Having just done Scream of the Shalka to tie in with Other Ninth Doctor Richard E Grant’s appearance in The Snowmen, I thought it only proper to do the same for his Withnail and I co-star. Shada is the Classic Series infamous unfinished story, and from what I can see it`s not a great loss it must be said.
Having seen the Ian Levine animated version I can understand why Dan Hall didn’t want to put it out on the upcoming DVD of the TV original. Aside from some dodgy animation in places, that was probably because said DVD includes a weblink to the 2003 Webcast version, which was seemingly intended for Tom’s Doctor until he turned it down and McGann stepped into the breach. Gary Russell does a good job of updating the story for the Eighth Doctor but it’s still strange hearing one Doctor saying lines you know were written for another. That said, McGann makes the part his own but it’s hard to shake off the ghost of Tom that haunts the entire production.
Be that as it may, I felt that it was only right to do a Fan Edit of this story to get an idea of how I might have tackled it if it had existed in its entirety. Maybe further down the road when some more Bill and Pat stories have been released the Levine version may see the light of day, I for one hope so, but for the moment, this is as close as the we’re likely to get!
After a new introduction we’re into the Gary Russell prologue for Doc 8 and President Romana, neatly tying this in to Big Finish’s Gallifrey audios. After they head back to Cambridge 1979, I put all the Chronotis scenes together so no Think Tank or young Parsons taking the book away. This way the story unfolds for the audience just as it does for the Doctor and Romana. It really helped that the original webcast was in sections with regular Fades To Black, meaning the sequence doesn`t jar at all, whereas if you were working from the TV version you would have no choice but to cut away. The main reason for doing it like this was that, after the initial setup on Gallifrey, all we need to do is go straight to Cambridge and find out what`s going on – Salyavin and Skagra can always turn up later and surprise us all.
We manage to condense the first three episodes into half an hour, which just goes to show much padding was in them. We skip the cliff-hangers to parts one and three and part two [sphere chases bycicle] gets cut back to the minimum we need. The Doctor gets nobbled by Skagra’s sphere at 26m in, meaning he disappears from the story for the next 13m or so. The reason for this is that it’s Romana who has all the scenes with Skagra that are driving the plot, whereas all the Doctor does is bugger about with Skagra’s ship and learn his backstory. And so, in this version, the Doctor just turns up on Skagra’s ship, having done something terribly clever to it to get it there that we don’t need to know about!