As the last remaining surviving stories get released to DVD, in amongst “revisited” earlier stories we have this box set, the first release of Doctor Who's fiftieth anniversary year, comprising an unfinished story and a TV documentary made to celebrate the show's thirtieth anniversary.
In the 1970s, under producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks's watch, seasons were shorter, and gone were the longer stories (seven episodes or more) of Seasons Six and Seven. With Season Eight, Jon Pertwee's second in the title role, each season settled into a pattern of four- and six-parter stories, and with a couple of exceptions (a five-parter and a two-parter) that held for the rest of the decade. Usually each season's final story was a six-parter and so in 1979 Season Sixteen, which involved the hunt for The Key to Time, ended with all six parts of The Armageddon Factor. As it turned out, that was the final story in Classic Who to consist of six twenty-five minute episodes (though The Two Doctors, three forty-five minute episodes, is roughly the same length). But it certainly wasn't intended to be. A year later, the final story of Season Seventeen, Shada, written by Douglas Adams, went into production. That story's sad fate is the subject of the first two discs in this set.
Skagra (Christopher Neame) is searching for the lost planet Shada. It's so lost that the only person who knows it is Professor Chronotis (Denis Carey), a Time Lord living incognito on Earth as a professor at St Cedd's College, Cambridge. Menawhile, one of Chronotis's old pupils, the Doctor, and Romana pay him a visit...
Shada marks a transition point in Who. It was to be the final story produced by Graham Williams and script edited by Adams. About to step up as producer was John Nathan-Turner, who was to remain in that role until the show's cancellation in 1989, the longest-serving producer in the entire history of Who. Tom Baker, the longest-serving Doctor, had played the role for six years out of an eventual seven. Graham Williams's tenure as producer is discussed in some detail on that Key to Time box set, and I'll repeat here what I said there: it seems a transitional period, with less of an identity – possibly due to the changes of script editor – during that time. It was a show aiming to change its direction and skew more towards a light-hearted tone and a younger audience following Mary Whitehouse's complaints about the show's content while Philip Hinchcliffe produced and Robert Holmes script-edited. (See especially The Deadly Assassin.) While individual stories worked, teenaged me at the time felt that the show was in decline and I stopped watching in 1979. I'm not sure what my younger self would have made of 80s Who.
Personal bias plays a part. Anyone who has read my Who reviews for this site will know that the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era was a high point and that I am not a fan of Douglas Adams nor his approach to the show. To give him his due, he was a busy man in 1979, what with The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy taking off (radio series two in the writing, plus the first novel) as well as being Who script-editor for this one season. Many of the stories had to be rewritten by him and Shada was written at short notice. At the time, he had a reputation for working well under pressure, which puts his much-quoted rather cavalier attitude towards deadlines into perspective.
Shada was written and location work was shot in Cambridge, with Adams's alma mater of St John's College standing in for the fictional St Cedd's. Director Pennant Roberts and his cast and crew then returned to the studio and the first of three scheduled recording blocks were completed. But they could not shoot the second block due to a technician's dispute which resulted in industrial action. (The television industry was heavily unionised in the 1970s, and the then producer Derrick Sherwin had solved a similar problem by shooting Spearhead from Space entirely on 16mm film away from the studios.) By the time the strike was over, there was a backlog of television productions waiting to be shot and Shada, being considered of lower priority than the BBC's Christmas programming, was not granted a studio slot. Incoming producer John Nathan-Turner made attempts to finish the story but these came to nothing and the plug was formally pulled in June 1980.
Nathan-Turner ensured the existing material was kept, and as Tom Baker was absent from the production of The Five Doctors, marking the show's twentieth anniversary, he was represented in that story with some of the location footage from Shada. Then, in 1992, Nathan-Turner authorised a VHS release of the existing footage, with newly-shot linking material with Tom Baker covering the missing scenes. That is the version featured on this DVD, running 109:35.
Inevitably, what remains can be no more than a curiosity and, personal bias nothwithstanding, I don't think that we have lost out on an all-time classic Who serial. (I'm more exercised by the thought of the classic stories which I can't see because they have been partially or wholly lost from the archives, but of course I can do nothing but hope and pray about those.) Adams certainly didn't think highly of Shada, being reluctant to have it released. Eventually he signed the release form, albeit by accident, and being unable to do anything about the VHS coming out donated his royalties from it to charity.
