To cut a long story short:
Just over ten years ago, with the fortieth anniversary of Doctor Who approaching, and the show long since off the air with no sign of returning, the BBC staff who ran the Doctor Who portion of their website set out to make a cartoon version of the show. Which would be broadcast on line. Tell an all new story. And feature a new Doctor.
Richard E. Grant was eventually cast in the lead. The road to production was a long and tricky one. But it went head. Would this be the launch of a new future for the show?
No. Because another part of the BBC then announced it was bringing the show back to television. Thus Scream of the Shalka, which had yet to air online when that announcement was made, ended up being nothing more than a one off curio.
It was denied a DVD release back at the time because the BBC felt it might confuse casual purchasers who had just gotten into the programme via the new series to have a totally different version of the Ninth Doctor. But since we're long past that now, here it is at last.
The story runs for six parts, and is complete on a single disc dvd. Most of the episodes run for fifteen minutes, but some are shorter.
It sees the TARDIS arrive in a small town in Lancashire. Where the Doctor is forced against his will to investigate why the townsfolk are living in fear of something hidden from sight. One resident, a barmaid called Alison, shows more resistance to what is going on than others. Can she and the Doctor deal with the deadly threat to the planet Earth that lies beneath the town? And will the Doctor, a man who is clearly recovering from trauma, rediscover himself in the process?
The animation here is basic but servicable, and reasonably eye catching at points. Although the figures aren't quite as good at showing emotion as is sometimes required. A six part story has always been traditionally very hard to pull off, but this manages it quite well, perhaps by virtue of the episode lengths. It zips along at a very decent pace and never feels overstretched or padded. Epileptics and those bothered by flashing lights beware some moments of that in part one.
The Ninth Doctor we meet here does grow on you. Richard E. Grant seemingly more suited to playing the man who does get involved than the morose figure he starts off as. The rest of the cast are pretty capable. In particular Derek Jacobi, s the Doctor's rather suprising travelling companion.
As a pilot story this works fine. Introducing things and characters and giving a decent story along with it. We will never know what or even if anything that would have followed on from this would have been like. It now ranks as nothing more than an interesting curio and footnote in the history of the show. But it's a very interesting one. And it's definitely worth a look.
The dvd has the following language and subtitle options:
It's also English audio captioned.
Extras are as follows:
Production information subtitles.
A coming soon trailer for the next release in this range [which as ever is also something that might bother epileptics and those bothered by flashing lights thanks to fast editing].
A commentary from the writer, the director, and the producer.
Soundtrack album: all of the music from the story on it's own, played over a still image from part six. It runs for just over twenty minutes.
The screaming sessions: Seven minutes worth of interviews with cast members, plus some shots of them at work, recorded back in 2003. Worth a look not least to see how close the animation is at times to some of their likeness.
Plus two excellent twenty five minute long documentaries:
Carry on Screaming. Which tells the full, frank, and very interesting story of the making of this. How it got into production. And what happened when it did. Also in revealing an uncredited voice cameo in one part that you might otherwise not have registered.
Interweb of Fear. Which looks at the history of the BBC website and the BBC's various ventures into the online world. You meet the man who came up with the idea for the iplayer, and will see images of the late, lamented BBC online cult tv page. A reminder of the days when said website allowed more contributions than just people using pseudonyms to insult each other about football and politics, it's a fascinating watch.
on 20 September 2013
First broadcast on the BBC Website in 2003, Scream of the Shalka gives us a glimpse of what could have been.
The Tardis materialises in a small Lancashire town where the Doctor soon discovers that all is far from well. An invasion force of Shalka, subterranean worm-like creatures, have taken over the town using sonic control, cutting it off from the outside world. Across the globe, groups of Shalka have landed and intend to make the world into another breeding colony by changing the atmosphere and making the surface uninhabitable.
