Shada (found unfinished Doctor Who serial; 1979)

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91HBov3yLhL. AC SL1500 .jpg

The serial's poster for its 2017 restoration.

Status: Found

Date found: 24 Nov 2017

Found by: BBC

Shada was an unfinished serial from the British science fiction series Doctor Who. It was written by the late Douglas Adams as the final serial of the seventeenth series of the show and the six-part serial was halfway through filming when a series of trade union strikes struck Britain and the serial was scrapped altogether and went unfinished for nearly 40 years and is the only serial of Tom Baker's reign as the Doctor, to have not aired.


A prison named "Shada" was built by the Time Lords for defeated conquerors of the universe. A scientist named Skagra needs the help of one of the prison's inmates. He finds nobody knows where Shada is anymore, except one Time Lord who has retired to Earth, where he is a professor at St Cedd's College, Professor Chronotis. Luckily for the universe, Skagra's attempt to force the information out of Chronotis coincides with a visit by the professor's old friend, the Doctor[1].


Much of the serial's scenes were shot on location in Cambridge, England and only one of three studio sessions at BBC Television Centre in London were complete by November 1979. When rehearsals for the second studio session were complete and filming was about to begin, the cast and crew were locked out of BBC Television Centre due to one of many strikes that hit Britain in 1979 which saw public sector workers angered by pay gap in wages refusing to staff hospitals or collect trash. BBC Television Centre was among those affected by the pay gap. The strike ended after a month in December and filming for various Christmas specials took place not long after the strike ended, causing no time for Shada to continue production[2]. As a result, the serial was cancelled and the final serial of the seventeenth series was The Horns of Nimon that aired from 22 December 1979 to 12 January 1980. After the departure of producer Graham Williams, there was an attempt to resurrect Shada as a four-part serial with then-new producer John Nathan-Turner, but this never happened[3].

Resurfacing and Aftermath

The serial would untimely never see the light of day in its original form, with footage of the unfinished serial never airing and locked up in the BBC archives. A clip of the punting down the river scene from the unfinished serial was recycled for the episode "The Five Doctors" that aired in November 1983 since Tom Baker (the actor who played the Doctor at the time of Shada's production) declined to appear in "The Five Doctors" and the context of the scene had to be changed since Shada never aired. In 1992, Nathan-Turner attempted to complete the story by releasing a VHS of Shada that consisted some of the footage that was filmed, new effects, a new score and various scenes of Tom Baker filling in the gaps of the missing scenes. The production script for Shada was included in the UK release of the VHS. The release has been out of print since 1996[4]. The Nathan-Turner version and a BBCi version of the story (with Paul McGann as the doctor instead of Baker) along with the 1994 documentary "More Than Thirty Years in the TARDIS" were re-released on DVD as "The Legacy Collection" in January 2013 in the United Kingdom and as simply "Shada" in North America. For a while, this was the only way to view Shada and it wasn't until October 2017 when it was announced by BBC that Shada would finally be completed. Footage that was shot in 1979 would be used and the scenes that went unfilmed would be animated with all the surviving original cast returning to their respective roles (including Tom Baker). The newly restored and completed version of Shada was released as a digital download on 24 November 2017[5] with DVD and Blu-ray releases following two weeks later on 4 December[6]. Although the completed version of the serial never aired in the United Kingdom, it did air on BBC America as "Doctor Who: The Lost Episode" on 19 July 2018.[7] When the Seventeenth series of Doctor Who was released on Blu-ray in 20 December 2021, a new updated six-part version of Shada was included, alongside the 2017 two-hour long version[8][9].


Shada (2017 Restoration)

See Also