Doctor Who Reactions: "Scream of the Shalka" (SPOILERS)

"Scream of the Shalka" is an animated Doctor Who story that was broadcast on-line in 2003 as a celebration of the program's 40th anniversary, with the hopes that a series of such stories might conceivably result. However, even as they were recording the story, it was announced that Doctor Who would be coming back to television, and no series resulted from this webcast, and instead, "Scream of the Shalka" ended up being  a small curiosity in the history of  Doctor Who  - a sidepath that was never further explored. The story features Richard E. Grant as the Ninth Doctor and, interestingly, features many elements that would later be included in the new series.  It is written by Paul Cornell, unfortunately, but is still watchable even so. It is divided into six episodes, each roughly 13 minutes in length. The story is animated by the same folks who animated the missing episodes of "The Invasion", and they do a reasonably good job.

 

As we encounter the NInth Doctor, he is recovering from a traumatic event in which he suffered a great loss. He is traveling in the TARDIS, accompanied only by an android copy of the Master (voiced by Derek Jacobi). It is revealed that the Master was killed helping the Doctor during the aforementioned traumatic event, and that the Doctor downloaded his consciousness into a robot duplicate. (Cornell states that RTD once told him that when he wrote the scene in "Last of the TIme Lords" where the Tenth Doctor contemplates keeping the Master with him in the TARDIS, he was thinking of "Scream of the Shalka".) He lands on Earth in a small town terrorized by the Shalka, an alien race (According to the extras, there was a deliberate decision not to use use a familiar monster, but to try something new.), and encounters Alison (voiced by Sophie Okonedo), a plucky young barmaid with a somewhat wimpy boyfriend.  It's interestingly similar to the Rose/Mickey relationship, even down to the fact that they're a mixed-race couple, which the races swapped in this case. The rest of the story comprises the Doctor uncovering the Shalka's evil plot, and then defeating them, with a certain amount of help from UNIT. We end with the Doctor convincing Alison to come away with him, over the objections of her boyfriend. (Cripes, I'm starting to think that Cornell might have grounds for a lawsuit, here!)

 

Fun Note:  Listen carefully to Episode Five - in the scene where the mind-controlled townsfolk break down the fence, the younger of the two caretakers - the one who is killed - is voiced by an uncredited young actor who happened to be recording in a nearby studio and who seized upon his only chance to appear in a Doctor Who, however tangentially.  His name? David Tennant.

 

Cliffhangers:

Episode One: The Shalka attack!

 

Episode Two: The Shalka go after Alison!

 

Episode Three:  The Doctor is thrown into the black hole!

 

Episode Four:  A Shalka worm pops out of Alison's head!

 

Episode Five:  The Shalka Prime gloats over the upcoming extinction of the human race!

 

Episode Six:  Alison leaves with the Doctor!

 

Overall: Grant is OK, but no amazing as the Doctor. Cornell says on the commentary track that he had the feeling that Grant didn't quite know what he was letting himself in for, doing this, and I can sort of see that. Grant comes across as a bit stiff, though he loosens up a bit at the end.  Possibly, my opinion of him suffers because I'm seeing this for the first time now, after having seen several years of the new show, and feeling that the "traumatized Doctor" shtick has been done to death. I might have been more impressed by it had it first seen it  when it came out. (Although on the commentary track, the nigh-omnipresent Toby Hadoke talks about trying to watch it on-line back in the days of achingly-slow modems - that must've been murder!) His Doctor's look is fairly "Goth" - it's more of an "old series" look than what Eccleston wore. In a way, it's a transitional thing - is if they had tried to tell a "new series" story in the "old series" way.  The TARDIS interior is quite vast, and very premonitory of the interior as shown in the new series.  Jacobi is his usual entertaining self as the Master, whose look is very"old series" here, reminiscent of Delgado and Ainley. Okonedo is good as Alison, although she's not given much to do, besides wonder what's going on, and whether or not she should leave her boyfriend.

All in all, it's an OK story, an interesting bit of the show's history that I'm glad to be finally able to see.

 

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Presented free by the BBC here. for your readers' delight and delectation, Baron.

Thanks. Sure do feel like a chump, paying twenty bucks for the thing. Ah, well, the extras were interesting, and the Sad Completist in me would ended up wanting to own a copy, anyhow.

If it makes you feel any better, I made it through the 1st two parts of Episode 1 yesterday and thought, "Man, this takes longer to load than it takes to watch.  I wish I had the DVD."

When I first saw this solicited I had no idea what it was, but when I saw it it seemed vaguely familiar for some reason. I soon realized I had the paper back adaptation in my (i.e., you former) collection, and we had even discussed it. I had no intention of reading it at the time, definitely out of continuity as it is, but once I recognized what the DVD was, I pulled the paperback off the shelf. I don’t have too much more interest in reading this particular book than I did before, but it does include the original draft of the script (before changes), and an essay by Paul Cornell (which contains little additional information not covered by the DVD extras).

The opening is very “Third Doctor” visually, but the theme music is more stylistically similar to the Seventh or Eighth Doctor versions. I didn’t watch all of the extras (nor read all of the essay), but I wonder why they decided to go with a new Doctor rather than calling back Paul McGann. I realize there wasn’t any expectation of Doctor Who returning to TV at that point, but I suppose it’s just as well. While watching it, I was wondering if there was any reason this couldn’t be the 13th Doctor (he did look a little like the Valyard… not to mention Dracula), but a line of dialogue in the sixth episode squelched that idea. That’s probably just as well, too.

“Scream of the Shalka” is an interesting curiosity (to be shelved with “Dreamtime” and “The Infinity Quest”), but all in all, a pretty lame 40th anniversary.

Wow, I have no memory of that book, whatsoever.  I don't doubt that I owned it, but I don't remember it at all.

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