Shalka is a curious thing, a one-off that was intended as a pilot to give the Doctor a new lease of life on the Internet since nobody wanted him on the telly. The Doctor`s last outing, the 1996 TV Movie starring Paul McGann, never led to a series and this, featuring McGann`s Withnail And I co-star, was similarly doomed to lead nowhere becoming a one-off glimpse into what Who On The Net might have been like.
Overall, that`s probably just as well. It`s a fairly traditional plot, the sort of thing Dr Jon might have got up to back in the day, [there`s even a pseudo-Brigadier in the form of Major Kennet] but it never really grabs your attention, despite some nice ideas and set pieces. We`re much more interested in what happened to the Doctor between San Fransico and Lannet and why he`s got a robot Master for company. It`s interesting to note how this notion of a “damaged” Doctor would also be echoed by RTD when the series returned, only as the result of the Time War instead of the death of an un-named companion.
And speaking of companions, we`ve got Sophie Okeydokey [Liz Ten, the bloody Queen, mate!] from The Beast Below as the equivalent of Rose Tyler, and the first companion of colour, pre-dating Martha Jones.
The robot Master, superbly played by Derek Jacobi several years before he played the role for real in Utopia, isn`t a narrative threat for once, but nevertheless steals the show from the Doctor. Not that it would be hard to do, as Richard E Grant gives what can only be described as the most oddball delivery of the lines you could possibly imagine. He has that curious ability, like that Lord of the Rings bloke Richard Taylor, to sound as if he`s reading a speech when he`s talking instead of just talking like a normal human being. I suppose you could site that as an appropriately alien quality but to be honest, after a while it just gets on my tits. Sherlock Holmes In Space is as good a template for the Doctor`s character as any but here, he`s a bit of a miserable git and I can`t imagine it`d be too long before Alison Chaney told him to cheer himself up!
Considering that the whole thing only ran about an hour anyway, there`s not a lot that`s been cut from this, about 15m in total. The biggest problem I had was that the software I used to rip it from the Beeb site ran the picture and sound slightly out of sync, meaning I had to constantly readjust both to keep them aligned, which was a time consuming pain in the arse!
When the Doctor is falling into the Black Hole and uses the Sonic on his Tardis phone, there’s no sound from the device so I took the opportunity to add in the sound effect. You’d think they would have put it in themselves…
And is it just me, or does a Shalka look like a Tractator`s Mother-in-Law?