Wednesday, 20 February 2013 18:24

Doctor Who: The Legacy Collection

Written by  Martin Thompson
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Title: Doctor Who: The Legacy Collection

Directors: Pennant Roberts (Shada), Kevin Davies (More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS)

Starring: Tom Baker, Lalla Ward, various stars of the classic series

Certificate: PG

Released: Out Now

RRP: £20.42

The Fourth Doctor and Romana II arrive in Cambridge to see Professor Chronotis. They are not the only new arrivals however as a man named Skagra is also trying to locate the Professor who holds the key to finding Shada, the Time Lord prison. If the Doctor can’t stop him, he intends to free the feared criminal Salyavin to help him take over the universe. Sugar?

A young boy flees various menaces terrifying London before ending up in that perennial Doctor Who viewing place: behind the sofa. Various cast members and fans look back on the classic series with affection and recreate some of the scenes.

As the 2Entertain Doctor Who DVD range enters its final year, our first box set is very much a tying up of loose ends with some more obscure releases. This is the 50th anniversary year though so why not? This box set includes the infamously uncompleted story Shada that was scrapped due to industrial action in 1979. Here we have the version that was released onto video in 1992 with linking narration by Tom Baker and the Big Finish version from 2003. Also included in this set is the documentary More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS which was also an original video release back in 1994.

Shada is an odd watch in 2013 and feels like a mix of different eras. All the location filming for this serial was completed before industrial action halted production. The story has since had many myths built up about it due to its uncompleted state, plus it was also written by then script editor and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy creator Douglas Adams. As a result there are plenty of good ideas and dialogue here but at six parts it feels overstretched. The Fourth Doctor and Romana are at the height of their powers here and the guest stars are great, especially Denis Carey as the bumbling Chronotis and Daniel Hill as Chris Parsons who, with his scientific enthusiasm, is a marvellous foil for the Doctor and would have made a good companion. The Cambridge location also lends it a look different to any other classic series story. The effects were created for the 1992 release and it shows but they were doing the best they could even if it does resemble Doctor Who and the Deadly Ball of Blutack. At least they were better than the hideous sole effect from the 1970s of the TARDIS in the vortex.

Tom Baker’s linking narration from a Who exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image does not intrude as much as you would expect, but the impact of the lost scenes is felt in the later episodes. Baker, in his sharp suit and oddly in character, looks like he’s regenerating back into Jon Pertwee. The music also belongs to another era with Keff McCulloch providing the score. McCulloch worked on the show during its final years so it sounds like a Seventh Doctor serialm with all the thumpy electro synth that you would expectm which just sounds so wrong for the time. It’s a pity that we never get to see inside Shada itself and as good as the lava monsters, the Krargs, look, their furry flared trousers can’t help but make me think that they’ve simply paved over the Mandrels from Nightmare of Eden. Overall, it’s a good watch and any of Adams’ work on the show is welcome to see, but if this story had been made in full then I doubt it would be as fondly remembered these days. The story would have made a good four-parter but extended to six, it just drags.

Completing the serial in 1980 proved too costly but for the 40th anniversary of Doctor Who in 2003, Big Finish remounted Shada using the Eighth Doctor. Returning to Gallifrey, he feels that, after the events of The Five Doctors, something has been left undone and so enlists President Romana and K9 to return to Cambridge. This version was Flash animated and made into a BBCi webcast that is also included on the disc. The story is rewritten and recast and, if you can look past the jerky animation, this is a more coherent and enjoyable version. Paul McGann in particular puts in a good performance and seems to really relish some of the Tom Baker-style dialogue.

