An unfinished serial (due to a writer’s strike), this was never completed and aired. In 1992, the existing footage was released on VHS, with linking introduction/commentary by Tom Baker to fill in the unfilmed sequences. This is what I’ll be viewing for this purpose. I know I’ve seen this before, when it came out on VHS, but other than that and a bit here or there, I couldn’t tell you much about the serial.

(There was also a radio play and webcast, the latter with limited animation, though I don’t know if the latter is still available to watch online… I’ve never seen it.)

Episode 1:

We open with Tom Baker (grey haired and in a three piece suit) walking about a dark room filled with mannequins of monsters, calling out. He realises he’s in a museum and pokes out, finding the robot from ROBOT, and some Cybermen (saying “beat you, beat you” as he walks by them.) Daleks, Davros are there, too.

He meanders about – there’s a Yeti, another robot, a Vervoid, a Sea Devil, an Ice Warrior, and someone called… Kraag? He stops, repeats the name and then calls out “SHADA,” quickly covering his mouth and then making a shushing gesture and noise.

He talks about it being the unfinished story, with the invisible spaceship and Douglas Adams’ thoughts on it. He speaks of punting in Cambridge and other such things…

He ends up repeating Shada over and over and we go blurry… and the opening credits roll.

We open with a space craft or a space station in space. (Familiar?) Inside, we see six people (humans?) seated, reclined, their heads tilted back towards the center of the chair, each of them facing outward in a circle, around an orb. They’re dressed in all white.

On a screen, there’s a countdown in Roman numerals… yeah, really. The machine seems to become more active as the countdown gets closer to… what do they do for zero, since the Romans didn’t have a zero in their numeral system? (The Romans used numbers for counting – inventory, livestock, days, units of distance, money, so “none” was not important enough to have its own numeral.)

At one, the screen goes from red to green and starts counting upwards. One of the people, a blond man, opens his eyes, and the background score gets more aggressive.

The others writhe and shake as he rises from his chair. He grins, watching their discomfort and goes to a control panel. He looks at, but doesn’t seem to touch it, but the people stop writhing and the machines go mostly quiet.

He approaches another console and does touch the controls on this one, glancing at the people, smiling. Then, to a third console, pressing buttons. An automated voice comes over a PA system, saying that the location is under quarantine and not to approach.

The man holds out his hand and the orb separates from the center and floats through the air to him. It lands in his hand and he walks off.

In the corridor, the message continues repeating, “The Foundation for the Study of Advanced Sciences is under quarantine…” The man walks through another door.

In the first room, the other five get up and stagger about. One falls to the floor.

From the space shot, we see a ship separate from the station and fly off.

On Earth, a man rides his bike on the street and arrives at his destination. He places his bike amongst the others and goes inside. It looks like a place of higher learning. Big and imposing and educated. He asks two gentlemen where three-fourteen is and they give him directions.

An elderly man in a room full of books (that happens to have a police box in it – the TARDIS?) takes off his coat and glances at the police box. He doesn’t seem alarmed by it. There’s a knock on the door and the young man from the bike enters.

The young man introduces himself to Professor Chronotis as “Chris Parsons,” they apparently had met several weeks before at a gathering. The professor seems a bit addled and forgetful. Chris wants some books on carbon-dating and the professor directs him to them while he tends to the tea.

Chris makes excuses that he has to leave and departs with the books. Before he leaves, he inquires about the police box – the professor says he doesn’t know where it came from, “Someone must have left it there while I was out.” Chris leaves and the professor sits down to read HG Wells’ THE TIME MACHINE.

The Doctor is punting a boat, while Romana reads a book. They talk about great minds. I think this scene is the one used in THE FIVE DOCTORS? (What’s that? Oh, we haven’t gotten there yet, have we?)

The Doctor manages to lose his pole and the boat continues under a bridge. He says perhaps it’s time to go see the professor. Atop the bridge is the man from the opening sequence (the one with the orb, not the guy in the museum… he’s the guy in the boat who lost the pole! Sheesh!)

At this point, Tom Maker in the museum comes on to narrate some unfilmed sequence(s). He tells us that Chris realises one of the books he grabbed is written in an unknown language.

Back to filmed sequences, The Doctor and Romana enter Cambridge. The Doctor approaches a man in a bowler cap, who apparently remembers The Doctor from 1960. He tells The Doctor that Professor Chronotis returned to his room; it seems every time The Doctor comes by, he wants to speak to Chronotis.

