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Published on December 17th, 2005 | by Christian Cawley

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Shada Review

Douglas Adams and Doctor Who.

That is a combination that works well, and while I am one who likes the serious side of things, Doctor Who had always had a place for humor, and Douglas found a home for himself within that aspect of the show.

Now then, where to start? It would seem that Big Finish has done it again.

While they may not have written the story, they did adapt it to radio drama format with a corresponding Web Vast for BBCi .

Douglas Adams is no stranger to radio drama’s having written the original version of “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” as a radio play, so this is sort of like a welcome home.

The Big Finish team always looks for places in the shows history that they can seamlessly fit their adventures into. For Paul McGann nothing could be easier as you would simply set every story after the TV Movie. But what do you do when you are adapting a 4th Doctor script that never made it to our TV screens into an 8th Doctor Radio Drama while still staying faithful to the fact that the 4th Doctor did, in fact, live that adventure?

Simple, or at least for the Big Finish it was.

Let’s play “follow the logic.”

In 1979 the 4th Doctor and Romana answer a distress call from Professor Chronotis, and they live out the “Shada” adventure.

Then during the “Five Doctors” they are lifted from that year and trapped in a time eddy. When they are released they find the TARDIS and thinking that the trouble is over, they leave before they can live out the events from “Shada” in effect changing history.

Many years later the 8th Doctor realizes that he has some unfinished business, so he travels to Gallifrey to speak with his old friend, and now President of Gallifrey, Romana. He tries to convince her and K-9 that they failed to help Professor Chronotis when they first received his call, and that they must do something now to correct things.

And so the adventure begins.

The script had some minor changes made to it, as I said before they had to adapt it to radio drama format, but they also lost a few elements such as the punting scene. These changes do not make the story any less enjoyable, in fact they help it to stand apart for it’s TV counterpart.

Although it was shown first as a BBCi Web Cast with flash animation, Big Finish later released it on CD with extra material.

I have to say that I prefer this story as a radio drama more so then a flash cartoon. As nice as the artwork for the Web Cast was, I feel that when you make a cartoon out of them that it separates them from the real world of Doctor Who. To me an audio adventure is more like a real TV episode as you can see the characters as the really look through your own imagination. But that is just my personal taste.

Nevertheless it was an interesting way to get more people to hear the audio work of any of the Doctors, as the Internet is free. And I would always recommend a look at any and all the Web Casts just for the fun of it.

When I first heard the news of this story being adapted to an Audio verison I had hoped that they would have rounded up the original cast of “Shada” to make the story feel as though we went full circle and as if we really did travel back into a story that was recorded in the 1970’s.

This is not the case, nor does it matter. They put together a very talented cast and once again it helped to make the story more original. That isn’t to say that they didn’t cast some of the original actors, of course Lala Ward and John Leeson reprised their TV counterparts, Romana and K-9.

Since his conception fans have either loved or hated K-9. Those that loved him always tried to find a ways to set him up with the new Doctor of the time, or have the newest Doctor make his own K-9. This is something that I think will never happen on any sort of permanent basis and it really doesn’t bother me, even though I am one of the ones who likes K-9. That said, the Big Finish team found a way to keep K-9, a necessary character for the story, with out it seeming odd.

I must say it is a bit odd to have the 8th Doctor team up with the 2nd Romana, odd in the fact that the Doctor was on his 4th Body when they last traveled together, but then this just shows us the carelessness that the Doctor has for his own regenerations. He has had 4 regenerations since their time in the TARDIS and he still lives his life as reckless as ever.

Back in 1992 the BBC release a “finished” version of the lost TV episode of Shada. They compiled the competed footage together with new shots of Tom Baker in a Who museum giving us a narration of what happened in the parts that didn’t get filmed. While this is a great video to have it just doesn’t allow us to get the feel of the full story, due mainly to the fact the last episode(s) was not filmed due to the BBC strike. With the audio counterpart we get to have the competed scenes that we otherwise could only have imagined.

It is a major credit to Douglas Adams that this story held up so well over the years. One could even say his writings were timeless, and with a statement like that he may just have been the perfect man to have on a show like this.

All in all if they were going to adapt this story for a Doctor other then the 4th the only perfect choice would have been Paul McGann, so with that in mind check out the BBC’s Doctor Who Home Page or BigFinish.com to get or hear a copy of this story, it would be a shame to let the work of Douglas Adams go to waste.

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About the Author

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A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.




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