Documentaries, eh? I’ve seen a few. 2Entertain have spoiled us fans for extra content on their discs with features on every aspect of the show, but back in 1993 when the show celebrated its 30th year, Doctor Who on television was dead in the water. But such was its power, no doubt owing to sales of original novels and video releases of classic stories, the documentary More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS was made. Originally produced for television, an extended version was released onto video in 1994. This was an opportunity to look back over the show’s past and celebrate it, with many of the stars proudly speaking out about their memories of the show; however only Jon Pertwee, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy make an appearance to talk about their celebrated role. Of course, unlike those other documentaries this has the odd effect of seeing the cast and crew looking younger.

We open on a small boy running through many recreated scenes from the classic series before arriving behind the sofa and turning to the television to watch Doctor Who. Now, whatever you think of this scenario will colour your opinion of this documentary. For example, seeing Fraser Hines and Deborah Watling stumble on the Emperor Dalek or Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant being stalked by Cybermen while chatting and walking by St Paul’s Cathedral can appear cheesy or clever. Myself, I loved these little meta scenes and there are plenty throughout. Beyond these though, and the opportunity to see those who are no longer with us like Jon Pertwee and Elisabeth Sladen talk about the show, watching this in 2013 there’s the lingering feeling that it’s all been done before and in the future, if you get my meaning. This is the sort of stuff seen before on previous DVD releases but it is an entertaining watch and will hold your interest for 90 minutes, but after that it may only hold nostalgia value for those who eagerly bought it on video back in 1994 desperate to have any footage and analysis of their favourite show. In the tradition of the cliffhanger ending, a post credits scene sees then BBC supremo Alan Yentob confirm that they have been in talks with Steven Spielberg to bring the show back. Wonder how that turned out?

Overall, with a half finished story and a 19 year old documentary this is very much a box set for the fans and those wanting a complete collection, rather than the lay viewer or a classic series newbie. However if you remember the original video releases and are interested in the history of the show then this one is for you.

Extras: Shada: Disc 1: The flash animated version of Shada released by BBCi, text commentary and Coming Soon DVD trailer.

Disc 2: Taken Out of Time is our ‘making of’ documentary here while Strike! Strike! Strike! tells the story of how industrial action scuppered the 1979 production. Now and Then revisits the Cambridge locations and Being A Girl looks at how women have been represented in Doctor Who, plus there is a photo gallery and PDF material.

More Than 30 Years In The TARDIS: Remembering Nicholas Courtney sees the actor give his last interview. More interviews, cut from The Story of Doctor Who, come from Verity Lambert in The Lambert Tapes: Part One and Peter Purves in Doctor Who Stories. Lastly, Those Deadly Divas looks at the Doctor’s many female foes.

Continuing Adventures: Big Finish’s Shada was released in 2005 and is available to buy separately. A novelisation and completion by Gareth Roberts was released in 2012 along with an audiobook version read by Lalla Ward. Douglas Adams reused elements of this story in his novel Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (1987). Gently and MacDuff were also students at St Cedd’s College and even revisited the place for an adventure in episode 2 of the short lived Dirk Gently series in 2012. It was also the fictional alma mater of Dr John Winters in the Torchwood online game. A short story Cambridge Previsited (1993) was published in The Doctor Who Yearbook 1993 and featured the First Doctor meeting Chronotis. Prisoners from Shada continue to pop up in fiction including the Master and the fearsome Grandfather Paradox.

Trivia learnt from the disc: Shada was scuppered by what became an annual autumn strike by the ABS (Association of Broadcasting Staff)union in the 1970s. Demarcation (who does what job) was a key issue. One of the longest running disputes was set off by the clock on kids show Play School. It wasn’t a real clock but needed its hands moving so who was responsible to move it and maintain it between episodes? Was it a prop, piece of scenery or visual effect? The dispute was never settled.

Martin Thompson

Martin Thompson

Martin Thompson has been a member of GeekPlanetOnline since 2008 and has spent a great deal of that time commenting on a mad man in a box with many DVD and TV reviews, plus columns and podcasts, on the subject of Doctor Who. He is also the creator, writer, artist and tea boy on The Art Room comic strip which is very loosely based on his own school experiences.

Martin lives in Kent. 

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