The Doctor and Romana enter Chronotis’ abode, after knocking and being invited in. Chronotis is delighted to see him and pleased to make Romana’s acquaintance. It seems Chronotis is a Time Lord, no big surprise.

The guy with the orb, who is dressed a bit foppishly, is seen walking about town.

It seems that Chronotis has been at Cambridge for three hundred years, ever since he retired from Gallifrey. He asks what he can do for The Doctor, but The Doctor says Chronotis sent for him. He claims he never sent a signal.

Foppish dude enters Cambridge. He encounters Wilkins (the man in the bowler), saying he wants Chronotis. Wilkins says he won’t want to be disturbed. Fop departs at hearing this.

Chronotis says he might have sent it – but it’s been ages since he said it. This leads to a rather fun bit of dialogue:

Romana (leaning in to The Doctor): I told you that you got the time wrong.

The Doctor: You’re always saying that.

Romana: You’re always getting the time wrong.

The Doctor questions what the message was about, but Chronotis isn’t remotely sure. The Doctor and Romana ask if was about the voices. Chronotis remembers that it was about a book, leaning forward conspiratorically.

Tom Baker tells us that Chris tries to analyze the book with a spectrographic analyser, but smoked poured out of the book. When he tried to X-ray the book, it began to glow. So he touched the book and burned his hand. (Yeah, Chris is fucking brilliant, what what?)

Fop boy storm through an alley, his silver cape flowing in the wind. He peers into a storefornt, then approaches a man at his car. He gets a ride from the man. (Bow chicka bow bow?) The car drives off.

Tom Baker’s voice tells us that Skagra (aha, we have a name for fop boy) opened the bag and the sphere (I called it an orb) emerged. The sphere attached itself to the driver’s forehead and took over control of him. The car is seen zooming by Cambridge.

In his office, Chronotis asks if they just heard voices. Romana and The Doctor agree they did. The Doctor asks if the voices have anything to with the book, but the old Time Lord says no, the book is just a tome he “accidentally brought back from Gallifrey.”

Romana is horrified that she brought a book from Gallifrey. He admits he did it on purpose, but since he doesn’t have a TARDIS (not being allowed once since he’s retired), he was hoping they would take it back.

The car with Skagra is seen driving about.

The Doctor goes through several books, finding a Gallifrey Nursery Rhyme book, but Chronotis says that’s not the one he’s concerned about. He says he brought back “just the odd two or seven, but there was only one that was dangerous in any way.”

Skagra arrives at… somewhere. He departs the car and opens a gate (cattle style gate) enterring a field where he steps up invisible steps and enters an invisible spaceship!

Romana asks what the name of the book is. Chronotis says it is THE WORSHIPFUL AND ANCIENT LAW OF GALLIFREY. The Doctor is horrified, saying it should be in the Panopticon Archives. Chronotis says he thought it would be safe with him.

The Doctor says it is one of the artifacts from Rassilon’s time. Chronotis brings up the fact that nobody else will be able to understand it.

We see a still shot of Skagra, holding his head. Narration tells us that, in his invisible spaceship, Skagra absorbed great amounts of information about The Doctor and then contacts another ship, saying that he will be joining them soon and that “the universe should prepare itself.”

The commander of said ship appears on the screen and is a creature of seemingly metallic plates. It is the figure we saw in the museum, the one that stimulated Tom Baker’s memories of the lost episode – I think he’s called Kraag?

…and the credits roll.

Intersting so far, lots of fun dialogue with the Time Lords. Light hearted but not too silly, at least not yet.

Episode 2:

A huge pile of books are being sorted through by the visiting Time Lords. Romana questions if the book is important. The talk about the pomp and circumstance of the Time Lords. The Doctor says the Time Lords are all talk and no action, but Romana brings up one named Salyavin.

The Doctor says Salyavin was a boyhood hero of his. Romana says, “Really, a great criminal, your hero?” They ask Chronotis where Salyavin was imprisoned, but Chronotis says he just remembered that Chris had visited earlier and might have taken the book. But he doesn’t remember the man’s name.

Meanwhile, through stills and narration, we learn that Chris told his friend Claire (who has a Sarah Jane vibe to her appearance, mostly the eyes and mouth) about the book. She decided to wait with the book at the lab while Chris went back to Cambridge to learn more about the book.

Chronotis finally remembers the boy and all about him and says he would be found in the Physics lab. The Doctor goes off, instructing Romana to wait two hours and if he’s not returned by then, she and Chronotis are to wait in the TARDIS and send out an “all-frequency alert and wait.”

Skagra leaves his invisible ship, dressed more appropriate this time.

The Doctor rides a bike and we get car motor effects. He and Chris almost collide on their bikes, but The Doctor doesn’t know it’s he that he is looking for.

Skagra returns to Cambridge, asking if the professor is alone now. Wilkins confirms that The Doctor had just left.

Romana confides in the professor that she’s unnerved by the voices, but the professor says that going out for milk for the tea is the thing to do. Romana doesn’t want him going out and she pops into the TARDIS, saying they have milk there.

While she’s inside, Skagra arrives. The professor is attending to tea in the other room and hears the voices, wondering how many there are. Skagra says he has come for the book.

Skagra demands the book from the Panopticon Archives. The professor says he does not know where it is. Skagra takes out the orb, which floats to the professor, intent on taking the information from his mind. It attaches to the professor’s head, and he drops to his knees.

Tom Baker reveals that meanwhile, The Doctor arrived at the lab and met Claire. He examines the book, very closely.

Romana departs the TARDIS with the milk, discovering that the professor is downed. K-9 comes out and they check on the professor. Chris Parsons arrives, saying that he came by to talk about a book. K-9 says that the professor is alive, but in a coma.

K-9 informs Romana that part of the professor’s mind has been stolen and his mind is weakening. Romana sends Chris into the TARDIS to get a medical kit with the most inane directions.

While Chris is gone, Romana just calls out “Professor” over and over, despite K-9 telling her that his mind is inert. Chris returns and they put on a collar to control his automatic functions (breathing, hearts-beat, etc) so his autonomic brain can think.

Chris points out that the human brain doesn’t work that way. Romana points out that the professor isn’t human.

(Narration) The Doctor and Claire discover that the book is “minus 20,000 years old” and it is decided that it must be returned at once. (How can carbon dating determine a negative age?)

(Narration) Skagra is back in the ship and is downloading the professor’s experiences – ok, so the orb stole them. Then how did Skagra get info on The Doctor? Chronotis’ memories are incomplete and the image of Chris in his brain is clouded. As are The Doctor and Romana’s faces, but Skagra keeps searching for a sign of the book.

Chris Parsons pontificates about… I don’t even know what he’s going on about. It’s pretty wank.

Chronotis’ condition seems to be worsening. Romana asks K-9 to amplify his heart(s)beat and he does – it seems the professor is beating his hearts in Gallifreyan Morse Code.

…really? REALLY? Okay, we just got really silly.

He tells them to “Beware the sphere. Beware Skagra. Beware Shada. The secret is in the…” but then it stops. The professor is dead.

The Doctor rides his bike back to Cambridge, coming across Skagra, who stops him. He introduces himself and demands the book. The Doctor says no.

The orb goes after The Doctor, who rides off on his bike, the orb pursuing.

A choir of students stand about singing. The Doctor zooms by, then the orb follows as they sing and don’t notice. Not sure that scene had any point, certainly didn’t have any merit.

As The Doctor flees from the pursuing orb, the book falls out of the basket on the bicycle on a sharp turn, landing unnoticed on the road/alley/sidewalk/whatever.

Skagra picks up the book.

The Doctor leaves his bike and runs through town. The orb follows, knocking down some little old lady. Mean old orb.

The Doctor finds himself trapped and tries to climb a fence to get away from the orb, which gets closer… and closer.. and closer.

The Doctor falls to the ground as the orb nears his head… and the credits roll.

Okay, THAT’s a pretty good cliffhanger there.

Episode 3:

The orb closes in, but suddenly, we hear the sound of the TARDIS materialising and it backs off. Romana sticks her head out and calls out to The Doctor, who quickly dashes inside. Through narration, we learn that K-9 had traced the sphere after it had attacked the professor. The Doctor decides that he has to retrieve the book.

Chris Parsons watches as the professor’s body disappears. Moments later, the TARDIS returns and the Time Lords exit. He explains what happened to the professor’s body.

The Doctor mentions Skagra, which Romana and Chris recognise from the professor’s warning. They tell The Doctor of it and he seems to recognise Shada, but says he doesn’t. He says he wants to talk to Skagra, but K-9 cannot trace the sphere (orb) – it’s trace is too weak to take a bearing. The Doctor leads everyone into the TARDIS, so when the orb (sphere) becomes active again, they’ll be ready to hone in on it.

A man fishes on the stream, when the orb (sphere) approaches. Before he can do more than stare in shock, it attaches to his head and (presumably) drains his mind. His body falls into the water as the sphere (orb) flies off.

Narration tells us that Claire was woken from sleep by the teleprinter. She tore off the text and rushed out.

In video, we see Claire arrive at Chronotis’ office, knocking on the door. Inside, the TARDIS dematerialises as K-9 detects the orb(sphere)’s activity. Claire enters (hearing sounds from within) the office, calling out, “Hello?”

The TARDIS materialises in a field, honing in on the sphere (orb). The Time Lords and Chris exit, just in time to see it disappear into thin air. The Doctor, followed by Chris, sets off to the field while Romana waits on K-9.

Narration and video/photo stills tell us that the sphere reported to Skagra that The Doctor was approaching the ship.

In the field, The Doctor walks into an invisible barrier. K-9 confirms that something is there, a spacecraft three hundred meters long. They see a red carpet (really?) and find the entrance there. Skagra orders the ship to open the door and the Time Lords, Chris and K-9 ascend.

Tom Baker returns on screen to tell us that, since there was no sphere, The Doctor suspected a trap. Suddenly, Romana, Chris and K-9 are caught in a cube of light and they disappear. Skagra revealed himself to The Doctor and led him into the ship, assuring that the companions would come to no harm. The Doctor chided Skagra for the death of Chronotis, but Skagra says he was only interested in the old man’s mind.

In Chronotis’ office, Claire calls out for Chris and the professor. She sees Chris’ bookbag, fiddles with some books, and then leaves in a hurry.

Skagra shows The Doctor the book, demanding for him to reveal the code which is was written. The Doctor refuses, asserting ignorance, but Skagra sets the orb on him. When it attaches to The Doctor’s head, the Time Lord falls back in a chair, crying out in agony.

Chris, Romana and K-9 find themselves in a doorless cubicle. The physics student realises they were brought there by matter transference. Romana is rather snarky to him, treating him like the primitive that she seems to consider him to be.

After attempting to blast through the wall, K-9 is able to pick up faint signals – it is the voices of the orb and K-9 identifies that The Doctor is now part of it.

Claire runs out of the building only to be stopped by Wilkins. She tells him about the book, saying it’s unstable and absorbing radiactivity. He tells her to wait for the professor at the room while he rings about to see if he can locate Chronotis.

As she leaves, Wilkins gets a great line, “I don’t know… these days, they’ll publish anything.”

K-9 has lost the signals. Romana opens, “I wish we could get out of here” and disappears in the cube. Chris tries the same command, but nothing happens.

Skagra drags Romana out of the ship; he’s dressed in his foppy silvery garb again. The orb follows.

Chris whines about getting involved in all this. K-9 is not a source of solace.

Skagra leads Romana to the TARDIS and opens it with The Doctor’s key. The two of them enter, followed by the orb (sphere) and the TARDIS dematerialises.

Claire is going through drawers in the professor’s office, then pokes about here and there. She finds a key and then looks for the lock. Seeing a locked cabinet, she finds some strange machinery. She leans on the books above and triggers a hidden console.

So, of course, she presses a button and activates the console. Flipping another switch, there’s an explosion and she is thrown back and the room goes all wobbly.

Wilkins is seen walking about campus, striding purposefully.

Tom Baker tells us that The Doctor returns to consciousness on the ship. The ship questions why he is still alive, and the Time Lord explains because the sphere (orb) thought he was stupid, it didn’t pull very hard at his mind, only making a copy, not taking the original.

Wilkins knocks on the professor’s door. He opens it to find nothing but glowing blue energy beyond the door!

Tom Baker tells us that using “illogic logic”, The Doctor convinced the ship he was dead, in order to secure the release of Chris and K-9. The ship agreed, but however shut down the oxygen supply. The Doctor falls to the ground, gasping for breath as the ship says, “Dead men do not require oxygen,”… and the credits roll.

Another nice cliffhanger, would have been fun to see that one.

See you Friday for the second half of Shada!

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