This article needs a big cleanup.

To be brought in line with the conclusion at Thread:226169.

These problems might be so great that the article's factual accuracy has been compromised. Talk about it here or check the revision history or Manual of Style for more information.

You may wish to consult Shada for other, similarly-named pages.

Shada was the intended final story of Season 17 of Doctor Who. It was to be the final story written by Douglas Adams for the series, the final six-part story until TV: Dreamland, and the last story to feature Graham Williams as producer, as John Nathan-Turner would take over after this until the end of the series run in 1989.

However, a combination of rampant inflation in Britain and union strikes halted production partway through filming. The story would become infamous for its incomplete nature and would lead to several attempts to create stories using the unpublished material. It was the basis for Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, a non-Doctor Who book published by Adams in 1987 that was the start of the Dirk Gently book series.

The parts of the story that were filmed were retained, and John Nathan-Turner was able to reuse them later in two notable ways. In 1983, a few clips of the show were integrated into The Five Doctors when Tom Baker proved unavailable for filming. Later, in 1992, the existing footage was integrated with some new linking narration by Baker. Finally, in 2017, a completed cut was released, including animations of missing scenes featuring many of the original actors and even some newly filmed scenes.

The story finally was aired on television for the first time on 19 July 2017, on BBC America. This marked 37 years, 9 months, five days between the beginning of filming and the airdate, certainly a record for any episode of Doctor Who.

Synopsis Edit

Shada: a prison built by the Time Lords for defeated would-be conquerors of the universe. Skagra, one such inmate, needs the help of one of the prison's inmates. He finds nobody knows where Shada is anymore, except one aged Time Lord who has retired to Earth, where he is a professor at St. Cedd's College. Luckily for the universe, Skagra's attempt to force the information out of Professor Chronotis coincides with a visit by the professor's old friend, the Fourth Doctor.

Plot Edit

Shada - creation of sphear

The sphere is created.

Part one Edit

On the Think Tank space station, Doctor Skagra uses a spherical device to drain the minds of his colleagues and departs in his spaceship for Earth, leaving an automated, repeating quarantine message running: "This is a recorded message. The Foundation for the Study of Advanced Sciences is under strict quarantine. Do not approach. Do not approach. Everything is under our control."

In Cambridge 1979, Professor Chronotis has a visit from one of his students, Chris Parsons, who leaves with the wrong book. The Doctor and Romana are enjoying a spot of punting. They're observed by Skagra and distracted by voices from the sphere he's carrying. They visit the professor.

Chris discovers that the book is written in a completely alien script. He analyses the book with instruments that make it smoke and glow. Chronotis reveals to Romana he is an elderly Time Lord who has retired to Earth and has been living in the same Cambridge rooms for three hundred years. The Doctor asks him why he was summoned by him to Cambridge but the Professor can't remember. He later recalls he needs the Doctor's help finding the book.

Skagra steals a car and the driver's ability to drive. The Professor reveals the missing book is one he brought from Gallifrey. Skagra drives out to a field where his spaceship is concealed, invisible to the human eye. The Professor confesses the book he took was The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey, which dates back to the time of Rassilon and has incredible power. Skagra receives word that all is ready from his carrier ship, commanded by a massive Krarg...

Shada - Timescoop

Chronotis's mind is stolen.

Part two Edit

The Doctor and Romana search the Professor's rooms for the book. They discuss Time Lord law. This reminds them of the Time Lord criminal Salyavin, a boyhood hero of the Doctor. The Professor, asked about his contemporary Salyavin, recalls Chris Parsons' visit and wonders if he has borrowed the book by accident.

Chris and his friend Clare Keightley analyse the book as the Doctor cycles across Cambridge to the lab. Skagra, now wearing the car driver's contemporary clothes, comes to the Professor's college seeking him. While Romana looks in the TARDIS for milk so they can have tea, Skagra arrives for the book. He sets the sphere on the Professor, stealing part of his mind. The Doctor meets Clare at the lab, and examines the book.

Romana and K9 Mark II find the collapsed Professor as Chris Parsons arrives. Using the TARDIS medical kit, Romana tries to stabilise the Professor's condition. The Doctor and Clare discover that the book carbon dates as minus twenty thousand years old. Skagra scans his copy of Professor Chronotis' mind for a trace of the book but finds nothing. The professor beats out a message to Romana on his hearts in Gallifreyan morse code, telling her to beware of the sphere, Skagra and Shada, but dies before he can reveal where the secret is.

