Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by barnaby morbius on Sun Apr 12, 2009 3:25 am

The Co=Ordinator wrote:His likeness for Billy was totally awesome. Identical twins have more differences than Hartnell and Warwick.

You see, I reckon you could come round to my way of thinking........ lol!

maureen o brien looked more like hartnell then the robot doctor. it all got a bit confusing. i quite like the way the aridians die. and the dracula and frankenstein robots.

actually you 're right! it's great!! What a Face
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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by The Co=Ordinator on Sun Apr 12, 2009 3:28 am

barnaby salton wrote:actually you 're right! it's great!! What a Face

You see! And we haven't even started on the Mire Beast, the thick Dalek, Morton Dill..................

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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by Frank on Sun Apr 12, 2009 3:33 am

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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by Frank on Sun Apr 12, 2009 3:35 am

Oh, I have yet to demolish...er...critique The Chase

Stay tuned.
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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by The Co=Ordinator on Sun Apr 12, 2009 3:41 am

Frank wrote:Oh, I have yet to demolish...er...critique The Chase

Stay tuned.

Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy

Always enjoy your reviews Frank, even if I disagree with them! Razz

Don't know if people have seen this but here's a reworking of 3 scenes from The Chase that "The Mind Robber" did a couple of years ago. Well worth a look IMO. Smile

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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by andrea on Sun Apr 12, 2009 4:14 am

barnaby salton wrote:
The Co=Ordinator wrote:His likeness for Billy was totally awesome. Identical twins have more differences than Hartnell and Warwick.

You see, I reckon you could come round to my way of thinking........ lol!

maureen o brien looked more like hartnell then the robot doctor. it all got a bit confusing. i quite like the way the aridians die. and the dracula and frankenstein robots.

actually you 're right! it's great!! What a Face
They looked awfully alike to me but I do have mild face blindness*. Same wig and clothes=same person for me!

*I admit to occasional trouble recognising
my own daughter... Shocked
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Season 17 - The Creature From The Pit

Post by Frank on Sat May 16, 2009 7:12 am



The Creature From The Pit

October - November 1979

"Astrologer extraordinary. Seer to princes and emperors. The future foretold, the present explained, the past - apologised for."

Gosh, the last Classic Doctor Who review was back in January! We must rectify that problem immediately. Onwards, I say. Let's get the sniggering about the phallic looking, green glowing blob of an alien ambassador out of the way for starters. Yes, it looks rubbish, it unintentionally must be one of the most sexually offensive 'things' ever to grace tea-time telly (well, almost) and then Baker goes and gives it a blow job. Well, it's one way of making friends I suppose. For the rest...well let's get the plot out of the way first. There's a creature, in a pit, on a planet with no metal. A nasty lady has imprisoned it there cos she wants to monopolise the supply of metal and stay in power. The Doctor and Romana wander in and sort it out.

One of my bug-bears about the Williams era was the ever growing use of 'humour' and the generally flippant tone that pervaded the series. Now, I like a laugh and you can accuse me of perhaps taking this particular era of the series too seriously if you want. But there's one scene in this that totally epitomises why I don't like the way humour was used in the series at this point. Yeah, the infamous 'Everest In Easy Stages' scene. The Doctor's allegedly hanging on for his life in the pit, he pulls out the 'Everest' book and then seeing that it's written in Tibetan, then proceeds to pull out a 'Teach Yourself Tibetan' book in order to proceed. For me, it's absurdist humour that isn't funny. It just makes me groan. And as I understand it the absurdist humour, the injection of 'comedy' per se into the series, can only work surely if it is in counterpoint to a bleaker, dramatic and tragic situation that follow it or preceeds it (see Love And Monsters to get an idea of how RTD handled it, or didn't, according to your tastes). It's a classic set-up device. But here and in other instances, the set up fails because it's too absurd (comedy has rules just like everything else) or the dramatic situation turns out to be a big green phallus in a pit.

