Did you watch Shada — a “lost” episode of Doctor Who that stealthily aired on BBC America July 19, 2018?
The latest and youngest lost or incomplete serial from the 1963-89 British sci-fi series to be restored, “Shada” was written by Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency author Douglas Adams. It tells the story of a retired Time Lord at Cambridge who hides a dangerous artifact that is stolen by an evil alien who seeks to gain access to the secrets of an infamous prison planet called Shada.
Planned to end the 1979-80 Series 17, when Adams was script editor on the program, the serial was abandoned due to a BBC strike. Do audiences never got the chance to watch Shada in its intended form.
Appearing in cable TV listings as “Doctor Who: The Lost Episode,” the description reads “New: An animated story by Douglas Adams.” The run time is shown as 185 minutes on the schedule.
I noticed the BBC America listing before the references to animation and Adams were added to the description, and reached out to my contacts at the premium channel. I never heard back, but the listing was updated after the weekend to add the specifics identifying the program as “Shada.”
BBC America’s online listings then updated Wednesday (7/18) to include the episode:
If you missed the broadcast, there are still several ways you can watch Shada.
If your DVR is set to record Doctor Who, you may want to make sure it will pick up “Doctor Who: The Lost Episode.” (I know that my programmed recordings sometimes don’t pick up title variations like this.)
Released in the U.K. last fall 2017, the reconstructed serial became available in the U.S. on DVD video Nov. 6, 2018. A region-free Blu-ray was already available on Amazon, and the episode appears to be available already on the U.S. iTunes Store. A Google Play listing says “this show is currently unavailable.”
The original on-location “Shada” footage has been remastered and re-edited with film shot at Cambridge, and combined with all-new color animation using voices of the original cast, including Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor and Lalla Ward as his Time Lady companion, Romana. (Studio footage remains in its original standard definition.)
On-location footage from “Shada” was recycled into the 20th anniversary special, “The Five Doctors,” to help explain Baker’s absence from that production.
Who knows? Beyond the animation, there may even be a special surprise for viewers who stick around until the restored serial’s closing scene …
This isn’t the first “Shada” resurrection to reach Doctor Who fans, although it may be the most ambitious to date: A VHS edition was released in 1992 using Tom Baker’s narration to fill in the gaps (eventually released on DVD), and the BBC created a Flash-animated version of the story in 2003 starring Eighth Doctor Paul McGann alongside Ward, based on a Big Finish audio production they did together. A novelized version also has been released.
Other “missing” or incomplete stories from Doctor Who’s classic era have been released using various techniques, from using “tele-snaps” or on-set photography set against a complete soundtrack where available (as seen with Patrick Troughton’s “The Wheel in Space”), to black-and-white animation to fit the era’s look (as seen with Troughton’s “Power of the Daleks,” which also aired on BBC America); these examples can be seen on the BritBox streaming service.
Want to know more about “Shada,” its reconstruction — and, specifically, the special episode’s musical score?
Did you miss the broadcast but still want to watch Shada in its reconstructed form? Amazon has several options for you: