Shada (Doctor Who)

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Doctor Who Serial
Shada (Doctor Who serial).jpg
Shada, the prison planetoid of the Time Lords.
Directed by Pennant Roberts(original)
Charles Norton (2017 version)
Written by Douglas Adams
Script editor Douglas Adams
Produced by Graham Williams (original)
John Nathan-Turner (1992 version)
Paul Hembury (2017 version)
Incidental music composer Keff McCulloch (1992 version)
Mark Ayres (2017 version)
Production code 5M
Series Season 17
Length Incomplete (original)
6 episodes, 25 minutes each (intended)
Originally broadcast Unaired (original)
19 January – 23 February 1980 (intended)
6 July 1992 (video release)
24 November 2017 (digital download)[1]
← Preceded by Followed by →
The Horns of Nimon The Leisure Hive
Doctor Who episodes (1963–1989)
Doctor Who episodes (2005–present)

Shada is an unaired serial of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It was intended as the final serial of the 1979–80 season (season 17) but was never completed, owing to strike action at the BBC during filming.

The BBC released a completed version of Shada in 2017, with missing dialogue newly recorded by the original cast, using the same audio equipment employed in the initial shoot, and animated by the team that undertook the animated version of the 1966 serial The Power of the Daleks.[2][3]

Previous attempts to present the story include a narrated reconstruction for BBC Video; a re-imagined audio play by Big Finish Productions, also offered with basic Flash imagery on BBCi and the BBC Doctor Who website; and a novelisation by Gareth Roberts, based on the latest shooting scripts, with the author's own additions.[4]


The story revolves around the planet Shada, on which the Time Lords have constructed a high security prison for some of the Universe's most dangerous criminals. Skagra, a flawed genius from the planet Dronoid, wishes to create a "Universal Mind" in which all the pooled knowledge of the universe's greatest criminals would be placed at his disposal and with which he intends to take control of the Universe. Skagra wants to go to Shada to extract the knowledge of the criminals who have been imprisoned there.

Unfortunately for Skagra, knowledge of the location of Shada has been deliberately hidden by the Time Lords, but Skagra discovers that there is a Time Lord living on Earth in the twentieth century who may hold the key to its location. This Time Lord is masquerading as a professor at St. Cedd's College, Cambridge and calling himself Professor Chronotis. Sensing danger, Chronotis calls for the assistance of his old friend and protégé, the Doctor. The story climaxes in a battle for control of the Universal Mind.


Originally, writer Douglas Adams presented a wholly different idea for the season's six-part finale, involving the Doctor's retirement from adventuring. Facing resistance from producer Graham Williams, Adams chose to avoid work on a replacement, under the expectation that time pressures would eventually force the producer's hand and allow his idea to be used. Ultimately, however, Williams forced Adams to conceive a new story as a last-minute replacement, which became Shada.

Under its original remit, Graham Williams intended the story as a discussion about the death penalty, specifically how a civilisation like the Time Lords would deal with the issue, and treat its prisoners.[5]

As composed by Adams, the story was scheduled to span six 25-minute episodes. Location filming in Cambridge and the first of three studio sessions at BBC Television Centre were completed as scheduled;[4] however, when the scheduled second studio block was due to start, it fell foul of a long-running technicians' dispute at the BBC.[6] The strike was over by the onset of rehearsals for the third recording session, but ultimately the studio time was redirected to other higher-priority Christmas programming, leaving the serial incomplete.[7]

Following the departure of Graham Williams from the producer role, attempts were made by new producer John Nathan-Turner to remount the story; for various reasons, however, this never transpired. Consequently, in June 1980, the production was formally dropped. It is estimated that only 50% of the story was filmed.[4]

After the production halt, Adams expressed a low opinion of the script and was content to let it remain obscure, turning down offers to adapt the story in various forms. He once claimed that when he had signed the contract allowing the script's 1992 release (accompanying the serial's VHS reconstruction), it had been amongst a pile of papers sent over by his agent, and that he was unaware of what he was agreeing to.[8]

In 1983, clips from Shada were used in The Five Doctors, the 20th-anniversary special. Tom Baker, the fourth actor to play the Doctor, had declined to appear in the special, and the plot was reworked to explain the events in the clips.[6]

Cast notes[edit]

Denis Carey was subsequently cast as the eponymous Keeper in Tom Baker's penultimate story, The Keeper of Traken, and also appeared as the Borad's avatar in Timelash.


Early reconstruction[edit]

A decade after the serial's abandonment, John Nathan-Turner set out to complete the story in a fashion, by commissioning new effects shots and a score, and having Tom Baker record linking material to cover the missing scenes. The resulting shortened episodes (of between 14 and 22 minutes each) received a 111-minute VHS release in 1992. In its UK edition, the VHS was accompanied by a facsimile of a version of Douglas Adams's script.[4] The release was discontinued in the UK in 1996.

This VHS reconstruction, the 2003 BBCi/Big Finish adaptation and the 1994 documentary More Than Thirty Years in the TARDIS,[9], were re-released together on DVD on 7 January 2013, as The Legacy Collection (UK) or simply Shada (North America).