It dovetails into my own observation that during the Williams era, instead of his, and Adams' particular, desire to understand the role of the villain, the purpose of threat and the nature of evil they were actually having a 'reductionist' effect on the role of the monsters/villains in the adventure. The threats become emptier and emptier, lacking dramatic force and the necessary pay off to make the surreal and absurdist comedy work. If Williams was trying to position the show as a comedy/SF vehicle then for me he only managed that on rare occasions. He was justifiably proud of City Of Death and rightly so because at least there the comedy and the science fiction ideas shared responsibility for the authenticity of the narrative. Elsewhere, he was on shakier ground, to the point where the show did dangerously veer off into self-parody and the pantomimic.

And of course the other element contributing to the stripping away of dramatic power in the stories at this point is the Doctor, and also, Romana. For me, the Doctor and his companion(s) are the centre point around which everything else plays out. With the Doctor/Romana/K9 line up, the series has swapped the audience's view of the mysteries and dangers of the universe for the nonchalance and egoism of two Time Lords and an 'electric dog'. I think it's a good line up in some ways and I enjoy the 'fun' relationship between the three but I do think it was to the detriment of audience identification, dramatic tension and authenticity. Creature is the first in a line of three stories that for me really illustrate all of the above points. So are there any pleasures to be had? Naturally, there are. I often feel that even the worst stories do have some redeeming features.

Production wise, the filmed sequences of the surface of Chloris, particularly in episode one, are very fine and the sets are in the same league as those produced at Ealing for Planet Of Evil. They are atmospheric and set up the landscape of the narrative. Effective world-building. The studio sequences are variable, the pit scenes are again atmospheric and lit accordingly but the interiors of Adrasta's palace and Torvin's hideout suffer from being over-lit. Visual effects are on the whole pretty good - the models of Erato's ship and the TARDIS are up to the good standard of the team. The only let down is Erato himself with the life size versions, despite best efforts, looking embarassing. There are a couple of CSO scenes with the full size version and the actors matted in that aren't bad at all.

Apart from the Tom/Lalla mutual admiration society, the story does feature a nicely judged, self-deprecating performance from Geoffrey Bayldon as the astrologer Organon. He manages to carve out some moments of whimsy and pathos for himself and he plays off Baker very well. Myra Frances as Lady Adrastra just turns the 'camp' switch up to full and shouts a lot. She's about as threatening as a fart in a hurricane and the dramatic clout that the story needs ends up being delivered in the manner of a pantomime dame. However, despite the vamping, she does further emphasise the refreshing attitude Williams had to making 'villainy' an equal opportunities activity. And yes, the Thatcher parallels are all intact even if she's just the token xenophobe of Chloris - an inhuman human if you will. And she gets some genuinely funny lines. If anyone should be slapped across the legs for dis-service to the thespian craft then it should be John Bryans as Torvin, leader of the scavengers. Or should that be Fagin. Lazy acting and characterisation and clumsy stereotyping that wouldn't darken any screen these days.

David Fisher's script is actually very good when you strip away much of the production flummery. There are some interesting observations about the deceptiveness of appearances, the nature of communication, xenophobia and the economics of power. It subtly mirrors much of what was happening politically and economically in the UK at the time. Just a shame it all ended up looking and sounding like a production of Oliver Twist meets Aladdin. And finally, David Brierly voicing K9. He really does make him sound, like an irritating, smug know-it-all. Just like his master, then.

THE CREATURE FROM THE PIT (BBCV7266 VHS Cert PG - deleted)

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Season 17 - Nightmare Of Eden

Post by Frank on Sat May 16, 2009 7:19 am



Nightmare Of Eden

November - December 1979

D'you know...I rather enjoyed this. Best seen through the haze of a fine wine and a lack of pretension. It has its major faults but as a story it's very engaging and contains some good SF ideas. This is a Bob Baker solo effort and, forgive me Dave Martin, but this actually works better as a script than the offerings the duo usually provide. Two ships collide in space and the instability allows creatures to escape from zoologist Tryst's virtual reality zoo. They have a fine time making a meal of the passengers and crew. Meanwhile, the Doctor gets arrested for possession of Class A drugs and sets off in search of the smugglers.

