortex, and the Doctor has Romana create a time tunnel between the two so he can crawl from one to the other. If he almost doesn't make it, it's because Clare fails her companion audition, but she and Romana at least try to make holding on to levers exciting. The idea that the fragment/copy of the Doctor's mind that's in the sphere can be used to take control of the sphere zombies is an elegant one too, and makes for a satisfying resolution. Skagra held prisoner by his own ship's computer as she raves about what the wonderful things the Doctor did to her circuits is a perfect Douglas Adams moment. Hard to tell if the same can be said of Chronotis' paradoxical resurrection, but nobody wants him to be dead forever, no matter what he might have been up to in earlier incarnations.

What makes the episode for me is the epilogue. First, we're back to winking at the audience re: college life, as the police are called in to investigate the "stolen room", replaced, according to the witness, by a "blue haze". Yes... sounds like a college room. The policeman has no doubt he's walking into the aftermath of a party, especially when he spots the police box, obviously stolen from the streets as part of a student prank. After the box dematerializes, Chronotis tries to lay the Time Lord charm that has kept him in the same job for 300 years unnoticed, but amusingly, the constable hauls them all in anyway. The coda, told but not seen, makes a point about the Doctor's various incarnations and how different people might have different favorites. Tom Baker isn't going to be in the role forever after all, even if he thought so at one point or other, and perhaps he is Salyavin to Peter Davison's Chronotis. One season to go before we find out.

VERSIONS: There are four distinct alternate versions of Shada. The BBC recently issued a novelization by Gareth Roberts, recent because Douglas Adams never wrote the Doctor Who novelizations he'd legally set aside for himself. Roberts includes a large number of references to stories that have appeared since then, up through and including The Doctor's Wife. Until that point, the only novelization available was fan-produced and still available online HERE. The website describes differences between its various editions and revisions and the script itself, the current edition being the most faithful (small differences in previous editions included dropping the Roman numeral countdown and Skagra's missing scars).
Then there's the webcast of Shada that uses the original script as a basis for an 8th Doctor/President Romana adventure. Is is included as a DVD-ROM feature on the DVD release. The flash animation is simple, even primitive, but not unpleasant, though the re-casting of people and places can be a bit shocking. The characters look like their voice actors (presumably) who vary a great deal from the original cast. Clare is blond, Chris has a accent, Professor Chronotis has no beard, Skagra has no scar or pimp outfit, and the Think Tank is full of aliens. K9 is played by John Leeson. The Krargs have faces (see pic above) and the various ships and space stations have grandiose, organic sets. The Doctor and Romana are older (and in the former's case, in a different incarnation) so some dialog has been tweaked, shared among them, etc. The biggest differences have the Doctor seek out Romana because of a memory fragment/dream he had regarding Chronotis and Cambridge, though a reason for it isn't really given. As Gallifreyan president, Romana pardons Chronotis for his crimes at the end. The restored scenes also clarify a few things, such as the fact the Krargs are artificial creatures and how Skagra knew about Salyavin. Big Finish also issued an audio-only CD of this version, with a few more differences. Some scenes are longer, missing visuals are replaced with talkier scenes, and the Doctor's memories include clips from Big Finish audios.

THEORIES: If we look at the wider canon, how can the events of Shada have been experienced by the 4th Doctor and Romana AND the 8th Doctor and President Romana? The truth apparently lies in The Five Doctors, which may even provide an in-story explanation as to why the original Shada is so piecemeal. In the 20th Anniversary special, the time scoop tries to nab the Doctor and Romana off their punt at the very beginning of the story. They are trapped in a time eddy and do not get to Gallifrey like the other Doctors and companions. What if that interrupts the timeline? Events which SHOULD have happened, didn't. Echoes have gotten back to us through the Matrix, but in fragments. Of course, history tries to mend itself and at some point these events MUST happen (or else Skagra would have spread his mind across the universe as he planned), so they intersect the Doctor's life again during his 8th incarnation, where he MUST team up with Romana even if her circumstances have changed in order to fulfil history's mandate. So they both happened, though the first time was wiped from existence by Borusa's interference. The webcast/audio infers as much, though the former's character and ship redesigns remain unexplainable.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The Cambridge stuff is priceless and the epic story ends in humor. I just wish the exciting action bits had been made (and made well).

- I have no doubt this story would rate Highly if it had been finished. Still plenty entertaining as it is.



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