Browse the WBW Podcast
Browse the WBW Podcast
Browse Classic Who reviews
Browse Classic Who reviews

Creative disarray, an abundance of tea, and a ball bag are but some of the treats on offer in this legendary unfinished serial

A handful of reasonably young chaps are asleep aboard the Think Tank research space station, when a particularly nefarious one among them — Skagra — awakens and uses a silver orb to absorb all of their brain power in a first step of an equally nefarious plot to find and release the greatest Gallifreyan criminal of all time, Salyavin.

Meanwhile, The Fourth Doctor and Romana II are enjoying a punt down the Cam as they’re about to visit the in-no-way-related-to-said-nefarious-plot, Professor Chronotis, a bumbly Mr Magoo with a penchant for tea and a tendency to misplace potentially universe-destroying tomes of Gallifreyan lore. When one such book goes astray, and Skagra coincidentally arrives to purloin it for himself, all hell breaks loose.

(Comparison screenshots between the different versions of Shada discussed in this podcast episode will be added soon. Watch this space.)

Here's what we think of C109 Shada

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

4.4

Jim | @jimmythewho

4.0

Here's what we think of C109 Shada

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

4.4

Jim | @jimmythewho

4.0

Here's what you think 7 Responses to “C109 Shada”
  1. Andy Parkinson | @caffreys71

    I found it a little hard to review this story fairly due to the later material but here goes

    Likes:

    This is the final story for the late great Douglas Adams, and you can see his humour all over this and there’s lots of great lines.

    Where Skargra goes into the invisible ship – it’s very Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

    Denis Carey is brilliant as the scatter-brained Professor Chronotis

    Beefs:

    If some weird scar faced space dude with a cloak approached me for a lift, I’d be off like a shot and certainly not letting him in my car! That driver clearly didn’t listen to his stranger danger videos in school!

    WTF is that piece of red carpet doing there by the invisible ship? Does it come out with the ramp? I mean what’s the point of an invisible ship if you’re gonna put a welcome mat outside it?

    After returning to his ship Skagra comes out in regular clothing – why did he not wear that in the first place, surely it would’ve been more inconspicuous?

    The scientists on the Think Tank – how have they survived? Do they have food and water? If so, how are they feeding themselves with fingernails like that?

    Fun Fact:

    The choir seen in the bicycle chase weren’t originally written into the story. The director Pennant Roberts and crew were in a pub when one of the barmen overheard them talking and asked if his choir could be in the show. Due to a combination of alcohol and exhaustion the director agreed. Pennant had forgotten by the morning and got a bit of a shock when the choir turned up!

    Overall, this could well have been one of the all-time classic serials but the story feels a little confusing and too long. I’m not sure whether this is the fault of the story itself or the later added content, but on the whole, I do enjoy it.

    I award this story 3.7 brain-draining spheres out of 5

    PS: I’ve based my review on the version currently on Britbox (with animated scenes) and the VHS version.

  2. Michael Ridgway | @bad_movie_club

    Likes:

    • Great baddie in Roy Batty lookalike Skagra. Loved his brain chomping sphere (Particularly when it knocked the fisherman in the water – He He He).
    • The crazy old dudes. But how has the ship deteriorated faster than they have aged?
    • Epic Timelord lore stuff. It would have been nice to have some recognisable villains in the prison though.
    • The Doctor’s logic battle with Skagra’s ship’s computer. Very Douglas Adams.
    • Shades of Star Trek 4 with the invisible spaceship in a park. Although Skagra would have been buggered if someone had nicked his red carpet.
    • Loved the appearance of Old Baker! Awe.

    Beefs:

    • Hang on a minute. How did Professor Chronotis, aka Salyavin, escape deep freeze? How did he return from the dead, and why didn’t the sphere figure out he was Salyavin in the first brain drain. Why did he warn the Doctor about Shada if he knows Salyavin isn’t even imprisoned there. And what were his crimes anyway? “Don’t worry, we’ll keep your secret” is all very well Doctor, but what if he is a baby munching psychopath who fashions his own pyjamas out of skinned kittens!?

    Summary: Recreated Shada didn’t quite meet the expectations of, say, the legendary missing Seventh Doctor’s Season 27 recreated in Audio Who, but it was pretty darn good nonetheless.

    Rating: [rating incomplete due to industrial strike action against Who Back When for not reviewing any Seventh Doctor Audio Adventures]

  3. John Knight | @KnightWriter80

    This is the one with as many versions as there are episodes in the story, an invisible spaceship, lumpy milk, and a master criminal who seems like such a nice old man. Here we go!

    Having recently re-watched the original VHS version, struggled through part of the McGann animated version, then the Ian Levene fanimation version, and yes…then the official 2017 release…I still found that I preferred the original version with Tom Baker’s narration (his cameo appearance at the end of the 2017 was impressive but not enough to make the rest of it truly palatable).

    This story, had it been completed in the first place, would’ve been remembered as the crown jewel 6 parter of the Tom Baker era if not the series as a whole, and would’ve been deemed the reason no other 6 parter came after it…as none could compare with the abundance of quality within this marvellous adventure.

    Shada holds a unique place in my life as it would’ve been transmitted just before I was born. I greatly enjoy, and prefer, the music used in the VHS version than what came after, the 2017 version sounding a bit too much like a bad copy of the incredible music used in City of Death.

    In conclusion, when reflecting upon the uniqueness of this story, it’s lack of completion and many versions are significant, but it’s also the only adventure to then have 2 actors playing The Doctor and 2 actors voicing K-9, depending on the version.

    4.5/5

  4. Peter Zunitch

    I could only find the VHS version. I wish I could see a different one, in hopes it would improve my opinion of this story.

    There’s an interesting correlation here between this cancelled production, and the recons, which for the most part, I love. Recons feel like a story done in a different style. This one however feels like something’s missing, like it’s incomplete, and that’s probably because it is. It’s not fully realized. I suspect if production had been finished properly, many of its issues would have been resolved.

    I find much of Shada plodding. It certainly doesn’t help that most of the action scenes are missing. What we see of the directing is simplistic and uninspired, and the writing leads the audience like Scooby Doo.

    Tom’s recaps of the missing scenes are fine, but it’s barely an adequate summary, when we could have gotten a dramatic reenactment. It’s a total missed opportunity. As for Skagra, are you really a villain if all you do is walk around in garish clothes and a handbag wanting to playing ball? Finally, a special nod goes to the annoying music which does nothing to successfully enhance anything resembling an appropriate mood.

    It’s a total shame, because I love the professor, the concept, and the dialog, but a sugar gag is just not enough to carry a story. The good news is I liked Shada more on this rewatch than ever before, probably because it was sped up. For the VHS timeline, 1.5

    • Hey Peter!

      Sorry, our review had already dropped when your mini arrived in the inbox. Would have made for a controversial entry in the episode (see ratings above). For what it’s worth, I totally understand. If I had only seen the VHS version, my rating would probably have hovered somewhere around yours, too.

      Rock on!

      L

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

If you haven't already... Subscribe now!

Subscribe to us on iTunes now! We're dropping a new episode every week (pretty much), reviewing Classic Who, New Who and all kinds of bonus stuff from spin-offs and conventions to Doctor Who comic books.

We last reviewed...

N126 Sleep No More