We are well into the period where the programme has ceased to be about taking the audience to strange new places and where the abiding public perception of Doctor Who was, and still is to an extent, one based on stories such as this. Cheap, silly and colourful, bad sets, costumes and performances. And for a while, as an 'institution' of the television schedules of the time, this was acceptable but Nightmare went out during the post-Star Wars SF boom. Alien was on general release. It's that cheap a production it nicks some of the superior effects work done for Space:1999 for a sequence where Romana examines the CET machine. Standards in production were changing year by year and audience expectations were changing. The look of cinematic science fiction was forever changed and its legacy was very slow to trickle down into productions for television. That abiding memory that summed up the show to the casual viewer then was still common currency at least until 2005.

A shame really, as Nightmare is a jolly little yarn. It's just constrained within a rather pulpy, dreadful, bargain basement Flash Gordon sense of design which rather than heightening the reality of the visuals just ends up inducing the audience into gales of laughter. The scenes on the passenger liner are over-lit, denying the Mandrels any effectiveness when they're rambling down the umpteen corridors chasing after people, 1970s fashion sense dictating they sport fur trimmed flares. When they're in the shadowy jungle of Eden they're much more effective. Visual effects are OK and there's a real push here to integrate them into the storytelling and use them as a tool rather than a gimmick. Oddly enough, Douglas Adams very sneakily comments on this within the story. David Daker as Captain Rigg, high on vrax, sits and watches his passengers get torn to pieces by the daft looking Mandrels and is reduced to fits of laughter whist uttering 'They're only economy class. What's all the fuss about'. A distinctly odd moment - the script editor knocking away the few remaining props of the show's internal reality as he gets a cheap laugh.

Beneath all the pulpiness, the comedy police and dull direction there is a commentary going on about exploitation of both alien and human through technology that echoes some of the similar themes in Creature From The Pit and City Of Death. Tryst and Dymond are most certainly proto-Thatcher's children, motivated only by greed whilst possessing a technical wonder like the CET machine. They achieve their 'high' by using the machine and the Mandrells to make addicts of all those around them. And there's the neat twist of having the monsters of the week not really the figurative beasts they seem to be but simply the drugs haul trapped in a virtual reality machine. Performances are really variable here and often seem to belong in an 'end of the pier' revue. Lewis Fiander chews the scenery with a terrible mid-European accent. Is he supposed to be German? Geoffrey Bateman seems to stand around in scenes for ages with nothing to do except chip in tersely whilst wearing a very camp silver space suit. And he turns out to be a villain! David Daker and Barry Jackson, playing Rigg and Stott respectively, are the epitome of restraint here especially when Geoff Hinsliff pops up as the ineffectual police officer in a sparkly black hat and takes us through several Keystone Kops routines - oh, how my sides ached...The Keystone Kops stuff is also picked up by composer Dudley Simpson who vamps away, in true silent movie manner, to some crassly edited bits of Tom Baker hurtling down a set of stairs whilst giving chase to a suspect.

And then we have Tom, who really behaves himself until the excruciating bit in the Eden projection when he's grabbed by the Mandrells (pardon the expression), mugging in voice over during a dreadful bit of foliage rustling with cries of '..my arms, my legs, my...everything' and instantly any the credibility the story had is cruelly undermined. Again, a shame, as his reaction to Tryst's excuses for his smuggling activities is a very black look and the kind of reaction from Baker that is absolutely what it requires - 'go away' indeed. Lalla continues to be light but effective and is really starting to come into her own as Romana. Despite the cheapness of the production and the wildly changing quality in performances, there is an entertainingly good story in the middle of it all with clever ideas and plotting that's actually not dependent on the usual Baker and Martin method of chucking everything in and seeing what sticks. But it's hampered by shabby production values with a sense of 'oh that'll do' permeating these efforts. I agree it's easy to sneer from over here in 2009 but I was just as dismayed back in 1979 as I watched it then and to an extent I still wonder what was going on in the minds of the production team at the time.

NIGHTMARE OF EDEN (BBCV6610 VHS Cert U - deleted)

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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by The Co=Ordinator on Sat May 16, 2009 11:13 am

Excellent reviews as ever Frank, and I can find little to disagree with.

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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by Patrick on Sat May 16, 2009 11:42 am

The Co=Ordinator wrote:Excellent reviews as ever Frank, and I can find little to disagree with.

