Shada and More Than Thirty Years In The TARDIS; hardly inspiring contents for a DVD boxset in Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary year, right?
Well, actually: wrong.
When these discs arrived I admit I was underwhelmed at the prospect of sitting through what was left of Shada and the embarrassment of Toyah Wilcox’s Cybermen PVC fetish, as revealed in the 1993 30th anniversary documentary.
However, as John Nathan-Turner once observed: the memory cheats. Certainly in this case…
The Legacy Collection
So what is The Legacy Collection? Here’s the official PR bumph to explain:
A double helping from the ‘Doctor Who’ archives. Never aired on television due to a strike in 1979, the uncompleted six-part adventure ‘Shada’ traces the chase to recover a powerful book, ‘The Artifacts of Gallifrey’, stolen from retired timelord Professor Chronotis (Denis Carey). Skagra (Christopher Neame) is the evil despot responsible for this foul jiggery-pokery. Original footage from this episode was used as the Fourth Doctor’s involvement in ‘The Five Doctors’, before it was reassembled, with an older and portlier Tom Baker narrating the missing gaps. Also included is the BBC-produced documentary ‘More Than Thirty Years in the Tardis’, a compilation of clips spanning the first thirty years of the Doctor, including some previously unseen footage, plus interviews with the many stars, writers, producers and designers.
There’s a little more to it than that, of course. It is essentially a collection of Things That Haven’t Been Released Yet, with surely only The Tom Baker Years and similar titles remaining.
But – and here’s the surprising thing – it’s all flipping good fun, with all of the main features and extras organized and ordered so that the viewing fan can extract as much enjoyment as possible. Yes, The Legacy Collection can be described as a boxset of extras, but this ignores two key facts: Shada isn’t an extra, and that More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS is actually pretty good.
In fact, just to underline the falsity of dismissing this title as an extrasfest, it can be more accurately described as a Shadafest, including not one but two versions of the long lost, never-to-be-completed serial from 1979. Written by Douglas Adams, you might be far more familiar with the current Gareth Roberts BBC Books adaptation, which brings it magnificently back to life… but actually, what is left of the original is pretty dashing.
Confession time: I never saw the point in the original VHS release of Shada, and as such had committed all memory of the Tom Baker in/out of character abridging of the serial to brain cells long-since rotted by alcohol.
As foolish as this was, I’m glad I did – my expectations were so low that I hugely enjoyed the serial, such as it is. The final episodes are largely missing as are some special effects (as well as scenes between Lalla Ward and Daniel Hill) but this is a marvellous television experience.
Produced by John Nathan-Turner, the original attempt at reconstructing Shada was a forerunner to the various telesnap and audio reconstructions, and it works superbly. It also affords a glimpse at the actors, such as Denis Carey as Professor Chronotis and Christopher Neame as Skagra, a man who’s sartorial tastes are camply extravagant even if his nature and delivery are sinister and cold.
What is most surprising about the remains of Shada is what a fantastic and thrilling story it is, and how amazing and memorable it could have been if recorded. Forget about the BBCi webcast and even Gareth Roberts’ novelization – Shada in its original form was remarkable, as this DVD attests.
As you’ll see below, the collection offers two versions of Shada. It’s a shame that it doesn’t offer a third, but sadly that ship has sailed. For whatever reason, Ian Levine’s reconstruction of Shada (with stylish animation and voice actors) doesn’t play a part in this release. This is sad, but shouldn’t stop anyone from buying this release.
More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS
Whether you want to see former England cricket captain Mike Gatting, renowned episode finder/self-funding restoration producer Ian Levine or Toyah Wilcox reminiscing about Doctor Who or simply the wonderfully recreated set pieces from The Dalek Invasion of Earth, The Invasion, Invasion of the Dinosaurs or simply get a reference point to see how Colin Baker has aged over the past 20 years, then More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS is for you.
Yes, there are plenty of flaws; Jessica Carney, William Hartnell’s real-life granddaughter, seems remarkably ill-at-ease in front of the camera, while the lack of celebrity fans is telling. Doctor Who really was a cultural backwater in 1993 – hard to believe for modern fans, I know, but true. These days John Barrowman would be narrating, with talking heads in the shape of Matt Groening, Florence Welch (Florence and the Machine), Craig Ferguson, Meat Loaf, Jonathan Ross and of course Lizo Mzimba, all of which seems pretty glamorous compared to Toyah Wilcox having kinky confessions behind a sofa.
She makes it all seem so sordid.
Of course, in 1993, there was only one man suitable for the role of narrator, and Nicholas Courtney does an excellent job, holding together a loose and at-times random abundance of recollections and reconstructions with the aplomb for which he was so respected by Doctor Who fans.
Along with the Brig, you get to see the Third, Sixth and Seventh Doctors, while Tom Baker and Peter Davison appear as voices only. Intercut are various outtakes and special effects lineup shots, as well as Patrick Troughton’s appearance on the old BBC lunchtime show Pebble Mill at One from 1973, along with a collection of monsters. Look out also for Dalek movie companions Jennie Linden and Roberta Tovey, coming across as extremely desperate as they try to convince viewers of their importance to Doctor Who (did anyone ever say otherwise?)
More Than Thirty Years in the TARDIS has had its detractors over the years. Originally aired on TV as Thirty Years in the TARDIS, the revised version was released on VHS in 1994 in re-edited form, but their remains a sense of Doctor Who fandom as being the domain of single, geeky single/gay men in their 40s. There is nothing here, for instance, to appeal to female fans (except some great moments with Lis Sladen) – everything is pitched at the BBC perceived audience for the series.
As such, More Than Thirty Years in the TARDIS makes a great time capsule of Doctor Who fandom, a reminder of how far we’ve come in the past 10 years or so.
- Shada – the sole extra on disc one is a Flash version of the Big Finish/BBCi animated webcast version of Shada, starring Paul McGann, Lalla Ward and John Leeson, with James Fox as Professor Chronotis and Andrew Sachs as Skagra. It’s a very different beast that works in a different way, but fits nicely into the established Doctor Who continuity for those that are concerned about such things.Watching it ten years on is a quite different experience; the lag experienced back in 2003 when viewed across the web (and this was using a cable connection!) was excruciating, and apparently put a lot of fans off staying the course.That problem doesn’t exist any longer, of course, and this is a great way to enjoy Paul McGann in one of his best performances as the Doctor. It might not be the animated version you were hoping for, but it’s the one that you’re going to get in this boxset…
[pullquote align=right]Strike! Strike! Strike! is an excellent feature that looks at the Doctor adventures with for siding with rebels on alien planets while observing the irony that such struggles in the real world claimed Shada and heavily affected other Doctor Who stories. The topic of unions in broadcasting might seem pretty dull, but this is another extra that provides a long-lost look at life in the 1970s. [/pullquote]
- Taken Out of Time – opening with a clip from Shada of students singing “Chattanooga Choo-choo” a capella, this value added feature features Daniel Hill (Shada‘s Chris Parsons), Tom Baker and archive footage of director Pennant Roberts who recall the making of the “great lost serial” of Shada.Easily one of the best extras you’ll ever watch, anywhere, the star really is Daniel Hill, who features largely, including a segment about his romance with and subsequent marriage to production assistant with Olivia Bazelgette, who he met while filming the serial. There is plenty more to digest, however, including memories of the strike and the lockout from the studio where Shada was being filmed.
- Now and Then – as is the modus operandi of this regular extra, enjoy scenes of Cambridge from 1979 and observe the changes that have taken place over the years!
- Strike! Strike! Strike! – another excellent addition, this feature looks at the Doctor’s predilection for siding with rebels on alien planets while observing the irony that such struggles in the real world claimed Shada and heavily affected other Doctor Who stories. The topic of unions in broadcasting might seem pretty dull, but this is another extra that provides a long-lost look at life in the 1970s. With crucial insights from Gary Russell and various archive documents.
- Being a Girl — Women in Doctor Who - starting with the crucial role of the female companion, this feature is narrated by Louise Jameson (Fourth Doctor companion Leela) and includes many thoughts from journalist Samira Ahmed and includes clips of key companions such as Jo Grant, Sarah Jane Smith, Tegan Jovanka, Ace, Rose Tyler and River Song.
- Remembering Nicholas Courtney – for fans of a certain age, this is a bit of a tear-jerker, and features Mark McManus chatting with the late Nick Courtney, with occasional interjections from Tom Baker. It’s fascinating and provides the Brig in his
- Doctor Who Stories – Peter Purves – one of our favourite companions, Steven Taylor actor Peter Purves recalls his time before, during and after Doctor Who. Parts of the interview were used for The Story of Doctor Who back in 2003.
- The Lambert Tapes – Part 1 – featuring more unused material from the 40th anniversary documentary The Story of Doctor Who, this is a fascinating chat with the late Verity Lambert. Frankly spitting this over two (or more) discs seems slightly barmy. A solo release in the show’s 50th anniversary year dedicated to this television visionary makes far more sense.
- Those Deadly Divas – featuring Kate O’Mara, Camille Coduri and Tracey-Ann Oberman, with writers Clayton Hickman and Gareth Roberts, this is a fun look at the various evil women in Doctor Who, from the Rani to Yvonne Hartman, Lady Adastra to Lady Peinforte, Galleia to Cassandra.
- Easter Egg hunters should concentrate on the second disc where you will find a short recollection: Richard Martin’s Memories of Verity runs for a short 1:49 but tells us all about Lambert’s method of celebrating Christmas.
You’ll also find the obligatory Photo Galleries, Radio Times Listings and Production Note Subtitles on the second and third discs, along with trailers for The Reign of Terror.
As a 50th anniversary release, The Legacy Collection is an excellent choice. The extras might not suit everybody, and there are certainly a big group of fans upset by the snub to Ian Levine’s self-funded animated reconstruction, but all in all this is a fun, affectionate and eclectic mix.
For hardcore Doctor Who fans or anyone with an interest in the classic series, this DVD boxset is essentially a collection of extras. However, it is also unmissable, and as it is available for just £13.99 from Amazon you would be bonkers to miss it!