Shada (2017 Restoration)

doctor_who_diamond_logoAlternate broadcast title: The Lost Episode

Year: 1980 (animated sequences 2017), aired 2018

Synopsis: The mad scientist Skagra seeks an ancient Timelord artifact, which may lead to a Timelord prison planet, to further his research into creating the ultimate hive mind.

Pros:
• Was a genuinely interesting Douglas Adams story that aimed to add just that much more to the show’s mythology.
• Professor Chronotis/Salyavin was a genuinely interesting character of great power but rarely had interest in utilizing his abilities anymore.
• The Professor being resurrected due to an accidental continuity error in his own timeline is a great but rarely used self-referential plot device in the show.
• Skagra was an interesting nihilistic villain that might have had more in common with Thanos of Marvel than the campy villains throughout Doctor Who‘s long history.
• The somewhat time bending cameo right at the end was perfect and welcoming.

Cons:
• Was a bit on the slow side, and would likely have been unbearably so in the originally planned six episode serial format.
• As is sometimes the case with “restored” episodes, switching back and forth between live action and animation can be a bit awkward.
• The animation made no effort to be photorealistic.
• As the restored story stands, plot threads can seem on the weak side, making some elements predictable, unsurprising, or confusing.
• Not really the truly epic tale that never was as nostalgia would suggest.
• Due to it never being broadcast in its intended form, it is unclear if it is part of the continuity of the show.

Discussion:
In some ways, this “restored” episode came as a bit of a surprise in America. This 2017 version has yet to be released in home media, but suddenly appeared as a special on BBC America. It was a welcoming surprise on the DVR, since time being in order for the average human, we will not have any new Doctor Who for a while as of this posting. It was to be originally aired in 1980 as a season finale serial, but a union strike slowed production to a halt, leading to there being no time left to complete it later. There were prior “restorations,” including one narrated by Tom Baker (the Fourth Doctor) in the 1990s to fill the production gaps, and a kind of remake audio story with the Eight Doctor that was also released as a webcast with flash animation. There was a recent novelization, featuring a tighter plot, while the Professor appeared in Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. However, footage from the episode was used in “The Five Doctors” anniversary special, due to Tom Baker deciding not to film any scenes in that special.

Ultimately, Shada’s strength lies in its blurring of good and evil to an extent, seen through Skagra and Chronotis, and how societies and individuals deal with perceived threats at different times. They were on both ends of their own spectrum of someone else’s moral code. Skagra, like many good villains, saw himself as a kind of savior of the overpopulated universe. His goal was to “evolve” the inhabitants to become a singular, god-like being, albeit under the guidance of Skagra himself. Chronotis, while likely was a bit radical, was unlikely to be the villain he was made out to be by his fellow Timelords long ago. He was most certainly feared, easily being the most powerful telepath of his race, and we were certainly shown how easily he could connect with other’s minds. Marvel, DC, and Star Wars often have always liked to discuss how great power can come with either great responsibility or mental instability. Skagra and Chronotis are a direct discussion of what great power does to a person or those around them. “Shada” had some truly amazing elements, and is a shame that we will never see Douglas Adams’ true vision for the story.

Related:
Doctor Who Franchise


BBC America Official Website for 2017 Version

Archived Official Website

Archived Site for Eight Doctor webcast
(For the flash animation to work, first make sure your browser allows flash for the site and then click “full screen”)

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