This is the semi-mythical "lost" serial from Doctor Who. Written by Douglas Adams at the height of his powers, and cruelly lost to an industrial dispute. There have been many attempts to recreate the show - but this is the definitive edition1. All the missing sequences have been animated - with the original cast providing their voices.
And what a show it is! The dialogue is sharp - rarely a wasted word - and funny. The technobabble doesn't take itself too seriously. The mythos building of The Time Lords gives us delightful hints of what's to come. I'd go so far as to say that Shada is the perfect prequel to Doctor Who Flux. Why has Tom Baker's Doctor "forgotten" about the Gallifreyan prison planet? THE DIVISION!
It also dovetails nicely with Capaldi's Doctor "retiring" to a university to teach. In Bristol!
The plot has some lovely sci-fi to it. The mix of practical special effects, CGI enhancements, and animation tie the whole package together wonderfully. It's also fascinating to see how this episode influenced Red Dwarf - specifically the long fingernails from cryo-sleep and the Back To Reality chairs.
There are a few annoyances. K-9 is as useless as ever! Physically slow, and with a pathetically underpowered laser. The "lumbering monster" trope is a bit poor - I still don't understand what they are or what they were trying to do. Romana feels a little underused - although she gets some excellent lines. Like any 1970's Doctor Who, it could easily have been trimmed down to about half the length. But, remember, this is cheap TV filler - the first VHS release of Who wouldn't be for another 4 years.
Because the footage has been edited down to a "feature length" episode - about 2h 30m - we lose the cliff-hangers. They're relatively obvious to spot where they would have occurred. It's rare that Who does a satisfying cliffhanger resolution - but it might have been nice to keep them in.
There is a delightful Easter Egg at the start and at the end. No spoilers, sweetie!
The 2nd DVD is chock-full of documentaries and behind the scenes film. Lots of fun - but you'll probably skip through a few of them.
Obviously nothing can match the hype - but Shada comes close.
- Well… One of the definitive editions! ↩