Episode Title Run time Original air date UK viewers
(millions) [10]
1 "Part One - 1992 Version" 24:34 Unbroadcast - Finished episode would have aired 19 January 1980 (1980-01-19) n/a
2 "Part Two - 1992 Version" 17:56 Unbroadcast - Finished episode would have aired 26 January 1980 (1980-01-26) n/a
3 "Part Three - 1992 Version" 17:29 Unbroadcast - Finished episode would have aired 2 February 1980 (1980-02-02) n/a
4 "Part Four - 1992 Version" 17:43 Unbroadcast - Finished episode would have aired 9 February 1980 (1980-02-09) n/a
5 "Part Five - 1992 Version" 14:11 Unbroadcast - Finished episode would have aired 16 February 1980 (1980-02-16) n/a
6 "Part Six - 1992 Version" 17:43 Unbroadcast - Finished episode would have aired 23 February 1980 (1980-02-23) n/a

Later reconstruction[edit]

On 24 November 2017, an effort to complete the serial officially, using newly recorded dialogue from the original cast (using the serial's original recording engineer and audio equipment), and new animated footage, to complete the missing segments, was released as a digital download; DVD and Blu-Ray releases followed on 4 December 2017 in Region 2.[11] The new sequences were animated by the same team that undertook the 2016 animated edition of the 1966 serial The Power of the Daleks.[12]

A 2-disc region 1 DVD release was originally set to be made available on 9 January 2018; this was later postponed in the U.S. and Canada to 4 September 2018.[13][14] The serial was released on 10 January 2018 in Region 4.[15]

Other adaptations[edit]

Album cover
Big Finish Productions audio drama
Series Doctor Who
Release no. II
Written by Douglas Adams, Gary Russell
Directed by Gary Russell
Produced by Gary Russell
Production code II
Length 150
Release date December 2003

Big Finish audio play and web animation (2003)[edit]

In 2003, the BBC commissioned Big Finish Productions to remake Shada as an audio play which was then webcast[4][16] in six episodic segments, accompanied by limited Flash animation, on the BBC website using illustrations provided by comic strip artist Lee Sullivan.[17] The play starred Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor and Lalla Ward as Romana. The audio play was also broadcast on digital radio station BBC7, on 10 December 2005 (as a 2​12-hour omnibus), and was repeated in six parts as the opening story to the Eighth Doctor's summer season, which began on 16 July 2006.

The webcast version (originally broadcast via BBCi's "Red Button") remains available from the BBC Doctor Who "classic series" website, and an expanded audio-only version is available for purchase on CD from Big Finish. This expanded version was the one broadcast on BBC7.


Tom Baker was originally approached to reprise the role of the Doctor, but declined. The Eighth Doctor was then substituted and the story reworked accordingly.

Portions of the Big Finish 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.[citation needed]

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. The original serial was to have used clips from The Pirate Planet, The Power of Kroll, The Creature from the Pit, The Androids of Tara, Destiny of the Daleks, and City of Death.[citation needed]

Outside references[edit]

In Episode 2 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 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.

Ian Levine animated version (2011)[edit]

In 2010, Ian Levine funded an unofficial project to complete the original Shada story using animation and the original voice actors, minus Tom Baker and David Brierley, to complete the parts of the story that were never filmed. John Leeson would replace Brierley as the voice of K9, and Paul Jones would replace Tom Baker as the Doctor.[4] The completed story was finished in late 2011 and announced by Levine, via his Twitter account, on 8 September 2011.[4][18] J. R. Southall, writer for the science fiction magazine Starburst, reviewed Levine's completed version and scored it 10 out of 10 in an article published on 15 September 2011.[19] The completed Levine version appeared on torrent sites over two years later, on 12 October 2013.

Doctor Who – Shada
Doctor Who - Shada - 2012 Book.jpg
Author Gareth Roberts
Series Doctor Who book
Publisher BBC Books
Publication date
15 March 2012

Novelisation and audio book (2012)[edit]

Elements of the story were reused by Douglas Adams for his novel Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, in particular the character of Professor Chronotis who possesses a time machine. Adams did not allow Shada, or any of his other Doctor Who stories, to be novelised by Target Books. It is, therefore, one of only five serials from the 1963–1989 series not to be novelised by Target – along with Adams' other stories The Pirate Planet and City of Death, plus Eric Saward's two Dalek stories (Resurrection of the Daleks and Revelation of the Daleks).

