Entitled “The Doctor Who story you never got to see”, an article on the BBC website looks at the abandoned 1979 adventure Shada – and reveals that the show may not have simply been cancelled due to industrial action.
The Tom Baker starring serial – which co-starred Lalla Ward and was written by then script-editor Douglas Adams – was supposedly cancelled due to a now-traditional period of annual striking by various unions representing studio technicians. Shada was eventually released on VHS featuring the location material and linking narration by Tom Baker as well as appearing on the BBC’s Doctor Who site as an official Eighth Doctor animated webcast starring Paul McGann, again with Lalla Ward. Some footage from Shada appeared in The Five Doctors.
Interestingly, Doctor Who wasn’t the only series to find itself running short thirty years ago. Back in the days when there were only three TV channels to choose from, Doctor Who and Secret Army on BBC One and The Professionals on ITV were 3 of the biggest shows and often attracted audiences larger than the most successful shows today.
They were so successful at this time that between 1978 and 1979, the producers of each show was able to shelve a story from each.
This is the focus of Shelved, a BBC Radio 4 broadcast scheduled for this Saturday (12th December) at 10.30am. While the stories behind the never broadcast episodes from Secret Army and The Professionals are fascinating (and in the case of The Professionals, “Klansmen” is an interesting episode that sees a rare moment of character development in the show), it is of course the truth behind Doctor Who’s 1979 season climax Shada that is of most value to us.
Professor Jean Seaton… sees Shada as a line in the sand.
In the past, programmes disrupted by strikes were simply re-mounted afterwards and therefore the industrial action had no visible consequences to the outside world.
This time, thinks Professor Seaton, the BBC decided enough was enough. It scrapped a key peak-time programme in order to demonstrate to the unions that strikes have consequences. So Shada was not just shelved; she believes it was sacrificed as well.
Could it be that Shada was a political pawn?