"Shada" is the famous ‘lost story’ of Doctor Who, due to the production of this story being shut down by a BBC labour strike.
This story was written by Douglas Adams and became his final contribution to Doctor Who. It was envisaged as a Time Lord story without a Gallifreyan setting and replaced another which Douglas Adams had wanted to write about The Doctor losing interest in saving the universe and going into retreat - an idea which Producer Graham Williams prevented him from pursuing, on the grounds that it would send the show up too much.
Originally, this story’s director was intended to be Michael Hayes, who had last worked on "City of Death". In the event, however, Michael Hayes was replaced by Pennant Roberts, whose most recent Doctor Who credit had been on the Season Sixteen story "The Pirate Planet" that was also written by Douglas Adams.
"Shada" was originally intended to be the final story of this season but a recurrence of an industrial dispute that had previously caused difficulties during the recording of "The Invasion of Time" and "The Armageddon Factor" eventually led to this story’s cancellation, even though extensive location filming in the Cambridge area and the first of its three planned studio sessions had already been completed.
When industrial action had forced the postponement of all recording at the BBC Television Centre on the 19th November 1979 the fate of this story suddenly became unclear. With three further studio days planned to take place in December the strike continued to drag on resulting in Pennant Roberts facing a new problem. Many of the BBC productions, which had been delayed by the strike, were Christmas programmes, viewed by the BBC as critical to their broadcast schedule. It soon became clear that even if the strike ended straight away it was highly unlikely that "Shada" would retain its original recording dates.
Despite proceeding with rehearsals by the 30th November 1979 Graham Williams was forced to reluctantly concede that his Doctor Who swansong would never be completed, and ordered the cast and crew of "Shada" to stand down. As it happened, the BBC reached an agreement with the unions the very next day. But for "Shada" it was too late.
Graham Williams did continue to investigate the possibility of remounting the five abandoned studio days later in December but it quickly became clear, however, that "Shada" could not be booked into a studio until at least January 1980, even assuming that the appropriate budgetary allocation could be secured. With the story scheduled to begin transmission on the 19th January 1980, this effectively settled the matter and so on the 10th December 1979 it was officially decided that "The Horns of Nimon", the story that preceded "Shada", would mark the end of a truncated Season Seventeen.
This turn of events brought an unhappy end to the tenures of both Producer Graham Williams and Writer/Script Editor Douglas Adams on Doctor Who. Graham Williams would continue to work as a producer through much of the Eighties on shows like Supergran and Tales of the Unexpected. He also wrote a Doctor Who story entitled "The Nightmare Fair" for the abortive original version of Doctor Who’s Season Twenty Three, which he subsequently novelised for Target Books. Graham Williams died in 1990.
Douglas Adams went on to great fame thanks his "The Hitchhiker's Guide to Galaxy" novel which resulted in a radio play and a television adaptation, Douglas Adams also wrote four sequels as well as several other books, encompassing both fiction and non-fiction. One of these was the 1987 novel "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency", which recycled various ideas from Shada including the character of Professor Chronotis. Douglas Adams died in 2001.
Among Professor Chronotis’ books are H. G. Wells’ "The Time Machine", Saul Bellow’s "The Victim", Roget’s Thesaurus, a colour edition of the "British Book of Wild Birds", "Alternative Betelgeuse", "Wuthering Height"s, a volume that recommends Tandoori chicken for starters, and "Sweeney Todd".
The Doctor is heard reading from "The Old Curiosity Shop" towards the end (‘“Her little homely dress. Her favourite!” cried the old man, pressing it to his breast and patting it with his shrivelled hand “She'll miss it when she wakes”.’).
The ‘lost’ book, "The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey", is actually a ‘key’ to Shada: turning to the last page will send a TARDIS there. It dates back to the days of Rassilon, and is one of the 'artefacts'. Time runs backwards over the book (carbon dating puts its age at -20,000 years) it is also atomically unstable, and seems to absorb radiation.
All of the artefacts have ‘stupendous power’: although many of the meanings are lost, the power and the Gallifreyan rituals remain.
Romana is heard reciting the words used at the Academy induction ceremony: ‘I swear to protect the ancient Law of Gallifrey with all my might and brain. I will to the end of my days with justice and with honour temper my actions and my thoughts.’).
The Doctor uses the "The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey" in the Virgin Books’ The New Adventures novel "The Dimension Riders".
The Doctor orders Skagra’s ship to reverse the polarity of its main warp feeds (this, and various other modifications, turns the ship into a primitive time machine).
