Sunday, 10 March 2013

Shada | A Review

I'd just like to say how confident I am about the following review. I honestly think it's going to be one of the best I've ever written. I'm writing it in my home town, and it's a wonderfully ambitious review, that naturally I'm writing last minute to an invisible deadline.

And I promise I won't be sarcastic about Shada at all. What do you mean what was that above? I don't know what you're talking about.

I guess, for all fans, Shada is the one you have to watch. It's the one you can't go through fandom avoiding. That and the Daleks' Master Plan, probably. And maybe The War Games. And Genesis of the Daleks... I'll stop there. But Shada is a necessary for all of us, and so sitting down to watch it today, the 10th March 2013, I felt that I was about to watch a piece of history. Well, a piece of history with linking narration from Tom Baker. Perhaps they should do that in history lessons. THIS IS THE BATTLE OF HASTINGS *cuts to Tom Baker* AND THEN HAROLD GOT SHOT IN THE EYE *cuts back to battle where Harold lies on the floor/grass*.

They could do that kinda thing. But anyway yeah, history. Shada. It has gained 'legendary' status because it was cancelled because of a strike, and it's something the fans have kinda always wanted to see completed. Apparently. I think that's probably more just to satisfy our fan curiosity, to see what it would have looked like all done. I'm not sure there's any great wish to see the story finished because we want to see the epic that probably wouldn't have been that epic Doctor/Skagra mind battle at the end. I might be wrong, though.

So anyway, the story itself. Part One is almost faultless. It was like watching City of Death, but in Cambridge. The lines were witty, Tom and Lalla are amazing, the Keeper of Traken (sorry, Professor Chronotis) was really quite good, and Chris wasn't too bad. But the episode was an absolute joy to watch. The other thing that was beneficial was that not too much was missing, and Tom Baker's narration was limited to a couple of lab scenes that were described well. So yeah. You should watch Shada purely for Part One people, it is wonderful.

Part Two is also wonderful. The Doctor gets some great lines (the No Cycling one is particularly surreal and brilliant), and Tom Baker is acting like he's back in his first season. Eccentric, marvellous, mad, brilliant, the best. Lalla Ward also gives a strong and confident performance. The chase around Cambridge with the Doctor on a bike and the ball mind stealing thing chasing him is great. The choir singing to it is great. Part Two is just wonderful.

And Part Three is where the missing scenes really start making a difference. The action in the Professor's college room becomes gradually less exciting through the remainder of the episode, and with only those scenes actually available to watch, apart from a few brief cut aways to Cambridge, which become more limited, the episode gets... almost boring. There isn't enough in the college room clips to keep your interest. And although the scenes Tom Baker narrates sound wonderful, you need to actually see them to really appreciate the episode. There are a couple of clever twists along the way, and the whole concepts of Shada and the ancient book really are quite good - but the college room seems don't work on their own. Even in the episode, though they would be accompanied by some scenes with good humour and action, I'm not sure there's enough in them. It's hard to tell how the episode would be balanced, because it feels too college heavy without the other clips ever being filmed.

To some extent, I guess the college room/TARDIS stuff feels a bit like you're a kid, playing Doctor Who and pretending your sofa is the control panel of your TARDIS. We've all done it - and it is in a way quite brilliant to see them actually doing it for real. But it is a little too limited for television.

So yeah. I imagine along with the other scenes, this would be a complete, funny, exciting episode of Doctor Who. The early parts certainly indicate this. But without all the clips it is really difficult to judge. And the college room clips aren't strong enough to carry the episode along with Mr Baker's narration. I found myself getting confused at which room was which and who was on what spaceship at certain points - could there not have been a CGI recreation of certain moments? Could there not have been a certain animation included, just to bring it to life a little?

Shada needs life. Currently it exists as an ailing Professor Chronotis, stumbling on, coming up with some good lines and good moments, but not quite all there. Imagine a young Chronotis, full of life. A hero. The best, to some. So imagine a complete Shada. Maybe not the best - but certainly very good.

I would comment on the documentary, but the doors appear to have been locked to Blogger, and there's talk of some kind of strike?

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