Lost 'Doctor Who' episode by Douglas Adams gets animated

Learn more about the history behind Adams' unfinished "Doctor Who" episode called “Shada” and how fans can see an animated version of it soon.

Bonnie Burton
Journalist Bonnie Burton writes about movies, TV shows, comics, science and robots. She is the author of the books Live or Die: Survival Hacks, Wizarding World: Movie Magic Amazing Artifacts, The Star Wars Craft Book, Girls Against Girls, Draw Star Wars, Planets in Peril and more! E-mail Bonnie.
Bonnie Burton
2 min read

A "Doctor Who" story written by the author of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" sounds like the ultimate sci-fi pairing, but sadly Douglas Adams' '70s script for an episode called "Shada" never saw the light of day.

A video posted by the official "Doctor Who" website on Monday explains why "Shada" was shelved. In 1979, "Doctor Who" was in its 17th season with actor Tom Baker playing the jovial Time Lord. The series was incredibly popular at the time, with over 11 million viewers tuning into the BBC. 

Adams, who's best known for his witty sci-fi novels, was working script editor for "Doctor Who" at the time. He wrote three "Doctor Who" episodes: "The Pirate Planet," "City of Death" and "Shada."

While the other two episodes aired, "Shada" (which would have been the last episode of the season) didn't finish filming because of trade union strikes in England that had also affected previous seasons 15 and 16 of "Doctor Who."

"Shada" tells the tale of a mysterious book from Gallifrey that happens to be the key to a dark secret. The book goes missing in Cambridge with a villain in pursuit. Of course, the Doctor is called in to investigate.

Even with the labor strife holding up production, the "Doctor Who" team did manage to do some initial principle photography and filmed a few scenes around Cambridge University.

The "Doctor Who" team also completed a couple of scenes at the BBC Studios, but the building's doors remained locked until the strike was over. When filming could finally resume post-strike, however, the BBC prioritized studio space for Christmas specials and other programs. "Doctor Who" lost its chance to complete "Shada" and had to move on.

Enlarge Image

Tom Baker reprises his role as the Fourth Doctor in the upcoming animated version of the lost "Doctor Who" episode called "Shada."

Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

While "Shada" wasn't filmed as a full ready-to-air episode, completed sequences ended up being used in the 20th-anniversary adventure called "The Five Doctors" in 1983.

Later, in 1992, some of "Shada" was released in a VHS with narration from Baker. And in 2003, the BBC website re-created "Shada" as a Flash animation. "Shada" has also been published as a novel in 2012, and released yet again as an audio book that same year.

Now "Shada" is coming out (yes, again) as a partially animated episode with the original actors -- including Baker as the Fourth Doctor and Lalla Ward as his traveling companion Romana -- performing missing scenes the original script. The episode will use digitally remastered clips for the original sequences and fill in the details with newly acted animation.

"Shada" will be released as a digital download on Nov. 24, and on DVD and Blu-ray on Dec. 4.

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