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31 December 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 730: Scream of the Shalka, Episodes Five and Six

Dear diary,

Increasingly as this story has gone on, I’ve had cause to think that it suffers by being the only adventure for this particular Doctor, and in this particular format. The special features on the DVD (some of the best in the range, I think) make it clear that the original plan was to have twelve& episodes, which would have allowed three four-part stories making up a short ‘season’ of adventures for our heroes, but as budgets were changed and interest in the project shifted, it was cut down to the one story. It really *does suffer for this, because it means that Scream of the Shalka doesn’t have enough presence to really make any kind of impact on the world of Doctor Who. It’s easily ignored as a slightly strange bit of ephemera from the early naughties, and nothing more.

It also means that we get lots of tantalising glimpses into the world that the series could be set in, without actually following through on them. The Doctor here is a loner because he’s lost someone, and the implication is that it was someone very close to him and under circumstances that were particularly distressing. You’ve also got him travelling around the universe with a robot version of the Master… and it’s simply presented as the Doctor’s way of saving his old friend’s soul. At the end, Alison ditches her dead-end relationship to go gallivanting in the TARDIS (something that’s going to be cropping up tomorrow, too!), and there’s the promise of plenty more to come for her… but we’ll not be seeing her again. In all, it means that the story doesn’t really pack much of a punch, and I can guarantee that I’ll have forgotten most of it by the time that this marathon is over.

Which is a shame, because there are a lot of interesting ideas in here, and you can sort of see what they were aiming to do with the series. It’s a different approach to it - and one that’s squarely aimed at an existing fancies hungry for new content, as opposed to the TV Movie or Rose, both of which are designed as ‘introductions’ to Doctor Who). I think I’d love for there even to be just another six episodes - one or two more stories just to flesh out this attempt at making the series, so that there’s more of a mission statement for this incarnation of the show.

What has become quite fun in the last few years is the idea that this can now be somehow shoehorned into actual Doctor Who continuity if you squint a bit. It’s all thanks to the fact that the Great Intelligence ends up taking a form very similar in style to the ‘Doctor’ we’re presented with here, and then he throws himself into the Doctor’s time stream, getting scattered throughout the Doctor’s life in the process. I don’t think you have to make too much of a mental leap to say that this incarnation is simply the Great Intelligence playing at being the Doctor, and maybe that would explain his slightly angry demeanour at the very start of the adventure. You could even use that to rationalise the whole ‘Master as a robot’ thing, if you say that the Intelligence recognises the man’s role in the Doctor’s life and so creates his own version to make it all seem more real. Hey, if the Intelligence is mad enough to lure the Doctor to his own grave and then commit suicide jumping in to the time stream, then I’m willing to bet he’s mad enough to pretend he’s an incarnation of the Doctor as a bit of fun now and then!

So, in all, Scream of the Shalka has been an interesting little diversion over the last few days. I’m glad that I didn’t cave during that first episode and skip over it straight to the ‘new’ series, because I’ve found a lot more to enjoy here than I was expecting to, but it’s never going to be a classic - only a strange sort of ‘what if’, floating around in the mists of time…

Love Branco United States
3/24/2020 1:16:31 AM #

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