I notice he hasn't gotten to "Horns of Nimon" yet. I somehow think Frank's review of that appallingly bad true Williams era classic story will be in the same vein. And I seem to recall I took some heat from you, Mr. C=O, over my comments about Horns of Nimon in my Season 18 article for Celestial Toymaker.

Laughing

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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by The Co=Ordinator on Sat May 16, 2009 5:37 pm

Patrick wrote: And I seem to recall I took some heat from you, Mr. C=O, over my comments about Horns of Nimon in my Season 18 article for Celestial Toymaker.

Laughing

As you are, in your heart if hearts, fully aware Mr. Patrick, Nimon manages to get the balance between humour and sci-fi narrative virtually spot on. Very Happy

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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by Patrick on Sat May 16, 2009 7:13 pm

The Co=Ordinator wrote:As you are, in your heart if hearts, fully aware Mr. Patrick, Nimon manages to get the balance between humour and sci-fi narrative virtually spot on. Very Happy

I'm struggling to keep a straight face at that assertion, C=O. I believe your exact words to me were: "How dare you dis Nimon!". Yes, I dare. Let's just see what Maestro Frank has to say on the subject of Nimon.
Razz

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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by stanmore on Sun May 17, 2009 6:02 am

I remember Frank's Nimon review beginning with his surprise that he enjoyed so much of it... He might have recovered his senses by now, mind you...

I've got a big soft spot for both Nightmare and Horns. Some performances are appalling, and I'd like to see them with a cast taken them seriously. On first viewing I remember laughing along with them...
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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by Frank on Tue May 26, 2009 6:23 am

Nimon will be here soon. I still need to sort The Chase out. I wish I could clone myself and send all the Franks out into Whoniverse to do my bidding. <Sigh>
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Season 17 - The Horns Of Nimon

Post by Frank on Sun Jun 07, 2009 4:34 am



The Horns Of Nimon

December 1979 to January 1980

'He lives in the Power Complex'

'That fits'

'Have you noticed how people's intellectual curiosity declines sharply the moment they start waving guns about?'

It's fashionable to rip the guts out of this story. But that's rather too easy to do and let's face it all the criticisms have well and truly been made. It would be lazy to repeat them. Some viewers are convinced the story was a production team joke in order to see how far they could go in sending the series up. Is it a send up? No, I don't think so. There are too many good things about Nimon that sort of make that view untenable. Yes, that's right...good things.

OK, it's not the best script of the season and it heavily relies on Anthony Read's obsession with Greek myth. Trouble is, he's not doing a particularly good homage to the story of the Minotaur. In fact, most of the myth is missing. Try saying that after a few gins. There are some basic allusions to the story and Greek heroes but it stops there. So, if his intention was to explore the mythic nature of the Greeks as a template for the Doctor Who format itself then it's all too fast and loose for that theory to hold any water. That's not to say that mythical storytelling shouldn't be in Doctor Who. By 1979, the power of myth was everywhere in cinematic science fiction. It was the trend du jour.

So what have we got. The Doctor and Romana discover a ship load of kids on their way to Skonnos as 'tribute' to the Nimon. The Nimon are bull headed creatures in platform shoes and dinky loin cloths planning to continue their conquest of other worlds by draining them of power. Romana does all the hard work and the Doctor takes the credit. It's all about power, y'see. The misuse of power (Soldeed), having power thrust upon you (Seth) and power changing hands (Romana plus the 'tribute'). It's about being a hero when you're not expected to be and when you don't want to be - and that could fit with either the Doctor or Seth in this instance. And it's also a supreme example of the female principle in action which is where the Lalla Ward version of Romana has been heading all season. She takes over the function of the Doctor, makes the decisions, makes the mistakes. For all intents and purposes, the Doctor's put her on a personnel training course! And Lalla grabs the opportunity of the script and doesn't let go. She's more Doctorish than the Doctor and her actions say an awful lot about our perceptions and expectations of the masculine hero.

