Tom Baker & Co. have returned to complete an unfinished Fourth Doctor story – 36 years after it was abandoned.
Written by Douglas Adams, “Shada” was intended for broadcast as the final serial of the 1979-80 season.
But union strikes interrupted filming, leaving only fragments of a fable – ironically, one of Baker’s “favorite” Doctor Who tales, according to BBC.
“I have many fond memories of shooting the location scenes in Cambridge, and it was disappointing not to finish the story in studio,” he said.
Now, nearly four decades later, BBC Worldwide is set to release a two-disc version that blends original footage with new color animations and voiceovers by OG cast members Tom Baker and Lalla Ward (who played companion Romana II).
“I’m so glad [BBC] have found a way to bring fans a complete visual version,” Baker added.
The narrative revolves around the planet Shada, where Time Lords have built a high-security prison for some of the universe’s most dangerous criminals. Think DC Comics’ Iron Heights Penitentiary, but with Daleks, Cybermen, and Zygons.
Trouble begins brewing when Skagra (from the planet Dronoid) resolves to visit Shada, where he will extract the inmates’ felonious knowledge. In an effort to find the hidden world, he calls upon a Time Lord, masquerading on Earth as Professor Chronotis at St. Cedd’s College in Cambridge, who, in turn, calls on his old friend and protegé, the Doctor.
Location filming and the first of three studio sessions were completed as scheduled in 1979. But the second studio block was bollixed up by a technicians’ dispute at the broadcasting company; the strike ended in time for the third recording session, but was shelved to make way for Christmas programming.
Despite attempts by new Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner to resume the episodes – scheduled for air Jan. 19-Feb. 23, 1980 – production of “Shada” was formally dropped that summer.
If the title sounds familiar, it’s because a number of versions have already been issued.
The BBC finally completed the story with new effects, a score, and linking narration by Baker; six shortened episodes were given a 111-minute VHS release in 1992.
In 2003, the broadcaster commissioned Big Finish to remake “Shada” as a 40th-anniversary audio play, joining Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor with original cast members Ward and John Leeson (as the voice of K9).
Elements of the story, meanwhile, were recycled by Douglas Adams in his novel “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” (readers might remember Professor Chronotis and his time machine). BBC Books later published a novelization of the serial, penned by Gareth Roberts.