It has a fantastic vocal cast, with Richard E. Grant as the Doctor, Derek Jacobi as the Master, Jim Norton (Father Ted, Babylon 5), Sophie Okonedo and even David Tennant in a minor role. Although no longer considered "canonical", it parallels many of the themes developed in the new series, with the Doctor still recovering from taking some terrible action and being responsible for untold deaths.
Packed with the kind of extras associated with one of the usual Doctor Who DVD releases, Scream of the Shalka shouldn't be ignored by any fan of the series.
on 18 September 2013
"Scream of the Shalka" was produced to celebrate the show's 40th anniversary in 2003, and would serve as the first story in a brand new series of animated webcasts (three stories across twelve episodes). However, due to the announcement that Doctor Who was to return, production was cut down to just one serial.
The question is - why? Would it really have effected continuity that much. There are two ninth Doctors - so? This may have been intended as canon at the time, but that could have easily been worked around. I wish there could have been more...
The story itself is by no means perfect, but still extremely enjoyable. Written by Paul Cornell, who penned the episodes "Father's Day" and "Human Nature/The Family of Blood", it's also quite dark too - in fact, I'd say some of it is too dark to be shown live action.
Richard E. Grant makes an excellent Doctor. He's dark, and eccentric and looks the part, even in flash animation. He performs much better here than he does as The Great Intelligence in the recent finale of the revived series.
Derek Jacobi plays the Master, a full four years before he would again play him in the revived series, and is excellent. There's a very good twist to his Master too, which makes for a rather amusing one-liner in Episode 5. Again, I'd have loved to see how he would have evolved, had the web series continued.
Sophie Okonedo (I hope I've spelt that correctly), plays Alison, and is another actress who would appear in the revived series as well, as Liz 10 in "The Beast Below". Personally, I found Alison - not unlikable - just a little...hard-going, but that might just be me.
There's also a rather amusing cameo from David Tennant, who would of course appear in the revived series as the Doctor himself, so be sure to watch out for that!
The animation itself is done by Cosgrove Hall, the company responsible for animating the missing episodes of incomplete serials for DVD. It bares similarities, especially to "The Invasion"
Despite this being a single disc release - the only one this year, if my memory serves me correctly - there's still plenty of special features, as we've come to expect from classic releases now (They frankly put the new series releases to shame), Including some very interesting documentaries and the story's soundtrack in its entirety.
Another solid classic release, though a little odd considering all six parts of this story are available online, both on YouTube and the official BBC/Doctor Who website. But buy it anyway, it's worth it.
Oh, one more thing - unlike other classic releases, which normally have an aspect ratio of 4:3, this one has an aspect ratio of 16:9 - full screen, in other words. It's great!
on 21 January 2014
Made by the staff usually employed on Dr. Who, when announced there were to be no further stories in the series approached Cosgrove Hall to make an animated episode. Together they worked until this story was made but in the meantime BBC announced that DR. Who was returning to Tele-Vision. Now earlier series made with missing episodes are produced with the missing shows in animated form rather than still pictures of the cast with voices dubbed, makig it easier to follow the stories.
on 6 June 2014
I have to admit I was very skeptical of buying this DVD. I'd heard small bits about it from big 'who' fans but it always seemed to get swept under the carpet and was never mentioned for long. But, I took the plunge and bought it, not really knowing what to expect.
Quite honestly, the story is brilliant and has a pretty good concept. I mainly judge things on how interesting they are on if I look at my phone or check my emails when I watch them and the first two or three episodes really made me want to watch. Grant's portrayal of the Doctor really caught me in these first few episodes, kind of like a scaled down but slightly more eccentric Hartnell. The animation is very good and very stylised, albeit because of the very small budget of the show. However, I did feel it dragging and I felt myself slipping away from it during parts four and five, they seemed full of babble that took way too long to figure out for only a short show. The sixth and final episode did bring the story home and keep the faith alive but with an all too familiar ending, you know, the pretty girl jumps on board the TARDIS and although she's only known him for 5 minutes is the Doctor's best friend.