On the show's thirtieth anniversary, 23 November 1993, BBC1 broadcast an hour-long tribute documentary called 30 Years in the Tardis. I didn't watch it at the time, and I can't remember why not. While the documentary has not been repeated, an extended version (87:53) was released on VHS, retitled More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS and is now on this DVD. It's a patchwork of documentary clips and interviews with cast and crew members from various parts of the show's history. Some others appear: Toyah Willcox talks about watching the show when very young and being scared, and Gerry Anderson expresses wistful regret that his son prefers Who to Anderson's own shows. Talking of children, a young girl called Sadie appears with her mother, Elisabeth Sladen. This hour-and-a-half is very pleasant as a souvenir but I'm doubtful it would tell anyone very much that they didn't know already. It was broadcast at a time when the show had been cancelled (the TV Movie was two and a half years away, let alone the 2005 revival) and it's remarkable that the BBC would produce a tribute to a then-defunct show, albeit one which had a strong afterlife in books and videos. Watching this makes you aware of how things have moved on, as I write this at the beginning of the show's fiftieth anniversary year, and I don't just mean the fact that the interviewees look noticeably younger than they do on DVD extras and that more of them were alive then. Looking at the many clips from past serials in this documentary, the unrestored and un-VidFIREd black and white 16mm telerecordings from not only the 1960s but also from some Pertwee stories now available on DVD restored to their original full colour, shows how much has advanced in the ways of making these stories available to you for home viewing, and we have the people at the Restoration Team and 2 Entertain to thank for that.
This is a release for the established fan, the connoisseur and aficionado. For a more casual viewer it's Who ephemera, but that would be the attraction for the fans. And of course the extras that 2 Entertain have provided will be a further selling-point.
The Legacy Collection comprises three dual-layered discs, two devoted to Shada and one to More than 30 Years in the Tardis. Disc One is encoded for Region 2 only, the other two for Regions 2 and 4. All discs have, as usual for the range, audio-descriptive menu options.
Shada is transferred in its correct 1.33:1 ratio. The serial would have been made with the usual mixture of 16mm location footage and studio VTR, some of the latter remaining. The linking material with Tom Baker, shot at the now-closed Museum of the Moving Image in London, originated on video. There's nothing much to be said here except that the material has been restored to the usual Restoration Team standards and looks as good as it should. The same applies to the soundtrack, which is in the original mono and is clear and well-balanced. Subtitles are provided for the hard-of-hearing and this time the invaluable information subtitles are the work of Nicholas Pegg. Likewise, there are no issues with the video-shot More Than 30 Years..., which is also in 4:3, widescreen television being little more than a glint in technicians' eyes in 1993.
There is no commentary on this DVD. However, there is one quite substantial extra on Disc One, namely the Big Finish audio version of Shada, which was webcast (with added Flash animation) as a six-episode serial by the BBC. Gary Russell rewrote Adams's script to feature Paul McGann's Eighth Doctor, as Tom Baker had declined to return to voice the Doctor's role. Lalla Ward and John Leeson voiced Romana and K9, with the other roles being recast. This is presented on the disc as a computer-only (PC or Mac) extra, not as a normal DVD title. As with the other items in this box set, this is a connoisseur's item and I'm not sure how much non-fans would get out of it. Fans will have endless fun debating the canonicity of both versions of the story.
Disc One is concluded by a Coming Soon trailer for the next Who release, the partially-complete Hartnell six-parter (with the two missing episodes animated), The Reign of Terror (1:01).
Disc Two contains five further extras for Shada “Taken Out of Time” (25:38) is the making-of (or in this case the unmaking-of) documentary. Tom Baker is in reflective mood, ending by saying that he's now the oldest person involved with the production to still be alive. One of those departed, director Pennant Roberts, is represented by an archive interview from 2005. Also on hand are production assistant Ralph Wilton, actor Daniel Hill and the director's assistant Olivia Bazalgette. Romance blossomed during the location shoot between Hill and “Livbag” (as he called her) and they are married to this day.