Shada - tbc

The Sphere catches up with the Doctor.

Skagra meets the Doctor trying to return the book to the Professor and has a sphere pursue him on a bike through Cambridge. During the chase the book is dislodged from his basket and retrieved by Skagra. Forced to run away, the Doctor is cornered by the sphere. He tries to escape under a gate, but the sphere approaches and begins to steal his mind...

Part three Edit

Romana arrives in the TARDIS to rescue the Doctor. They return to Chronotis' rooms, where Chris reports that the Professor's body disappeared. The Doctor decides he needs to speak with Skagra. K9 tracks the sphere to Skagra's ship. Clare, worried about the danger the book may pose, comes to Chronotis's rooms to find them empty. The TARDIS materialises in an apparently empty field which holds Skagra's invisible ship. They enter and Skagra takes them prisoner. He tells them he was interested only in Chronotis' mind. He tries to force the Doctor to decode the book and sets the sphere on him to take his mind. K9 fails to blast out of the cell Romana, Chris and he are held in. K9 picks up the sphere's signals and detects the Doctor amongst its voices. Romana is transported from the cell and taken to the TARDIS by Skagra. He forces her to take it.

While searching the Professor's rooms for the missing book, Clare finds concealed control panels and accidentally triggers an explosion. The Doctor awakens on the ship and explains to its computer how he survived. The sphere took only a copy of his mind.

Shada - missing room

A stolen room.

Wilkin, the college porter comes to the Professor's rooms. When he opens the door he doesn't find the room but the swirling time vortex. The Doctor tries to persuade the ship to release his companions and him, but it decides the sphere must haves succeeded in its task and killed the Doctor. To conserve resources, the ship turns off the oxygen supply, As the Doctor collapses slowly to the floor, the ship states "Dead men do not require oxygen..."

Part four Edit

Chris and K9 are transported out of their cell. The ship detects them and reactivates its oxygen supply. The TARDIS arrives at the Krarg carrier ship and Romana sees the Krargs being grown. Another Krarg starts to form on Skagra's ship. The Doctor boosts the ships power to allow it to cross space quickly.

In Professor Chronotis' rooms, Clare awakes. She is startled by the Professor, dressed in an old-fashioned nightcap and nightshirt. Skagra is unable to translate the book with the Doctor's mind in the sphere. The Professor explains to Clare that his rooms are his TARDIS and it interfered to save his life.

The Professor decides they must find Skagra to save the book, which is the key to Shada, the Time Lord prison which has been forgotten. The Doctor and Chris are attacked by a Krarg, but K9 holds it off, allowing them to explore the Think Tank complex where they have arrived. (The automated quarantine message is still playing, but is now naturally worn and distorted.) They find the aged figures of Skagra's former colleagues.

Skagra notices that turning the pages of the book influences the TARDIS. He realises turning the last page of the book will take him to Shada where he will find the Time Lord criminal Salyavin, who is crucial to his plans.

The Doctor uses Chris's brain power to revive one of the scientists, the neurologist Caldera. He explains how Skagra set up Think Tank with himself, A. S. T. Thira, G. V. Santori, L. D. Ia and R. F. Akrotiri to pool the resources of the mind electronically, but when they had completed the sphere he used it to steal their minds. Skagra now intends to use his mind to dominate the whole of humanity, but needs Salyavin to accomplish this. K9 loses his fight against the Krarg and is driven into the Think Tank by the massive creature, which now advances on the Doctor...

Part five Edit

The Krarg strikes the machinery in the Think Tank, creating explosions and a huge cloud of smoke, before it strikes down and kills the scientists. This allows the Doctor, K9 and Chris to escape back to Skagra's ship, leaving just as the Think Tank station explodes. The Ship is persuaded to take the Doctor to Skagra's home.

Shada - hypnotism

The Professor opens into Clare's mind.

While trying to repair the Professor's ship Clare asks who Salyavin is. The Professor places the knowledge that Clare needs to repair the TARDIS in her head telepathically. Skagra's ship takes the Doctor's ship to the Krarg carrier ship. They are captured and Skagra reveals his plan to take over the universe telepathically, merging them into one mind: his. The Doctor stages an escape with Chris and K9, but Romana is dragged back to the TARDIS by Skagra.