Jacobi, who portrays an android version of the Master (I feel this needed to be explained more, I just kept thinking... why is this happening) is a delight. Of course he was the Master in the reboot but I feel this really showed him off perfectly. With a dark side always searching for a way through but with just the right amount of camp a Who episode really needs he is the perfect addition, I only wish he was utilised more.
As I mentioned before Grant is a superb Doctor, he develops as the story progresses, possibly a little too quickly but the scale of the show was cut down an awful lot. He is the kind of actor that makes you want to listen to everything he says and take note, and this is not lost at all through the animation, which is modeled on the actors themselves. It was a real joy to see him as the Doctor, official or not I wish there was more of him!
The extras are the usual sort that come with a release of Who, commentaries and documentaries that are not to be missed. The Screaming Sessions was recorded in 2003 and really shows the love by the actors for what they were doing. It's an interesting watch but nothing to write home about. On the other hand; Carry On Screaming is a documentary about the making of the episodes that really interested me. It talks about the many, many problems they encountered to make the serial and is very frank. A very interesting watch that even surprised me in parts. The other documentary 'Interweb of Fear' came as a bit of a let down to me. It examines the history of the BBC website which, for some, will be a delight to watch but sadly just didn't interest me (so I'm sitting on the fence with that one).
Overall a superb main feature with some pretty solid special features and a relatively small price make this an absolute must for any Who fan.
I would like to congratulate 2 Entertain for the way they have packaged their most recent Who DVDs, changing the spine made me annoyed as it meant that all of my DVDs wouldn't fit together but was thrilled to find that they could be reversed to fit in with the rest of my collection (honestly, it did make me doubt buying the newer releases and special editions at first!).
The only fault I can find with this is that the episodes are all around 15 minutes long and as much as I do love the Doctor Who theme tune I would love for 2 Entertain to allow viewers to watch with just the first lot of opening titles and an extended ending credits sequence after all of the episodes, sometimes I feel I'm really getting into it and then either have to fast forward or listen to the same theme tune twice, it's a minor irritation and quite frankly doesn't bother me too much but if an exec. is reading this... it's a though!)
on 15 October 2013
10 years ago for the 4oth anniversary of the Police Box Show this animated adventure was done and put out for download. back then many were put off by the necessity of downloading each episode in parts which were often shorter than the time it took to download them (I gave up after episode 1). The 50th anniversary is the perfect time to re-visit this story in this DVD handsomely packaged with extras.
I was not much of a fan of Paul Cornell's Who novels but just like "Father's Day" for new Who had I watched all of this story back in the day, it would have made me eat my words.
It's an engaging blend of the traditional; the Shalka invade Earth but their plans are not clear, with some new ideas. Some of these ideas were consciously or not adopted by New Who; the Doctor having come out of some cataclysmic event and not been with people for some time, the companion being in a stale relationship with her boyfriend etc.
The Doctor is well characterised, he says (however dodgy the past evidence) that he doesn't kill and he jokes in the face of powerful alien invaders. When the Shalka Prime tells the Doctor their ambitions extend beyond the part of Lancashire they are based in he quips;
The humour in the script is good and never forced.
Generally good characters with a likeable military figure (shame this couldn't have been the Brigadier)a promising companion, an alien leader who can hold a conversation and has motivation and best of all the robot Master.
The Master has been recreated as a robot housing his conciousness who acts as a sort of tardis butler. In commentary and documentary, Cornell is the most proud of this idea and with very good reason, it works wonderfully well.
The design of characters, backgrounds etc. is good. I've never been to Lancashire so I can't comment on the accuracy but there's a look of Victorian London Buildings e.g. the pub comnpanion Alison works in is a ringer for a Jack the Ripper pub The Frying Pan Public House.
