28 December 2012

Manufacturer: BBC Worldwide Consumer Products

Written By: Douglas Adams

RRP: £30.63

Release Date: 7th January 2013

Reviewed By: Dale Who for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 28th December 2012

Never aired on television due to a strike in 1979, and never fully completed, the six-part adventure 'Shada' traces the chase to recover a powerful book, the Artifacts of Gallifrey, stolen from retired timelord Professor Chronotis (Denis Carey).

Skagra (Christopher Neame) is the evil despot responsible for this foul jiggery pokery.

* * * * *

Disc One:

Shada

Very few Doctor Who stories have what can be described as a quasi-mythical status, and all of the handful that do are missing from the BBC archives. Stories such as The Tenth Planet and Power of the Daleks, and Shada.  

Shada is the oddity in the mix, as it's the missing story that's not missing; a paradoxical status which is quite appropriate, given it was penned by the late, great Douglas Adams. This was his last story for Doctor Who, and although it was never finished, at least one of the characters in the story found new life in other of Adams' works.  

Shada here is presented in two forms - one viewable on a DVD player, the other needing a DVD-ROM drive on your computer. More on that version in a moment...

The television story was never transmitted, as the filming was never completed due to industrial action at the BBC. The linking narration for those missing scenes, first recorded for the BBC Video release of this story, were recorded with Tom Baker in the 1990s at London's Museum Of The Moving Image (MOMI), and was set in their "Behind The Sofa" Doctor Who exhibition. It is that BBC Video release that is presented here, with only the player format changed - from VHS to DVD.

Special Features:

Info Text - There's a wealth of information to impart here, so there's six episodes of trivia packed info text to accompany the story. From robot dogs at very strange angles (it's a very funny moment when you see what they're talking about) to what the cast and crew did next, there's a lot of entertaining, and quite jokily written text here.

Shada (BBCi) - Move forward in time to the early 2000's, and the BBC's Doctor Who website did a number of "webcasts" in co-operation with Big Finish; and Shada was one of the stories they remounted. Tom Baker was unavailable to reprise his role as The Fourth Doctor, so with a little wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey trickery Paul McGann takes the lead as The Eighth Doctor; again featuring the lovely Lalla Ward, and with K-9's original voice, John Leeson, on board. It's a brave move, and surprisingly it works very well indeed for McGann's Doctor, successfully mixing the old with the new a good few years before School Reunion did the same thing on television. That webcast is also presented here, but only if you put the disc in your computer, as the animation plays through your web browser.

Coming Soon Trailer - The original TARDIS crew land outside Paris during the French Revolution, and soon get caught up in established events. With scores of people heading for the infamous guillotine, can The Doctor (William Hartnell) "head off" a grisly fate for his travelling companions, whist keeping his own? The Reign Of Terror - complete with two animated episodes to replace missing footage, is out at the end of January.  

The disc also has Subtitles and Audio Navigation available for those who may wish to use them.

Disc Two:

Special Features:

Taken Out Of Time - A retrospective look at Shada, featuring some wonderful contributions from Tom Baker, the production crew, and other cast members such as Daniel Hill (Chris Parsons in the story). There's a very positive and nostalgic air to the extra, with many happy memories. Stories of near-misses on bicycles, people falling in love, and lots of alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol. Industrial action upset the apple cart of course, and the origin of the St. John's singers and their train song cameo are all brought up and discussed. There's obviously still a lot of love for the story in the hearts of the cast and crew, and it really shows.  A nice, honest piece, that despite bringing up some grim subjects and with a none too happy ending, never loses its charm.

Now And Then - This instalment takes us to Cambridge with locations then and now. One of the better things about historic locations such as this is that very little changes; but it doesn't make for the most interesting extra. This time it seems to be more of a "this is what we filmed here", rather than "what's changed since we filmed it". Rather bizarrely, the disembodied voice that fills us in on the minutiae of filming isn't credited at the end, leaving you to wonder whom was talking to you for ten minutes!

Strike! Strike! Strike! - Bet you can't guess what this one's about... Shaun Ley, on the TARDIS control room set, gives us the back-story of the unions at the BBC. Various talking heads contribute to this featurette, with many stories of offended dressers, ten o'clock deadlines, and of course Shada being shelved, stalled, and then cancelled. It works for and against Who at various junctures, and it's all dissected and examined here. Included is the famous footage of Blue Peter being presented from the set of Robot, and there are a wealth of Classic Series clips used to illustrate points with humour and simplicity.  An informative and entertaining extra.

Being A GirlLouise Jameson narrates this look at the women in front of, and behind, the camera in the worlds of Doctor Who. From the BBC's first female producer Verity Lambert, via Susan Foreman, Liz and Leela, to Rose and Donna.

It's basically a look at "How sexist was Doctor Who?", but it's impossible to dislike this. It's an honest and entertaining look at a show that really has changed in its view of the female companion - from the liberation of the writing of Ace, for example, to the sexualisation of the modern day companion such as Rose. Then there's the unstoppable River Song, and Amy Pond who got married and carried on travelling regardless. There's a somewhat worrying look at the male companions who are either not the strongest characters - or they're Captain Jack. Oh alright, Rory had his badass moments as well...

Clips galore, goodies, baddies, Classic and New Who, and some truly decent insights about casting roles and villainous women all contribute to the story being told. There's also a valid question about if you should "fancy The Doctor", and the consequences thereof.

