“But first on BBC1, a little later than originally billed, we rejoin the TARDIS for another adventure in time and space with…Doctor Who!”
After 37 years, the Doctor Who story famously scuppered by industrial action, Shada, has been lovingly reconstructed. As well as upscaling to high-definition, the unfilmed sections have been filled in with animation and the original actors returning to voice their roles.
Digital customers can get their hands on ‘Shada’ right now on iTunes. DVD and Blu-ray will follow on Monday 4th December. The Curzon in Victoria played host to a screening and Q&A with some of the folk behind ‘Shada’.
The Fourth Doctor and Romana arrive in Cambridge to visit Professor Chronotis, an absent-minded old friend and retired Time Lord. Chrontis summoned them to help him get rid of a dangerous old book he pinched from the library on Gallifrey. The same book the Professor unwittingly lent to an undergraduate earlier that day. The Doctor must track down the book while being pursued by a sartorially-challenged alien with a killer beachball. Shada was the final Doctor Who script written by Douglas Adams of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy‘ fame. Directed by Pennant Roberts, it would have closed out season 17 and ushered in the reign of John Nathan-Turner.
Among the panel, led by comedian and Who superfan Toby Hadoke, was Charles Norton – director and producer responsible for resurrecting Shada. He was joined by Daniel Hill, who plays Chris Parsons in the original and has reprised the role here. Completing the panel was Olivia Bazalgette, production assistant on the original filming.
Press Preview/Q&A for #DoctorWho #Shada with members of the cast and crew. Can't wait for the EST release at midnight tonight! The DVD is also available for pre-order: https://t.co/TVmbJSgjRU pic.twitter.com/23bJpEqW5u
— BBCWorldwideUKPress (@BBCWorldwide_UK) November 23, 2017
Actor Daniel Hill spoke at length about his time filming the story. He, along with the rest of the cast and crew, believed Shada would be finished once the industrial dispute was over. Hill always felt “haunted” by the production, having worked in BBC Television Centre often throughout his career. The 61 year old actor, with credits like ‘Waiting for God’, ‘Only Fools and Horses’ and ‘Harry Potter’, felt a great sense of completion when he and the cast were assembled to finally put the finishing touches on Shada.
Bazalgette, also Hill’s wife having met during filming of Shada, explained that director Pennant Roberts did his utmost to keep the cast and crew relaxed. Roberts had warned them that the strike might disrupt production but that they shouldn’t worry about it.
Hill was only too happy to get involved when the BBC approached him about returning. Which is evident from a video he released in August in the studio for a bit of green screen work to help the animation process. By his own admission, it meant so much to finish off the story that he would have done it for free.
Having released ‘The Power of the Daleks‘ scarcely a year ago, it’s clear that the animation team has come a long way. Charles Norton revealed that the entire thing had only a five month turnaround. Having secured the interest of Fourth Doctor actor Tom Baker, they got the greenlight in May 2017. Being able to use the original actors and greenscreen elements seems to have paid off enormously. The animation feels very detailed and natural, which is remarkable given the time crunch they were under.
Norton also explained how, unlike normal animated features, the voice work had to adopt an unusual strategy to fit the existing footage. Rather than use standing microphones, the cast recorded their dialogue using overhead boom mics. The kind used on the original sets. The method and the original cast returning gives it a unique authenticity and makes the new dialogue almost impossible to notice.
But it wasn’t just the actors that had to be recreated. With no model footage to work from, the Shada team called in special effects specialist Mike Tucker to help. The story features a number of spaceships that, in 1979, would have been done with models. They could have animated them but, since they’ve a model master to hand, why not use him? Tucker not only delivered the model shots, but recorded them with tube cameras of the kind that were used in the Seventies. Another small but significant detail that contributes to the real sense of legitimacy in this reconstruction.
Shada’s original score was set to have been the final Doctor Who work of Dudley Simpson, who passed away earlier this month. Composer and sound designer Mark Ayres was also in attendance, having scored this version of Shada. Ayres spoke briefly about his work on the serial and how he’d tried to emulate Simpson’s style. A close friend of Dudley Simpson, he mentioned having approached him to take part before it became clear he was too unwell.
As well as Simpson, the panel took a moment to acknowledge another cast member no longer with us. David Brierley as the voice of K9, who features heavily in the story, passed away in 2008. To fill in K9’s dialogue, archive recordings of Brierley were used and cut together as much as possible. However, this wasn’t always feasible and some of K9’s lines had to be edited out of the script as a result.
The show is loaded with visual easter eggs and references, particularly to the late Douglas Adams. For example, one of the other books in Chronotis’ collection is “Zaphod – My Story” in reference to Zaphod Beeblebrox from ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. But there’s one big wonderful surprise tucked away in the closing moments of Shada I dare not spoil. Though written by Douglas Adams, time has given it a certain poignancy that it would have lacked in 1980. You couldn’t ask for a better tribute to the Fourth Doctor and the legendary actor who plays him, Tom Baker.
— Doctor Who Official (@bbcdoctorwho) November 23, 2017