The script sparkles with lovely jokes which makes Nimon a frustrating experience, because everything else more or less contrives to bury its flashes of brilliance that often surface in a sea of mediocre production values. Cheap, bad design ranging from the studio interiors representing Skonnos and the Power Complex (the entrance is a set of drapes!) to the platform wearing Nimons who totter all over the place like a bunch of inebriated drag queens. Painful to watch, the Nimons really had a lot of promise, were a fascinating and terrifying concept, with the voice effects at least lending them a certain amount of credibility but from the page to the design to the performances there is a struggle to make them visually threatening. The visual effects are variable, some shot on video and some shot on film. The projected corridor from the TARDIS to the Skonnos ship works quite well as does the spectacular final destruction of the Power Complex. But overall they seem to lack a kinetic thrill and suggest a production team going through the motions.

And then Graham Crowden and Malcolm Terris carve themselves some juicy slices of ham for their performances with Crowden really having difficulty stopping himself from corpsing at times. They both thought 'I'll do my Doctor Who acting, I can get away with murder on this show' and it does show. Crowden's 'death scene' is an epic of truly camp proportions, over-ripe and ridiculous but the epitome of how far along the 'camp/juvenile' line the show had traveled in order to defy expectation. However, it is entertaining in a very strange way and if it catches you in the right frame of mind after a well prepared gin and tonic. Again, we have another example of the perceived notion of the show up until 2004 - a camp, cheap runaround in corridors. Thankfully, they're better disguised in the new series! The 'tribute', or the kids from Aneth should I say, are a pretty wet bunch and Simon Gipps-Kent and Janet Ellis do at least attempt to give us a bit of characterisation and play out the conflict of 'heroic expectation' between Seth and Teka with much conviction.

But this entire show belongs to Lalla and dressed in her red hunting gear she elevates Romana to truly heroic proportions, leaving the Doctor to play second fiddle for a while at least. She plays it straight down the line and leaves Tom to do all the goofy Tom bits. If they'd decided to re-cast her as the Doctor at this point in time, I don't think I would have complained. It's her finest 90 minutes. Nimon went out as the last complete Graham Williams production. Looking back now his 'idea' for the show does seem to have exhausted itself. Shada actually brims with the possibilites of a second phase under Williams but I'll go into that next time. Here, we've got a witty, clever script with interesting concepts and ideas being drowned in banal design and over-acting. It feels tired despite Lalla's performance and it's almost a comment on audience expectations in itself - the continuing desire to see a series of dumb masculine heroes and villains doing their thing week in week out.

The viewing figures were very healthy (an ITV strike helped) so when it all changed eight months later it's interesting to note how many millions abandoned the show. More seriously, how ever much we might criticise Nimon and Season 17 as a whole it was still a series that told reasonably straight forward and engaging stories augmented by production design and visual effects of varying quality. From Season 18 onwards, arguably, this is turned on its head, visual gloss and surface sheen would service and dominate scripts of a convoluted nature. As Shada was abandoned, this is the final televised serial to use the original 1963 arrangement of the Doctor Who theme music, revised slightly over the years, but essentially the Delia Derbyshire composition. Also making its final appearance is the diamond-shaped series logo introduced during the last season of Jon Pertwee. Bigger changes were happening in cinema and in pop video production and advances in visual communication and production were already dominating trends. The series seems almost set in aspic in 1979, favouring a satirical, Swiftian literary tradition over the visual storytelling of everything from Star Wars to Bowie's video for Ashes To Ashes.

THE HORNS OF NIMON (BBCV7334 VHS Cert U - deleted)
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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by Patrick on Sun Jun 07, 2009 6:43 am

*slaps forehead*

Frank was kind to Nimon. I'll never live this down with C=O.
No

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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by barnaby morbius on Sun Jun 07, 2009 7:02 am

i think what some people miss about "nimon"(and a fair chunk of s17) is that it's really, really funny.

to me doctor who was always about the humour(along with the monsters) so i've got more time than some for this period.

ideal with beer and maybe some pizza.
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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by Frank on Sun Jun 07, 2009 8:21 am

barnaby salton wrote:
ideal with beer and maybe some pizza.