Shada 2017 animation


Fleeing down the corridors of the ship the Doctor and company find an old wooden door and go through it. They are in Professor Chronotis' rooms/TARDIS. The Professor knows that with the book and TARDIS that Skagra can travel to Shada, which is exactly what he does. Skagra searches Shada's records for Salyavin, the Time Lord criminal.

The Professor's TARDIS arrives with K9, the Doctor and him. Skagra revived the following prisoners in chamber T when the Doctor arrives: the orange insectoid #547, the Boedicia-like #595, the cyborg #590, the Nero-like #512, the Genghis Khan-like #568, the Rasputin-like #504 and the purple man #503. Among the cryogenic cells' shadows also are an Ice Warrior and a Zygon silhouettes. But when Skagra opens Salyavin's cell, cabinet 9, they find it empty. The Professor admits he is Salyavin: he escaped centuries ago and used his powers to make the Time Lords forget about Shada.

The Sphere attacks the Professor, but is destroyed by K9. However it reforms into several smaller spheres, one of which attaches itself to the Professor. He sinks to the floor. The spheres attach themselves to the revived prisoners, bringing them under Skagra's control. Chris and Clare arrive, but Chris is taken under the control of a sphere. The prisoners, along with Chris advance menacingly towards the Doctor...

Shada TARDIS Transfer

The Doctor's return to his TARDIS.

Part six Edit

K9 fires at the prisoners, driving them back, but he is thrown aside by a Krarg. The Doctor, Romana and Clare grab K9 and flee to the Professor's TARDIS. Romana reminds the Doctor that his mind is inside Skagra's machine too. Skagra returns to the TARDIS and tells the former prisoners that they will return to the carrier ship and be distributed through the universe to further his revolution.

The Doctor follows his TARDIS in the Professor's. He captures it in a force field and has himself placed into the Time Vortex. The Doctor begins crossing to his TARDIS, but his journey appears in vain. An accident occurs in the Professor's TARDIS, deactivating the force field, throwing the Doctor into the vortex.

The Doctor finds himself in a room in his TARDIS. He starts building a helmet shaped device. The Professor's TARDIS arrives on the carrier ship as the Doctor reveals himself and struggles for control of the joint mind.

Romana deactivates the Krarg generating equipment, tipping the gas out and using it to destroy the Krargs. Skagra flees to his ship, but is taken prisoner by his ship's computer, who has now decided to serve the Doctor.

The Doctor promises to return the prisoners to Shada and summon the Time Lords. He returns his and the Professor's TARDISes to Earth. This confuses Wilkin, who has returned with a policeman to find the room back in its usual place and the Professor taking tea with his guests. The policeman then spots the TARDIS and asks about it. The Doctor says it's his, and he and Romana say goodbye to everyone and leave in the TARDIS. After the TARDIS has dematerialised, the policeman asks where the police box has gone. When Chrontis replies "What police box, officer?", the policeman — having had enough of stolen rooms and disappearing police boxes — tells everyone to get their coats on; they're coming with him "down to the Bridewell" (the police station).

Shada 2017 Doctor

A temporarily aged Doctor wonders if, in the future, someone will think "Is he really the Doctor? How strange. He seems such a nice old man."

Aboard the TARDIS, Romana asks the Doctor where Skagra was from, to which he responds he was from the planet Dronid, according to K9's analysis. While the Doctor and K9 are tinkering under the console, a small explosion occurs. Romana then asks if the stories about Salyavin were exaggerated by the Time Lords, since the Professor seemed like a nice old man to her. The Doctor says the Time Lords overreact to everything, and wonders if someone will meet him 200 years in the future and ask themselves: "Is he really the Doctor? How strange. He seems such a nice old man." The Doctor then appears from under the console, to reveal that the explosion has aged him greatly...!

Cast Edit

Crew Edit

Uncredited crew Edit

References Edit

The Doctor Edit

Planets Edit


Theories and concepts Edit

People from the real world Edit

  • Whilst punting down the river, the Doctor rambles to Romana, mentioning Isaac Newton.

