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Shada

Video review by Darrell Patterson

As part of its respective season, Shada would definitely have been given top honours. In the whole Doctor Who picture it would have been praised as a classic. With the brilliant narration of Tom Baker we are at last able to see this lost classic and I believe that it deserves this status.

The fragments of Shada that do exist are a perfect tribute to the efforts of Tom Baker to create enjoyable viewing and inject humour into the series. He is as charismatic and off-the-wall as in his previous adventures. Lalla Ward also pulls off a great performance as Romana - her dominating manner almost rivals that of the Doctor at one point when she orders the timid Victoria Burgoyne about, showing how far her character has developed.

The guest cast is better than those of other stories of the same era. Christopher Neame as Skagra is a far more convincing villain - thankfully when he is finally defeated he doesn't over-act, a saving grace which contrasts with previous stories (especially The Horns of Nimon). Other superb performances come from Denis Carey as the dotty old Professor Chronotis and Daniel Hill as Chris Parsons.

However, the story itself is somewhat 'tenuous'. The worst bit is the very tacky plot device of the Gallifreyan morse code message heartbeat.

Keff McCulloch's incidental music was nothing like the promised style of good old Dudley Simpson - why did he put those stupid horror 'twangs' over the words 'Milk? One lump or two?' Perhaps he had already made up his mind that this was the first signal that the Professor is alien, implying by 'lumps' that the milk is coming from a food dispensing machine? Or is it that he is totally wrong and it is just a humorous comment by a silly old Professor?

But what of Tom Baker's linking narration? Well, it definitely enhances the story - he is witty, entertaining and most importantly informative. His respect and dedication to his work are clear in such sequences as the climax to part three where he boldly states 'Dead men do not need oxygen' with such seriousness and intent. However you cannot help laughing at him. The only thing I felt was missing was a conclusion by Tom Baker in a similar manner to the introduction.

Also of note is the excellent job BBC Video have made of the ending credits to the episodes which look authentic (albeit a bit too white), and the way they filled in parts of the story with appropriate photos and new model shots (heralding the infamous TARDIS spinning top!), made the story all the more visually enjoyable.

Shada comes in one of those bulky double video packs, but with only one tape (duration approx. 110 minutes), and a TARDIS blue script book - it's great watching how different it is to what's said on screen, confirming the stories of Tom Baker's blatant ad-libbing. The addition of the scripts still does not justify the extra nine pounds added by BBC video on the usual price.

Shada is the only 'new' Doctor Who story for some years now - and an excellent one too - and as such is worth the extra cost just to have it in your collection. It's a shame it was never 'completed, as it is a fitting tribute to the Graham Williams era of Doctor Who.

Video review by Edwin Patterson

The BBC Video of Shada is in all honesty well worth the expense. Even though the Beeb's crafty video department has slapped in a piece of white polystyrene and a script book to add to its price, the video proves its worth on viewing it, because you are getting an unscreened story with interesting 'Baker links' which deem it (in my opinion), to be the best and most worthwhile BBC release so far.

Tom Baker is the highlight of the video - his brilliant comic introduction sets the scene well, and his taunting of the creatures at MOMI, his babblings about the story and his wit and charm captures your attention and curiosity. With his haunting chant of 'Shada, Shada, SHADA,' which fades out on his trademark grin, the story begins.

Within the story, Baker is at his prime, demonstrating full control over his show (as it was then), and his characteristic ad-libs and dialogue changes are apparent when the video is compared to those expensive scripts!

The plot is quite intriguing although in parts it is a little drawn out (most six parters are guilty of this in some respect). The chase sequences with the sphere are a little tedious and over-padded.

Douglas Adams' corny humour gets a bit sickening at times - such as Romana's 'Oh blast it!' line which K9 interprets as an order. Incidentally, Lalla Ward's acting at this point is appalling - this line is delivered extremely unconvincingly and her obviously faked panic and shock when K9 fires and barely misses her looks very amateur.

Even though a lot of scenes are missing - especially in the later episodes - the story runs smoothly. Baker's links fill the gaps remarkably well to make a coherent story, his personality and wit shining through and demanding attention.

In the acting department, I particularly liked Victoria Burgoyne's portrayal of Clare Keightley. This was her first television (as Baker puts it), and she certainly put a great deal of effort into her role, making Clare far more convincing than most of the other characters - especially Lalla Ward's Romana.

The most memorable point in the story has to be Chris Parsons' utter astonishment as he walks into the TARDIS and quickly comes back out - the best scene of this type since Benton's 'It's a bit obvious' line in the Pertwee era.

Overall, the video is outstandingly interesting, and proves to be better on a second viewing. As with The Tomb of the Cybermen I feel Shada has been hyped somewhat - due to its unavailability - to a classic status. Perhaps if it had been completed, it would not have ranked as highly. Don't get me wrong - it is a good story, but compared to Baker classics such as The Deadly Assassin and The Talons of Weng-Chiang, it would have been an average Baker story judging by the material that exists.

This item appeared in TSV 31 (November 1992).

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