When Skagra examines The Doctor's life, brief clips from "The Pirate Planet", "The Power of Kroll", "Creature from the Pit", "The Androids of Tara", "Destiny of the Daleks" and "City of Death" are shown.
Professor Chronotis recognises the TARDIS as a Type 40 (‘Came out when I was a boy: that shows you how old I am.’), whereas Skagra’s ship thinks that it’s a Type 39, or possibly a Type 40.
More techno-babble is used in the show when: Professor Chronotis and Clare Keightley find themselves ‘jammed between two irrational time interfaces’: his TARDIS’ conceptor geometry relay, with magranomic trigger, has a defunct field separator, but this won’t be needed if they can fix the interfacial resonator; and Chronotis’ memories are extracted, by Skagra, through psychoactive extraction, ‘someone has stolen part of his mind’.
Chronotis is on his last regeneration, but is brought back to life by Claire mucking around with his TARDIS. He is able to beat out a message with his hearts in Gallifreyan Morse code.
A man who is probably Chronotis reappears in the BBC Books’ The Eight Doctor Stories novel "Unnatural History" as Professor Daniel Joyce.
Rassilon mentions, in the Big Finish Productions Eighth Doctor audio story "Zagreus", that he is Conqueror of Dronid, here mentioned as Skagra’s homeworld.
This story contains a couple of anomalies. Namely: Clare Keightley is seen dropping her books before actually running into the porter and in the second episode Romana calls Chris by his first name, despite having not heard it before.
In an unfilmed scene in the fifth episode, a listing of prisoners kept on Shada included a Dalek, a Cyberman, and a Zygon. However, instead of these, aliens bearing resemblance to Ice Warriors were seen.
It is revealed that The Doctor received an honorary degree from St. Cedd’s College, Cambridge, in 1960 and he visited Professor Chronotis in 1955, 1960 and 1964 in his fourth incarnation, and also in 1958 in a different incarnation.
The Doctor is seen vortex walking between Chronotis’ and his own TARDIS.
This story takes place in October 1979; coincidentally that is the same month Douglas Adams published his first "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" novel.
Had this story been broadcast, it would have marked the final use of the 1967 arrangement of the "Doctor Who Theme" by Delia Derbyshire, the tunnel opening sequence by Bernard Lodge and the diamond logo introduced in the 1973 Third Doctor story "The Time Warrior". "Shada" would have also become the final six-part story of the show. This accolade instead went to "The Armageddon Factor" - the final story of the previous season, Season Sixteen.
An attempt was made to remount this story by new Producer John Nathan-Turner. In April 1980 John Nathan-Turner even sent a revised set of scripts to Pennant Roberts, to seek the director’s input on the idea of completing the story in the form of two fifty-minute episodes to air over Christmas. Plans for this remounted version of "Shada" started to move forward, even to the point of arranging to have a minimal cast reunited for a pair of two-day studio blocks in October 1980. But for various reasons these plans ultimately came to nothing, and so in June 1980 this production was officially cancelled. Nonetheless, John Nathan-Turner arranged for the extant "Shada" material to be preserved within the BBC Archives for possible future use.
In 1983, an unofficial "Shada" compilation was prepared by a number of Doctor Who fans. In addition to the completed location and studio material, they used printed text from the rehearsal scripts in place of the unfinished segments. This incarnation of "Shada" debuted at the Panopticon 5 convention in Birmingham on the 3rd and 4th September 1983.
In the same year two scenes were edited into the Twentieth Anniversary special, "The Five Doctors", when Tom Baker had declined to participate. As John Nathan-Turner wanted all five incarnations of The Doctor represented he elected to use footage from this story, notably the punting sequence on the Cam and a brief sequence of The Doctor’s escape from the floating ball, in order to ensure that the Fourth Doctor had a presence in the anniversary story. An additional, third, sequence can also be seen in the Special Edition of "The Five Doctors" released on DVD in November 1999 and Twenty Fifth Anniversary Edition, which contains the original broadcast version as well as the Special Edition, released in March 2008.
Due to the commercial successes with several special BBC Video Doctor Who releases, in 1991, including an extended version of the 1989 Seventh Doctor story "The Curse of Fenric", as well as "Doctor Who: The Hartnell Years" and "Doctor Who: The Troughton Years" - two compilations of episodes from stories that were no longer completely held by the BBC Archives – convinced the BBC that fans were enthusiastic about these non-standard video releases and that "Shada" could be released on VHS video compiling existing footage broken down into the planned six episodes.
John Nathan-Turner approached Tom Baker about recording linking narration which he agreed to do, on the condition that he would appear as himself and not as the Fourth Doctor.