Or a very large vodka and caviar on toast

It's an important point. Nimon is a very funny, literate script. It's just the presentation that scuppers it.
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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by The Co=Ordinator on Sun Jun 07, 2009 10:20 am

Patrick wrote:*slaps forehead*

Frank was kind to Nimon. I'll never live this down with C=O.
No

You know Patrick, sometimes I think I'm wasted, just rushing around the universe saving planets from destruction. With a talent like mine, I might have been a great slow bowler.

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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by Zoltar on Sun Jun 07, 2009 6:08 pm

Frank wrote:It's an important point. Nimon is a very funny, literate script. It's just the presentation that scuppers it.
Yep, and I don't mind seeing past that.

Looking forward to Shada, Frank.

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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by stanmore on Sun Jun 07, 2009 11:55 pm

Nimon isn't only great for the alcohol drinkers amongst us, it's great for children too. Unless you were like Christopher H. Bidmead as a seven year old.
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Season 17 - Shada

Post by Frank on Wed Jun 17, 2009 9:54 am



Shada

(Never broadcast)

"When I was on the river I heard the strange babble of inhuman voices, didn't you, Romana?"

"Oh, probably undergraduates talking to each other, I expect. I'm trying to have it banned."

And so it is goodbye to the Graham Williams era. He has to be applauded for his ambition and hard work in the face of mounting inflation, interference from the higher echelons of the Beeb, strikes, and a leading man in love with his own hype. For me, it was a period where I got out of the habit of watching and didn’t particularly enjoy what the series had become but then I was 16 at the time. Looking back it’s now clear that there were great stories produced in the era – many in need of re-evaluation – and pretty much 75% of the Key To Time season is a joy to watch which isn’t bad going.

However, by 1979, the series, for me at least, was standing still. But with Shada, I believe Williams was looking to move into a new phase of the show. Unfortunately, a BBC strike ensured that we never got to see the first iteration of this.

It’s hard to watch what remains of Shada as presented on the BBC Video release with the Tom Baker narration – first of all it labours under a horrible, sampled to death music track which makes you view it with your teeth constantly on edge - and secondly there’s so much missing that Tom has to ‘fill’ with narration that you never really get the nuances, especially as you get to the final half of the story where not much at all was filmed or taped. And Tom’s narration is a fine line between self-mockery and bad auto-cue reading despite his mellifluous tones. And I'm still not convinced that doing it as first person narration quite works when Tom is standing there looking utterly different from his on screen persona. But we should be grateful that Nathan-Turner recognised the hard work that had gone into it and at least twisted a few arms to get this VHS version out there after he realised that re-mounting the story was scuppered by BBC apathy and the Baker/Ward departures.

Once you get beyond this and get a sense of the scale of Adams' script then you can start to appreciate it. I don’t think it was ever going to be in the league of, say, City Of Death but it shares that story’s sense of belief in itself, its surroundings and its refreshing style. For Paris read Cambridge, for Scaroth read Skagra. The remaining filmed sequences on location are breezy and have a quintessential Englishness about them that goes right to the heart of the series' appeal.

The strengths of what remains lie in many of the performances. Baker and Ward are definitely on form and are served very well by a sparky script. My favourite has to be Denis Carey as Chronotis. It’s a lovely little performance, well judged, especially in its early inferences to his true identity. Certainly one of the great performances of the Williams era and a pity it never got its full due. I’ve always been a fan of Chris Neame too and his performance as Skagra very much echoes similar work for Hammer in that guilty pleasure Dracula AD 1972 – the arrogance, vanity and cruel streak are all to the fore. Pity he’s hampered by a not so subtle costume. And that hat, my dear, it’s positively absurd. Strangely it does have echoes with a certain Time Lord’s apparel…the ’I’m not mad about your tailor’ line striking just the right note of self-mockery that had been introduced into the series'.

What little remains of the confrontation between the Doctor and Skagra isn't really representative and is frustratingly under developed. The supporting characters of Chris and Clare are more or less paler versions of Arthur and Trillian from Hitch Hiker but Daniel Benson does a good line in bewilderment and Clare's scenes with Chronotis have a bizarre 'Ealing comedy in space' flavour to them. Adams would later ransack the story for his one of his Dirk Gently novels.