Photo GalleryShada in front of the camera and behind. Publicity shots and planned stills, sets, stars and scarves, all set to some charming incidental music. Features a great set of cameo appearances by a toasting fork, and that tin dog thing.

Subtitles are available on the DVD for those who may need them as is the usual Audio Navigation.

But wait! It's not all Shada on The Legacy Collection Box-Set, and things are about to get a whole lot more nostalgic...

Disc Three:

More Than 30 Years In The TARDIS

The extended VHS release of the televised Thirty Years In The TARDIS is transferred to DVD, with a host of new extras to pad out the disc, and some of those extras outshine the main programme. One in particular will cause many a tear and sniff in remembrance, but we'll get to that one shortly.

The programme itself is a retrospective consisting of a wealth of clips and interviews, voice-overs and specially shot footage, including an early version of a particular special effect that was not fully realised until the 2012 Christmas special The Snowmen... bonus points if you know what that effect is - and if you don't, I'll tell you right at the end of the review.

There's nothing new here - they're all things we've seen before and recovering concepts we're all familiar with, but at least with this production it's not like all the recent coverage that only concentrate on the new series since 2005. It still propagates several myths that have since been unmasked - such as William Hartnell "deciding" to leave as opposed to him having to be replaced due to his severely failing health.

There's adverts, skits, spoofs, cereals, cars, and more monsters than you shake a sonic screwdriver at. If you like retropsective clip shows then you'll love this. Do be aware, however, that the picture quality is, at times, pretty atrocious due to the archive material used.

Remembering Nicholas Courtney - Tissues at the ready. Michael McManus (Nicholas' friend and biographer) takes us through the real life of The Brigadier, largely via a recorded interview from 2010. Even in the taped interview Nick looks frail, but his spirit is indomitable and shines brightly throughout. The extra is well paced and well done, and McManus' interview is a delight to watch as he prompts very little and lets Nick tell his own story; and his linking narration is very simple and easy to take in. It's such a nice piece - and all the harder to watch accordingly. It's still a wrench to the heart that this great man - a legitimate Doctor Who legend - is no longer around. The featurette also includes footage from 2003's The Story Of Doctor Who, and possibly one of the single best gatecrashing's of an interview ever captured on film. Entirely staged, obviously, but enormously entertaining when you see Who's peering in the conservatory window.

A diamond of an extra, and guaranteed to bring a lump to the throat. Also featuring clips of Nicholas' roles in other TV shows, like The Two Ronnies and Theatre 625, and mention is made of Courtney's other roles and jobs away from stage and screen. Great, great stuff.

Doctor Who Stories: Peter Purves - Yes, it's Steven Taylor's turn in the spotlight - or perhaps Morton Dill, if you prefer. Entirely taken from 2003's The Story Of Doctor Who, Peter Purves spills the beans on his time in the TARDIS... a ship he defends beautifully, during the course of the interview.

From Daleks to Doctors, and Monoids to Meddling Monks, Purves recalls his Who time with a great deal of humour - it's impossible to dislike a man who describes his own character in one particular story as being "a bit more butch in that one."

With excerpts from Blue Peter as well as the Hartnell era of Doctor Who - a short, entertaining, if slightly pedestrian, extra.

The Lambert Tapes: Part One - Yet more wheeled out 2003 footage from The Story of Doctor Who. Verity Lambert, the first producer of Doctor Who - and the BBC's only female producer at the time - recalls the genesis of the series, the introduction of Waris Hussein, and the rather famous tale of everyone's famous epitome of bug-eyed monsters and their arrival on the show. 

Again, many clips illustrate part one of this potted history, and Lambert holds the attention easily and is very honest about the beginnings of the show. Features sixties fashion, and the backing track for the original Doctor Who theme, without the melody line, as background music.

Those Deadly Divas - More powerful women in Doctor Who - with Kate O'Mara, Camille Coduri, Tracy Ann Oberman, and er... Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman, discuss the powerful villainesses in Who; from The Rani to Yvonne Hartman.  O'Mara in particular had some incredibly dour, fun lines in the show as the Time Lady, and a spectacularly dismal view of the Time Lord's she was put against.

It's not a particularly riveting topic, and the level of villainy veers wildly, but the wonderful ladies on camera talking about themselves lift this above the mundane. It almost rescues this extra - but not quite. It will however make you realise how much you miss Camille Coduri on the show.

Photo Gallery - Behind the scenes and publicity shots from the BBC special, set this time to slightly less charming incidental music than the Shada one. Lots of shots of Jon Pertwee, and Daleks on Westminster Bridge, but these photos have an added bonus in that lots of them have not been seen before, which makes this a genuinely interesting gallery. Autons, Sontarans, the glorious and much missed Lis Sladen and Nick Courtney, and quite a few shots of the "Thirty Years" TARDIS prop. Such a great collection of photos.

With PDF Radio Times Listings, and Subtitles for those who might need them, that rounds off a very unusual set of DVDs.

It's not the greatest release in the DVD range, even given the wealth of material available here, but the two versions of Shada work well, and the Nicholas Courtney tribute almost justifies the release alone. It's certainly an eccentric set, with wildly veering content, but as a collection of standalone oddities in the worlds of Doctor Who, it succeeds well enough at being diverting and entertaining.

Oh, and the special effect shot from "Thirty Years" that made a full debut in The Snowmen? A single shot camera track from the outside of the TARDIS, through the Police Box doors, and into the control room, with no changes in angle, perspective, or scenery.

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