For this video release several short clips of Tom Baker were recorded in February 1992, at the Doctor Who: Behind the Sofa exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image in London. David Brierley returned to record some new K9 dialogue and Keff McCulloch - who had worked on several Doctor Who stories in the late Eighties beginning with "Time and The Rani" - composed new incidental music. Keff McCulloch attempted to mimic the style of Dudley Simpson, who had originally been due to compose the incidental music for "Shada". Various special effects were also added or refined. The video was released in July 1992 and included a booklet containing Douglas Adams’s full script of the original production.
This very special release gave fans the first glimpse of this story as it could have been after a delay of more than twelve years. But despite being released on video this story has never been aired on television – making it the only Doctor Who television story never to be broadcast. To date this story has only been available in the VHS format, with no announced plans for a DVD release as of 2010 (although clips from "Shada" have been used on featurettes on other DVD releases).
Although "Shada" became commercially available in 1992, there remained a desire in some quarters to prepare a version of the adventure in which all of the material was properly dramatised. Big Finish Productions came up with the idea to develop an audio version of this story. After considerable effort, Big Finish Productions and BBCi, the team responsible for the BBC’s official Doctor Who website, successfully obtained the necessary permissions from the estate of Douglas Adams.
This story was eventually released in 2003 as a webcast in May (with animation) and an audio release. Both versions starred Paul McGann, as the Eighth Doctor, Lalla Ward, as Romana, and John Leeson, providing the voice of K9. Lalla Ward is the only actor to appear in both the original television version and the audio version.
Although working from Douglas Adams’ original script, portions of this version were reworked by Gary Russell to make the story fit into Doctor Who continuity. This included a new introduction, and a new explanation for the Fourth Doctor and Romana being ‘taken out of time’ during the events of "The Five Doctors"; the Eighth Doctor has come to collect Romana and K9 because he has begun to have a feeling that there was something they should have done at that time. In addition to this: Romana is referred to as Madam President by Skagra in Episode five; In Episode 6 it is Romana, using her Presidential powers, who decides that Chronotis should be allowed to return to Cambridge; When the policeman enters Chronotis’ room, The Doctor can be heard talking about a ‘terrible way to see in the New Year’ in a possible reference to the Eighth Doctor’s first adventure, The 1996 television film "Doctor Who: The Movie" and various other minor dialogue changes throughout, mostly relating to the Eighth Doctor reflecting that he has missed Romana and K9 since they left him and how much he enjoyed their company in the past.
The first episode of this version of "Shada" premiered on the BBC Doctor Who website on the 2nd May 2003, as part of the festivities surrounding the show’s fortieth anniversary. The six episodes were made available on a weekly basis, and each was accompanied by limited animation featuring the artwork of Lee Sullivan. The webcast also featured outlines of the first eight Doctors’ faces. A slightly extended edition of the play was then released on CD in December. The audio play was also broadcast on BBC 7 in December 2005 (as a 2˝ hour omnibus), and was repeated in six parts as the opening story to the Eighth Doctor’s summer season which began in July 2006.
Listen out for when Skagra is investigating The Doctor, clips from three other Big Finish productions can be heard, exclusively on the CD version – "The Fires of Vulcan", "The Marian Conspiracy" and "Phantasmagoria".
In the second episode of the webcast version, when Chris is in his lab showing Clare the book, a vending machine-like object in the background is labelled ‘Nutrimat’, a reference to a similar device in Douglas Adams’ "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". Two other references are a sequence where Skagra steals a Ford Prefect and when images of Hitchhiker's Guide characters appear as inmates on Shada itself.
The battered space helmet which The Doctor adapts in the sixth episode of the webcast version bears the serial number ‘NCC-1701D’. This just happens to be the registration ident of the Starship Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Elements of "Shada" were reused by Douglas Adams for his novel "Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency", in particular the character of Professor Chronotis, his time-travelling apartment, and St. Cedd’s college.
Douglas Adams did not allow "Shada", or any of his other Doctor Who stories, to be novelised by Target Books. This story therefore is one of only five stories from the original run of the show not to be novelised by Target. The other Douglas Adam’s stories being "The Pirate Planet" and "City of Death", plus Eric Saward’s two Dalek stories ("Resurrection of the Daleks" and "Revelation of the Daleks"). A BBC novelisation, written by Gareth Roberts was finally published in March 2012.
An unsanctioned fan novelisation was written in 1989, by Paul Scoones, for the New Zealand Fan Club. Titled "Doctor Who and Shada", it was then released later by TSV Books in New Zealand with a cover by Alistair Hughes.
An animated version of this story was released on DVD and Blu-Ray in December 2017.
The first story to be halted mid production and so not broadcast