Time Lords Edit

Story notes Edit

  • Shada was initially not completed due to "labour action" at the BBC. The footage that was shot was released on BBC Video in 1992, featuring linking narration by Tom Baker to complete the story.
  • The industrial action occurred due to conflict over which union had jurisdiction over the operation of an elaborate clock that was featured on the BBC children's programme Play School. (DOC: A Matter of Time)
  • Had this story been broadcast when originally intended (from 19 January to 23 February 1980), this story would have marked the end of the following features of the show:
  • The story would be remade in 2003 and released as WC: Shada and AUDIO: Shada, explaining that the meddling in the Fourth Doctor's timeline seen in TV: The Five Doctors caused the events following his and Romana's arrival in Cambridge to not take place until the Eighth Doctor and Romana came back to complete them.
  • The story takes place in October 1979. Coincidentally, that is the same month Douglas Adams published his first The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy novel. It was also during production that Doctor Who Weekly launched.
  • Douglas Adams later used elements from this story in his novel, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency.
  • In 2017, a completed version of Shada was finally released, with unfilmed scenes replaced with animation and dialogue recorded by the original cast.
    • Due to the actors David Brierley and Denis Carey having passed away in the years since the original studio shoots, a few changes had to be made regarding unfilmed scenes featuring their characters — specifically, a scene with K9 in the TARDIS was cut completely (his dialogue in the finished product is minimal and consists entirely of archival audio of Brierley), and Professor Chronotis is completely silent in the scene in which he appears on Shada, communicating solely through nonverbal telepathy; him revealing himself to be Salyavin was rewritten so that the Doctor is the one to say it, using recycled audio of Carey from TV: The Keeper of Traken to provide Chronotis' response in the affirmative.
    • Discounting the non-canon TVDimensions in Time special in 1993 and his appearance as the Curator (implied to be a later incarnation of the Doctor) in TVThe Day of the Doctor in 2013, Tom Baker's appearance as the Fourth Doctor at the end of the serial marks his first official televised portrayal of the role since TVCastrovalva in 1982.
    • The TARDIS interior scenes used the season 20 console constructed for the 50 Years trailer. It had been restored by Mark Barton Hill with components of the original console he collected along the years and was also exposed at the Doctor Who Experience (London/Cardiff) until it closed down'.[1]
    • There was another minor change during the scene where Romana emerges from the TARDIS with a bottle of milk. Her original dialogue was "I've got the milk! Come on, K9", but this was changed to "I've got the milk! Professor?" However, K9's reply "Coming, Mistress" was retained.
  • Following the Blu-ray releases of seasons 18 and 19, Shada marks the start of what is, as of November 2019, the longest continuous run of classic series stories on Blu-ray. The run starts with Shada and ends with season 19's final story, Time-Flight.
  • The cast for Shada's prisoners, though not called back for the eventual release, was originally intended to be: (DWM 267)
  • Those scheduled to perform the Krargs in the remaining unshot scenes were: Harry Fielder (Krarg Commander), Reg Woods, Lionel Sansby and James Muir. (DWM 267)
  • Those scheduled to perform the Lab technicians in the unshot scenes were: Roger Neate and Nicky Ryde. (DWM 267)
  • This story was later released as part of The Animation Collection.
  • One working title for this story was "Sunburst".[2]
  • Chronotis originally perished in episode two, but Douglas Adams had become fond of the character and decided to bring him back.
  • Daniel Hill, who played Chris Parsons, met his future wife Olivia Bazalgette (she was the production assistant) during the location filming of this story. They married two years later and remain so to this day.
  • Douglas Adams was happy that the story was abandoned, because he thought it was not up to much. In 1992, he accidentally signed away rights for the BBC to make a direct-to-video version of it with linking narration by Tom Baker, and was so distressed by this that he declared he would give away every penny of the proceeds he made of it to charity as penance.
  • Doreen James was supposed to design the costumes, but she'd quit the series following a dispute with Lalla Ward on City of Death.
  • The famous scene where the Doctor is chased by the orb while on a bicycle was supposed to take place at night.
  • Douglas Adams chose Cambridge as a setting so he could draw on his experiences as a student at the university.
  • Douglas Adams named the characters of Chris Parsons and Clare Keightley after his friend Chris Keightley, president of the Cambridge Footlights. 
  • The Thinktank scientists all bore names associated with Greek islands: Caldera, Akrotiri, Ia, Santori and Thira.
  • The episode one joke in which Professor Chronotis forgets that he has a mind like a sieve was taken from a story of Adams' that had been published in the February 27th, 1965 edition of Eagle and Boy's World, when he was just twelve years old.
  • Graeme MacDonald suggested a romantic subplot between Romana and Chris, but this was ignored.
  • Michael Hayes was originally supposed to direct.
  • While in a pub, Tom Baker and Pennant Roberts were approached by the secretary of the St John's Choristers, who enquired as to whether Doctor Who might make use of his choir's services. Roberts agreed and included the Choristers as part of the chase scene the next day; Baker was made an honorary fellow of St John's College in return.

Myths Edit

Filming locations Edit

  • The Backs, River Cam, Cambridge
  • Clare Bridge, River Cam, Cambridge
  • Silver Street, Cambridge
  • Trumpington Street, Cambridge
  • Grantchester Meadows, Grantchester, Cambridgshire
  • Free School Lane, Cambridge
  • Bridge Street, Cambridge
  • Portugal Place, Cambridge
  • Trinity Lane, Cambridge
  • Botolph Lane, Cambridge
  • King's Parade, Cambridge
  • St Edward's Passage, Cambridge
  • High Street, Grantchester
  • Emmanuel College, St Andrew's Street, Cambridge
  • Blackmoor Head Yard, Cambridge
  • Garret Hostel Lane, Cambridge
  • Portugal Street, Cambridge
  • All of the above location filming in Cambridge took place over a period of five days: 15th to 19th October 1979
  • Ealing Television Film Studios (Stage 2), Ealing Green, Ealing
  • BBC Television Centre (Studio TC3), Shepherd's Bush, London

Production errors Edit

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • When Chronotis says "Undergraduates" as Skagra is knocking on his door, voices from the sphere should be heard but they are not present in the final release.[3]
  • When Professor Chronotis is attacked by Skagra's sphere in part two, his spectacles appear and disappear depending on the camera angle.
  • When Romana rescues the Doctor with the TARDIS, at the beginning of part three, the end of the scarf gets caught in the door. Moments later the TARDIS materialises in the Professor's rooms, but the end of the scarf is no longer hanging out the door.

Continuity Edit

Home video and audio releases Edit

VHS releases Edit

BBC Video released a version compiling existing footage broken down into the planned six episodes, with linking narration by Tom Baker in the part of a fourth-wall-breaking, elderly incarnation of the Doctor reminiscing about this earlier, "cancelled" adventure from his youth while wandering through a museum of the Doctor's enemies.

No writer's credit for Douglas Adams, or any other references to him, appeared on the video sleeve, aside from a sticker reading "All of Douglas Adams' royalties from the sale of this video are being donated to Comic Relief." (original printed text)

The UK release of the video included a book containing the full script of the original production; the North American release did not include the booklet. Unfortunately, the book's first two pages were transposed, so the Doctor Who diamond logo appeared on the second page instead of being visible through the appropriately-shaped hole in the front cover. To date, the book has only been included with the VHS release.

DVD and Blu-ray releases Edit

On 7 January, 2013, Shada was released in the DVD boxset, The Legacy Collection. It was released with the 90 minute documentary, More Than Thirty Years in the TARDIS. It was re-released again in 2017 featuring the animated reconstructions for both DVD and Blu-ray.

Webcast version Edit

Main article: Shada (webcast)

BBC commissioned Big Finish Productions to write and record a new version as part of Doctor Who's 40th anniversary. It was animated with a limited Flash animation and released on the BBC's website. This version was revised to feature Paul McGann's Eighth Doctor, along with Lalla Ward and John Leeson voicing their original characters.

An extended audio version of the webcast was later released on CD by Big Finish. The original version of the webcast was also included as a DVD-ROM bonus item in the 2013 Legacy Collection DVD release of Shada.

Novelisations Edit

  • No official novelisation of Shada was ever published by Target Books, as they were unable to come to an agreement with Douglas Adams that would have allowed him, or another author, to adapt the story. However, the short scene used in The Five Doctors was novelised for its adaptation.
  • Douglas Adams reused some of the elements of Shada in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, notably the character of Professor Chronotis, his time-travelling apartment, and St. Cedd's college.
  • In early 2011, BBC Books announced that Gareth Roberts had been commissioned to write an official novelisation of Shada, for release in hardback in March 2012. Its publication follows an the agreement with the estate of Douglas Adams and was the first novelisation of a regular TV Doctor Who story since 1994.[8] This novelisation was also released as an audiobook read by Lalla Ward and John Leeson. An ebook was also released on the Amazon Kindle store.

External links Edit

Footnotes Edit

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.

Fandom may earn an affiliate commission on sales made from links on this page.

Stream the best stories.

Fandom may earn an affiliate commission on sales made from links on this page.

Get Disney+