“Now and Then” (12:44) is another in the occasional series of featurettes comparing the story's locations now to the way they were at the time. In this case, we get a quick tour of Cambridge and environs, including the very same Grantchester Meadows made famous by Douglas Adams's favourite band, Pink Floyd.
“Strike! Strike! Strike!” (27:48) is a featurette which discusses the effect of industrial action on the show, one that – as presenter Shaun Ley tells us – is always on the side of the people against oppressors. We get a runthrough of the heavily unionised structure of the TV industry from the 1960s onwards, a time when unions were closed shops and strikes could be called at the slightest provocation. Then-producer Derrick Sherwin tells the story of how a strike effected the making of Sprearhead from Space. And of course we hear how Shada fell victim to another one.
“Being a Girl” (30:11), narrated by Louise Jameson, talks about the role of women in the show, particularly the Doctor's companions. We see how they changed from the screamers of the 1960s to a concern in the 70s that such a character would no longer do, as reflected in the characterisation of Liz Shaw and especially Sarah Jane and Leela, and on into the 80s and also the TV Movie and the 2005 revival, going right up to date with Amy and River Song. We see how they had to balance a degree of more or less autonomy with intended allure for the Dads in the audience. (That said, more than a few women and gay men fancied Jamie.) And maybe most of them aren't fulfilled without a man, even if that man is not the Doctor. Liz Shaw may have been a step too far too early in its portrayal of a highly intelligent adult scientist, and was replaced by the softer, teenaged Jo. This also covers how differently the male companions have been – few of them being conventional action heroes themselves, lest they take too much of the limelight away from the Doctor. The featurette continues with a look at the show's female villains as well, and also female Who fandom.
Disc Two is concluded by a self-navigating stills gallery (4:48).
The extras on Disc Three begin with “Remembering Nicholas Courtney” (25:59), presented by his friend and biographer Michael McManus. This features extracts from an interview by McManus (with Tom Baker popping in) with Courtney conducted shortly before the latter's death, and one sadly not finihsed, going through Courtney's life from his school days in Egypt onwards. Included are stills of the actor when young from his days in repertory. Fans of vintage television will appreciate extracts from 60s (and later) programmes he appeared in other than Who. Courtney was auditioned by director Douglas Camfield for the role of Richard I in The Crusades. Although Courtney did not land that role, Camfield cast him as Bret Vyon in The Daleks' Master Plan and later Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart in The Web of Fear. The rest is history: the character was promoted to Brigadier and commander of UNIT in The Invasion and became a regular following the show's revamp for the Perrwee era. His favourite story is Inferno, which gave him the chance to play a double role.
Two more featurettes take the form of reminiscences. They begin with the next in the series of "Doctor Who Stories", anecdotes made up from interviews conducted in 2003. This time it's the turn of Peter Purves (13:22) who talks through his time in the show, from being cast as Steven (and before that hillbilly tourist in New York Morton Dill). His earnings for Who were the princely sum of £30 a week, later increased to £35 with extra for location shoots. After he left Who he couldn't find work until Blue Peter came along. This interview was conducted before the show was revived, and his quite percipient about how a new Who should look and be made.
"The Lambert Tapes" (10:36) also has its source in a 2003 interview, by Claire Finnett for The Story of Doctor Who. Here the late Verity Lambert describes how she became the show's first producer. She's sharp about how later versions of the show turned into gaudy camp. This is Part One, so the second part will no doubt follow on a later DVD.
"Those Deadly Divas" (22:39) is a companion piece of sorts to “Being a Girl” on Disc Two and talks in greater depth on something that the other featurette touched upon, the female villains of the show, even including Sarah Jane in Eldrad mode in The Hand of Fear. Some of the actresses who played them, including Kate O'Mara, Camille Coduri and Tracy-Ann Oberman are interviewed with token Y-chromosomage added by writer Gareth Roberts and Doctor Who Magazine editor Clayton Hickman.
There follow a stills gallery (6:07) and, as a PDF, the Radio Times listing for 30 Years in the Tardis. However, there's also an Easter Egg: click on the words “DOCTOR WHO” on the menu and you have more about Verity Lambert, in the form of the reminiscences of Richard Martin (1:50), one of the show's first directors. Martin was clearly impressed by her from the outset, though their ideas of the way to celebrate Christmas certainly differed!