Working Title: Sunburst.
Starring: Tom Baker (The Fourth Doctor), Lalla Ward (The Second Romana), David Brierley (Voice of K-9).
Whilst visiting the Doctor's old friend, a retired Time Lord named Professor Chronotis living as a professor in Cambridge, the Doctor, Romana and K-9 encounter the evil scientist Skagra, who has come to Earth to steal a Gallifreyan text in Chronotis' possession. With the book, Skagra can locate Shada, the Gallifreyan prison planet, where he intends to force Salyavin, a Time Lord criminal with vast mental powers, to help him imprint his mind upon every being in the cosmos. To this end, Skagra kidnaps Romana, steals the TARDIS, and kills Chronotis. Left with no companion and no time machine, the Doctor is forced to ally himself with two students to stop Skagra's mad scheme.
Despite an early determination to showcase new writers for Season Seventeen, producer Graham Williams and script editor Douglas Adams had encountered enormous problems in helping the neophytes groom their stories into workable form. So bad was the situation that, in the end, no suitable adventure remained for the six-part finale of the season. Williams wanted this story to be particularly memorable, because it would be the Doctor Who swansong for both himself and Adams; indeed, he had intentionally redistributed the budget for the season to ensure that the finale would not be made on a shoestring as in his first two years on the job. Consequently, it was finally decided that Adams himself should write the serial.
This came at a bad time for Adams, who was busy with his enormously popular Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy franchise, in all its various incarnations. Adams first thought to expand an idea he had had for a two-part story, in which the Doctor retires only to be constantly called back into action. This was turned down by Williams, who feared that it would be seen as ridiculing the show. Adams then developed a new concept, given the working title Sunburst, which would examine how capital punishment was dealt with in Time Lord society.
This had been commissioned by June 29th, but Adams apparently did not begin work on Sunburst until July, and hastily finished the first draft in six days. One requirement imposed on the scripts by Williams was that they not feature any scenes on Gallifrey, which he feared had been overused as a setting in recent years (latterly in The Invasion Of Time two years earlier). As a result, Adams decided to set Sunburst in his home town of Cambridge, allowing him to draw upon his own experiences as a student at the University there. As with City Of Death earlier in the season, Adams worked closely with Williams in developing the scripts. Amusingly, one of the first episode's jokes (in which Professor Chronotis forgets that he has a mind like a sieve) was taken from a story Adams had had published in the February 27th, 1965 edition of Eagle And Boy's World, when he was twelve years old.
By September 17th, the story's title had changed to Shada and director Pennant Roberts was on board. Roberts' last Doctor Who work had been another Adams script, The Pirate Planet, the previous season. Location filming began in Cambridge on October 15th, although Tom Baker arrived in the town the day before so that he could practise punting for a sequence in part one.
For years, the BBC had been beset by industrial action in the lead-up to the holiday programming season, essentially stemming from a longstanding demarcation dispute. This had affected the finales for both Season Fifteen and Season Sixteen; The Invasion Of Time had had to relocate its interior shooting away from BBC premises, while The Armageddon Factor had barely come through unscathed. The labour trouble first reared its head on Shada when Roberts booked two lighting crews for an ambitious nighttime chase sequence featuring the Doctor and Skagra, scheduled for the 18th. The idea was that while one crew was involved in filming, the other would jump ahead to set up at the next location. Recognising Doctor Who as an important target, the unions withdrew the lighting chargehand, forcing Roberts to reschedule the chase for daytime; it was eventually recorded on the 19th. One happy result of this occurred on the 18th when Baker and Roberts -- who had retired to a pub, given that they now essentially had the day off -- were approached by the secretary of the St John's Choristers, who enquired as to whether the programme might make use of his choir's services. Roberts agreed and included the Choristers as part of the chase scene; Baker was made an honorary fellow of St John's College in return.
The rest of the location material was recorded without further incident, although the loss of time did mean that some material had to be rescheduled for the studio. The first recording block occurred from Saturday, November 3rd to Monday the 5th, and despite Roberts' efforts, Shada continued to be behind schedule. Consequently, for the second block -- a two-day session beginning on Monday the 19th -- Roberts asked for an early start to recording. Returning to the studio after lunch, however, cast and crew found the doors locked: the labour unrest had flared up again, forcing the postponement of all taping at Television Centre.
The third and final recording block was to take place from Saturday, December 1st to Monday the 3rd. Although the strike was settled on the 1st, Roberts was informed that his studio time had been reallocated to delayed Christmas programming, which was seen by the BBC as more important. Originally, it was hoped that recording might resume after the holidays, but Williams was told that a remount was doubtful until after January. On December 10th, it was officially decided that The Horns Of Nimon would mark the end of Season Seventeen.
Williams and Adams both left Doctor Who in December. Williams would continue to work as a producer through much of the Eighties on shows like Supergran, before finally tiring of television. He took over running a hotel near Tilverton in Devon and became a town councillor there; sadly, he died in a shooting accident at his hotel in August 1990. Adams would go on to great fame thanks to Hitchhiker's Guide To Galaxy; he published five books in the series, as well as several other works such as the two Dirk Gently novels. A Hitchhiker's feature film was still in the planning stages when Adams died of a heart attack on May 11th, 2001.