Unfortunately, it suffers from the main bug-bear of the Williams era. It looks cheap. From what we can see it labours with the same budgetary constraints that much of his era struggled with. The monsters, the crystalline Kraags, whilst an interesting concept on paper, come off second best. However, the ‘monsters’ have never been the focus of the Williams era and often are shoehorned into a story because that’s what the audience expects to see. Adams was always interested in the motivations of the villains rather than the scariness of the monsters and he tended to push the scariness of the various aliens very much to the margins in favour of an intellectualisation about the nature of evil that fits in with the Swiftian view of sin and evil that the era embraced.

It’s rather clunky in its execution but that may just be down to how we finally got to see it in this rougher, incomplete form. I also think that it perhaps isn’t the great series finale that they were hoping for but it comes over as a more robust story than say, Creature From The Pit or Destiny Of The Daleks. I feel sure it would have been one of the better stories of the season. However, it bristles with lovely ideas – the Ancient And Worshipful Law Of Gallifrey book as a key to Shada, the Time Lord prison planet, activates a TARDIS by turning the pages, Chronotis’ TARDIS disguised as Cambridge rooms and Skagra’s sphere (which comes over very well as a visual effects triumph in the filmed chase sequence). There’s enough plot to justify six episodes which at this point in the series’ production was proving to be difficult to get right. Adams manages to balance most of the elements in the same way that he did on City Of Death and both stories feel like they’ve actually broken the mould and moved the show on a bit.

Even though the Doctor/Romana/K9 triumvirate was working as one of the main props of the show at this time, it's often noticeable that K9 was nothing more than a mobile gun for the Doctor's convenience. In Shada K9 pretty much does the 'shooty dog thing' most of the time and that's the ultimate weakness of the concept here. He's the Doctor's amorality at arm's length. I feel that in the end the writing was already on the wall for K9 and Williams would have needed to address this. That and the indulgence of the leading man were ultimately left for Nathan-Turner to sort out. But who really knows where Williams would have taken the series in the end? He must surely have had enough of the in-fighting after three years which is probably why he handed it all over to Nathan-Turner. With Adams actually having more of a hands on approach here, as he did with City Of Death, I think there are also flashes of a fresher style emerging. And that takes us back to the quote of dialogue above, is this an Adams in-joke on some fans disillusionment with 'undergraduate' humour in the series and is it perhaps indicative of the writer's awareness of this need to move on?

Shada then is a bit of a curate's egg. Often a bit shabby but full of good ideas and concepts, some more developed than others. Good performances and a breezy style help it along immensely. Potential - is the word I would use here. Pity Shada never got to realise it.

SHADA (BBCV4814 VHS Cert U - deleted)
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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by Graymalkin on Wed Jun 17, 2009 10:59 am

I love 'Shada' to bits.

I wonder if I have a skewed perspective on it, however, as my exposure to it was Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency>McGann webcast>Baker video?
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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by The Co=Ordinator on Wed Jun 17, 2009 11:09 am

Wow, that's an interesting way to see/read 'em Gray. I first saw Shada in 1985, long before even the narration was done: instead there was simply very small text with plot developments to replace the missing scenes. Understandably it got very boring after a while. Nonetheless I do love what exists, and feel it would have been a good conclusion to the Williams Era.

I bought Dirk Gently when it first came out a couple of year later in 1987, without knowing the plot. My jaw continually dropped at how much Adams ripped off himself. But perhaps because of the cancellation of Shada, it's a novel I very much enjoy.

As for the McGann Shada - I've got it on CD, but haven't got past the first 30 minutes because it just didn't work for me. Must try again, maybe soon. Smile

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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by Rich Flair on Wed Jun 17, 2009 11:25 am

The Co=Ordinator wrote:I bought Dirk Gently when it first came out a couple of year later in 1987, without knowing the plot. My jaw continually dropped at how much Adams ripped off himself. But perhaps because of the cancellation of Shada, it's a novel I very much enjoy.

Well, really, he only had two or three stories that he constantly regurgled. Did he manage to reuse any of City of Death or The Pirate Planet in any of his novels?
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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

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