Season 17 of Classic Who, that's Destiny Of The Daleks to The Horns Of Nimon, should actually have ended with a journey to Shada! But thanks to industrial action by BBC technicians, Douglas Adams's tale of the Fourth Doctor's trip to the prison planet of the Time Lords was never fully completed (and what was in the can went unseen for many years). Some footage from the studio recordings remains, though- take a look at....
So what's so important about this Shada place? Well, Skagra needs to break out a very important inmate- the Think Tank scientist is positively obsessed with a project he calls the ' Universal Mind'. Put simply it's a means to place his own mind into everyone else in the universe. He needs Salyavin! Which could prove difficult, as he's managed to use the gift Skagra so badly wants for himself to escape & make a new life for himself on Earth as Professor Chronotis. Everybody thinks Salyavin is nothing but a myth, too. Almost perfect, you might say! Except that the old boy's getting a bit forgetful in his senior years- well, he'd lived for over ten thousand years before the Doctor's time.
He's managed to get himself teaching work at the University of Cambridge, as well- his TARDIS also serving as his accommodation. Nice old man, you'd think. Shame the Time Lords didn't agree, though! Suspicious of his mental power, they packaged him off on a sham assignment to Shada & had him framed as a criminal- he escaped by taking control of those supposed to be guarding him & quickly fled. All he'd wanted was a quiet life, too. As Chronotis, he served as a humble librarian in Gallifrey before retiring to Earth ( the option of choosing a nice corner of the universe in which to live out your days apparently a reward for years of loyal service, granted by the same Time Lords who'd imprisoned him before forgetting his past). He settled for Cambridge, & was close to the end of his life when he summoned an old friend, now in his Fourth incarnation, for a little visit.
A favour needed doing, too- a stolen copy of The Worshipful And Ancient Law Of Gallifrey had to be returned to its rightful owners. This isn't just any book, though. As its title implies it's one of the fundamental building blocks of the planet it was pinched from! And in the wrong hands it could be used as a weapon- as the back cover of Gareth Roberts' 2012 novelization of the story states, Skagra ' most definitely has the wrong hands'.
The writer of Series Eight's The Caretaker was finally able to get Shada into print after a deal was struck with the estate of the late Adams, who had served as script editor on the season it was supposed to have slotted into, as well as co-writing City Of Death with David Fisher & Graham Williams under the collective pseudonym 'David Agnew'. He'd earlier flown solo in contributing The Pirate Planet to the previous season's Key To Time story arc.
Under the terms of the deal made with the Adams estate we'll also be getting City Of Death in book form next year- May 21, to be precise! Whether The Pirate Planet will follow, we can only wait & see.
Part of one of the completed scenes of Shada makes it into The Five Doctors. After Tom Baker declined to return, the then producer John Nathan-Turner incorporated a segment into the anniversary special. Remember the Fourth & Romana getting stuck in a time eddy while punting down the Cam? That was originally one of the twosome's pre- Chronotis treats. Well, it is Cambridge. You would, wouldn't you? And indeed you still can if the idea takes you.
The remainder of Shada finally saw the light in 1992, when Nathan-Turner oversaw the production of a video release with Tom Baker's narration filling in the gaps created by the missing scenes. A portion of Baker's spoken introduction ( as recorded by the great man in the Doctor Who exhibit at the now sadly closed Museum Of The Moving Image), with music by Keff McCulloch, follows......
TOM: Hello? Hello? Hello. Anybody there? It's a museum. I've always felt at home in museums. Giant Robot. Beat you, cock. Cybermen, beat you. Daleks, beat you. Davros. Davros. Phew, I beat him as well. I was irresistible in those days. Irresistible. Yeti. Gunden Robot. No, no, no, no. Vervoid, Sea Devil, Ice Warrior, Krarg. Krarg? Shada! The untransmitted story. Why wasn't it transmitted? Of course, we didn't finish it. Starring Denis Carey and Christopher Neame, written by Douglas Adams. I thought it was a very good script and there was an invisible spaceship. Douglas said anybody can design a visible spaceship but to design an invisible spaceship, that needs imagination. I think he said that, or did he say? I think he said genius. Yes, he said genius. Poor old Douglas, I wonder what became of him? That's right, Cambridge, about 1979. Punting on the Cam. There was a choir on the corner as I biked by, singing Faure's Requiem or some train song or other. Daniel Hill. I'd heard he become the manager of a old people's home. (Yes, he played Harvey Baines opposite Graham Crowden in Waiting for God.) Or maybe he went into an old people home, I can't remember. Or maybe he was always old, I don't know. And Victoria Burgoyne. It was her first television and when she heard it was cancelled, she was so unhappy. She cried a lot. We all cried a lot. We were very sad. Shada. Shada. Shada....
There's also a pre- novelization Eighth Doctor webcast which aims to fill in a few gaps reflecting the time eddy & changes in continuity since four selves ago from the Doctor's point of view.
Previous Stories From The Scrapheap
The Red Fort
The Son of Doctor Who
The Final Game
Doctor Who Meets Scratchman
The proposed Eighth Doctor series
The one written by Stephen Fry
Christopher Eccleston and the Absence of the Daleks
The New Team / Pompeii