For his replacement, Williams initially suggested his production unit manager, John Nathan-Turner. Earlier in the year, when Williams had been lobbying -- unsuccessfully -- for an associate producer to relieve some of his workload, it had been Nathan-Turner who he had nominated for the position. Head of Serials Graeme McDonald, however, preferred Nathan-Turner's predecessor, George Gallaccio, who had already spent a year as producer of the thriller series The Omega Factor. Gallaccio turned down McDonald's offer, however, deciding that he preferred the artistic side of the industry to the technical. Nathan-Turner was then offered the job, which he accepted; he was installed in his new position during the making of Shada, in November.
At the same time, however, McDonald was leery of handing a novice producer such a demanding programme as Doctor Who. Furthermore, McDonald himself was about to gain additional responsibilities, since he would now be head of a combined Series and Serials department; this would permit him little time to oversee individual shows like Doctor Who. Consequently, McDonald turned to former Who producer Barry Letts. Letts had mainly been working on classic serial since leaving the show in 1975, but since the middle of the previous season, he had also been keeping an unofficial eye on Doctor Who on McDonald's behalf. Letts agreed to become the programme's executive producer, marking the first time since Season Two that Doctor Who had officially had two producers.
The first task before Nathan-Turner and Letts was to find a replacement for Adams. Both Johnny Byrne (with whom Nathan-Turner had worked on All Creatures Great And Small) and Ted Rhodes were considered, but neither took on the position. Finally, former Who scriptwriter Robert Banks Stewart suggested that Nathan-Turner speak to journalist/scriptwriter/actor Christopher H Bidmead. Bidmead was hesitant to accept the job, disliking the tendency of the show toward 'silly' as opposed to 'hard' science in recent years. He finally agreed, however, when Nathan-Turner and Letts told him that they shared his concerns and would be seeking to reverse that trend. Bidmead began working on Doctor Who in December.
Further decisions made by Nathan-Turner meant that Shada would also mark the final Doctor Who work for two other key figures. First, Nathan-Turner decided to rehire John Leeson as the voice of K-9 in place of David Brierley; Leeson had left the series at the end of Season Sixteen. Brierley would continue to act on stage, television and radio, with work including The Tripods and Juliet Bravo. Also, in January 1980, Nathan-Turner decided to bring Doctor Who's incidental music in-house on a regular basis for the first time, believing that an electronic score provided by the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop would be more appropriate for the programme, and had the potential to be more varied than conventional incidental music. As a result, Shada marked the final serial for Dudley Simpson (who had already begun work when the adventure was halted by the strike), who had been working on Doctor Who since 1967 and in fact had scored every Tom Baker story except Revenge Of The Cybermen, Terror Of The Zygons and The Seeds Of Doom. Simpson would continue to work in television, with credits including Blake's 7 and Supergran.
With Williams' departure, Nathan-Turner continued his efforts to save Shada. He worked with Roberts to put together a three-day studio block which would enable the director to edit together a four-part version of the story, or possibly two 50-minute episodes for Christmas 1980. However, because the serial would then be very dialogue-heavy, and because of changes Nathan-Turner wanted to make to the regular cast, this proposal was nixed by the BBC. Shada was officially cancelled in June, although Nathan-Turner ensured that the finished material would be preserved in the BBC Archives.
In 1983, an unofficial Shada compilation was made by fan Ian Levine, who was then working as an unofficial advisor to the production crew. Levine, assisted by Richard Landen, James Russell and Kevin Davies, used text from the rehearsal scripts to link the extant scenes. This was then shown at the Panopticon 5 convention in Birmingham on September 3rd and 4th. That same year, two scenes from Shada were used in the twentieth-anniversary story The Five Doctors when Tom Baker indicated he did not want to return for the occasion. In 1984, Noel "Snowy" Lidiard-White suggested that Nathan-Turner consider releasing Shada on videotape, the first commercial Doctor Who video having become available the previous year. In November 1985, Nathan-Turner mooted the possibility of having then-Doctor Colin Baker link the footage, either as narration to the camera or in the form of a story being told to the Doctor's companion, Peri, played by Nicola Bryant.
Nothing came of these ideas, however, and Shada remained ensconced in the BBC Archives. Then, in 1991, BBC Video enjoyed success with two special Doctor Who releases -- an extended version of The Curse Of Fenric, and The Hartnell Years and The Troughton Years, both of which included episodes from incomplete stories. Convinced that fans were interested in these non-standard videos, Nathan-Turner approached Tom Baker about recording linking narration for Shada. This was recorded on February 4th, 1992, at the Doctor Who: Behind The Sofa exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image. David Brierley returned to record the rest of K-9's dialogue, Keff McCulloch -- who had worked on several Doctor Who stories in the late Eighties -- composed incidental music in an ostensibly Simpson-like style, and various special effects were added or refined. The video was released on July 6th, finally bringing Shada to the public eye after a delay of more than twelve years.