Friday, May 25, 2012

Big Finish - Shada

A Big Finish bonus release, Shada by Douglas Adams. Directed by Nicholas Pegg and starring Paul McGann, Lalla Ward, James Fox, Susannah Harker and Andrew Sachs.

Where to begin with Shada? Originally conceived as a Fourth Doctor adventure for the 1979-80 television series and written by Douglas Adams. Filming began but was interrupted by industrial action at the BBC and never completed or broadcast. Various incomplete versions have been stitched together over the years and some of the filmed scenes were used when Tom Baker declined to appear in the The Five Doctors. Adams himself recycled some of the characters and the Cambridge university setting into Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency.

Finally in 2003 Big Finish adapted it into a complete Eighth Doctor story and it was available on the BBC website with a Flash style animation of the story. And here is the full cast audio drama in six parts as originally intended, and with an all-star cast. As well as all the actors I mentioned above it also features John Leeson as K-9 and Hannah Gordon as the voice of Skagra's ship, and all of this for £5 on the Big Finish site.

The performances here are great. Paul McGann continues to sound completely at home in radio drama and it is nice to have the return of Lalla Ward and John Leeson. James Fox turns in a delightfully dotty performance as Professor Chronotis, forever muddling his tenses and making endless pots of tea. Andrew Sachs turns the villainy dial up to eleven as Skagra, and I enjoyed hearing Susannah Harker and Hannah Gordon. If I could have one voice for the computer and sat-nav in my car I think I would choose Gordon's.

The story is complex but I didn't feel it needed to be six episodes long. There are several examples of the classic Doctor Who scenario where the villains have the Doctor and his companions at gunpoint but decide to explain their plan rather than pulling the trigger. Once per story is acceptable but hearing repeated examples rather strains credulity. However on the plus side the special effects are so much better on the radio than they ever could have been on television in 1980.

If this was the first time I had encountered the story of Shada I think it would have scored higher but as I was familiar with the plot and it rather dragged on a bit for me this is going to score 3 out of 5 Robotic dogs.

Next up will probably be The Butcher of Brisbane unless I splurge out more money on the Klein stories special offer.

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