A six-part adaptation of the story by Jonathan V Way appeared in issues 13–18 of Cosmic Masque, the Doctor Who Appreciation Society's fiction magazine. Adams granted permission for the adaptation on condition that it was never published in collected form.[20]

BBC Books published a novelisation of this serial on 15 March 2012, written by Gareth Roberts. Roberts drew on the latest versions of the scripts available, as well as adding new material of his own to "fix" various plotholes and unanswered questions.[21] Nicholas Pegg, in his review of the book for Doctor Who Magazine heartily praised it, calling it a "successful duet".[22]

Audio book[edit]

Lalla Ward delivered an 11hr 30min unabridged reading of the Gareth Roberts novelisation for AudioGo; joining her, voicing K9, was John Leeson. The audio recording was released on 15 March 2012, and is available for download or on 10 CDs (CD ISBN 978-1-4458-6763-2, Download ISBN 9781445867656).[23] Vanessa Bishop reviewed it favourably for Doctor Who Magazine, singling out Simon E Power's sound design for special praise.[24]


Paul Cornell, Martin Day, and Keith Topping gave the serial a mixed review in The Discontinuity Guide (1995), saying; "'I dunno, nowadays they'll publish anything.' Infamous because it was never completed, it was for a long time stated that 'Shada' would have been the highlight of the seventeenth season. What was filmed doesn't quite encourage such optimism. It's a very cheap looking story, and there are lashings of bad puns and dull comedy, including three takes on the 'One lump or two?/Sugar?' joke. Against that, the basic plot is interesting – almost justifying its six episodes, which is rare – and the Cambridge scenes, though stilted, are well executed. It's hugely flawed, but it's a shame that this one was clobbered by a strike and 'The Creature from the Pit' wasn't."[25]


  1. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (23 September 2008). "Serial 5M: Shada". A Brief History of Time (Travel). Shannon Patrick Sullivan. Retrieved 9 June 2009. 
  2. ^ "BBC regenerates 'lost' Tom Baker Doctor Who story Shada". Radio Times. Retrieved 2017-10-11. 
  3. ^ "Doctor Who Shada". 25 November 2017. Retrieved 25 November 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Southall, J. R. (12 September 2011). Jordan, Royce, ed. "Doctor Who and the Shada Man". Starburst Magazine. London, England. ISSN 0955-114X. OCLC 79615651. Archived from the original on 3 January 2012. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  5. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (2007-08-07). "Shada". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2013-03-27. 
  6. ^ a b Dicks, Terrance (11 September 2001). Doctor Who: The Five Doctors (DVD). London, England: BBC. Event occurs at 12:45. OCLC 52906976. 
  7. ^ Ley, Shaun (12 December 2009). "Shelved". BBC Radio 4. BBC. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  8. ^ Simpson, M. J. (2005). Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams. Boston, Massachusetts, US: Justin, Charles & Co. ISBN 9781932112351. OCLC 144991011. 
  9. ^ "DVD Update: Summer Schedule". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  10. ^ "Ratings Guide". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 28 May 2017. 
  11. ^ McEwan, Cameron (10 October 2017). "UNFINISHED FOURTH DOCTOR CLASSIC 'SHADA' TO BE FINALLY COMPLETED!". Doctor Who. Retrieved 10 October 2017. 
  12. ^ "BBC regenerates 'lost' Tom Baker Doctor Who story Shada". Radio Times. Retrieved 2017-10-11. 
  13. ^ Lambert, David (27 November 2017). "Doctor Who - We've Waited This Long For 'Shada,' So What's Another...YEAR?!?!?!?!?". TVShowsOnDVD. Retrieved 28 November 2017. 
  14. ^ "Doctor Who: Shada -". Retrieved 3 December 2017 – via Amazon. 
  15. ^ "Doctor Who - Shada". Doctor Who. Retrieved 4 December 2017. 
  16. ^ "BBC – Doctor Who – Classic Series – Webcasts – Shada". BBC. BBC. 2003. Retrieved 19 November 2010. 
  17. ^ Sullivan, Lee (2008). "Lee Sullivan Art, Doctor Who Webcasts". Lee Sullivan Art. Lee Sullivan. Retrieved 19 November 2010. 
  18. ^ Burk, Graeme (16 September 2011). "Shadariffic". Doctor Who Blog. Doctor Who Information Network. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  19. ^ Southall, J. R. (15 September 2011). Jordan, Royce, ed. "Review: Doctor Who 'Shada'". Starburst Magazine. London. England. ISSN 0955-114X. OCLC 79615651. Retrieved 3 April 2012. 
  20. ^ Foster, Chuck (13 February 2012). "Doctor Who News: Shada". Doctor Who News. News in Time and Space. Retrieved 3 April 2012. 
  21. ^ Berriman, Ian (6 March 2012). "Doctor Who: Adapting Douglas Adams". SFX. Future Publishing Limited. 
  22. ^ Pegg, Nicholas (4 April 2012). "The DWM Review: Shada". Doctor Who Magazine. No. 445. Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent: Panini Comics. pp. 72–73. 
  23. ^ "Doctor Who: Shada Audiobook on Audio CD, Audio Download, buy now from". AudioGO. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  24. ^ Bishop, Vanessa (30 May 2012). "The DWM Review: Shada". Doctor Who Magazine. No. 447. Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent: Panini Comics. pp. 72–73. 
  25. ^ Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "109 'Shada'". Doctor Who: The Discontinuity Guide. London: Doctor Who Books. pp. 248–9. ISBN 0-426-20442-5. 


  • Howe, David J; Stammers, Mark; Walker, Stephen James. Doctor Who: The Seventies (1994) (London: Doctor Who Books) ISBN 9781852274443

External links[edit]


Fan novelisation[edit]