Characters are mostly designed to resemble the actor playing them. In the case of
Richard E Grant's Doctor, the look is wrong. Journalist Jean Rook once described Who writer Robert Holmes as looking like "Sherlock Holmes playing Dracula" which is precisely how the Doctor looks. He looks way too villainous. coupled with the performance he becomes a Doctor we can't really trust. Richard E Grant's performance is way better than you may have heard. When he gets a good one-liner he delivers it well and has many good moments. But I have to admit on balance it remains a good rather than great performance. He lacks warmth and is at times like Hartnell at his grumpiest with no lighter side.
Sophie Okenedo makes for a good companion and its a shame she was one shot only.
Father Ted's Archbishop Brennan Jim Norton, delivers a Patrick Stewartesque turn showing how versatile he is (1*).
Listen out for Diana Quick's Shalka Prime plus a cameo from one David Tennant!
Man of the match is Sir Derek Jacobi as the Master. he puts a lot more charm into his performance than in New Who and is like a slightly camp Roger Delgado. the character's look is a cross between both actors. He's a reformed Master who still likes to think he could do the meglomaniac thing if he wanted to.
Cosgrove Hall's animation is of course very like the episodes of Invasion they animated. Good and fairly fluid movement even if some back ground characters look unfinished.
It runs at 6 eps in 1 hour 19 minutes, so quite fast paced but not rushed.
There's a great commentary with people like writer Cornell, director Malin where we learn Cornell's mistakenly thought local residents running toward him with flags after an episode was broadcast was in apperciation ( it was 'cos England won the Rugby!) and he recalls the initial lack on enthusiasm from fans and resentment toward him. this was due to it being internet rather than TV (sorry Paul, I hold my hands up to being among them).
Carry on Screaming has a great story to tell; the frequent near cancellations, reluctance to go near the project ("as if we'd asked them to put kittens in a blender!"), the redundancy of the 1st producer, cutting from 13 eps tp 6 amnd so on. We also learn how an innocent response to what rights issues are preventing the show's return amy have ignited plans to return it to TV.? The documentary tells its story very well indeed.
it's supplemented by a short feature made at the time the Screaming Sessions where we hear from upbeat actors while it was being made, Archbishop Brennan among them.
Sadly Sir Derek and Richard E appear in neither.
There's a soudntrack album, a coming soon trailer for Zygons (nicely made) and Interweb of Fear another sizeable documentary about the history of the internet on the BBC with particular reference to Who. Missing episodes photonovles and webcasts such as Death Comes to Time & Shada are covered. Again well made.
Had this been it for Who, it would have been no patch on returning the show to TV but if this is anything to go by we might at least have had some enjoyable new adventures to be content with.
(1*) Mr Norton also played Stan Laurel visiting Oliver Hardy on his deathbed in a BBC4 play and was bloody good, if you see it being screened on any channel, give it a go.
on 3 September 2013
Yes, that's the word that ably describes the 2003 "webisodes" (I think that's what the BBC titled them) from Paul Cornell and BBCi, DOCTOR WHO - SCREAM OF THE SHALKA released for the first time on DVD on 16 September 2013.
If it wasn't the for the pesky interference (yes, I'm joking, dear reader) of Russell T Davies and Jane Tranter in their audacity in thinking that DOCTOR WHO could be revived on television then the potential of an animated series of stories, with a revelatory Richard E Grant as the Ninth Doctor, could have been wholly explored and realised to a greater depth.
Allison: What are you?
The Doctor: Mildly annoyed.
However, as we know too well, SCREAM OF THE SHALKA was an isolated project, mildly idiosyncratic yet highly entertaining, and, unfortunately, cannot even be regarded as "canon" and as such is archived on the same shelf as Peter Cushing's two movie outings (but, then again, I'm sure Grant would not be too dismissive of such legendary company as they gather eons of dust together). If, like myself, you come to this animated six-parter fresh, having avoided it for a decade, then embrace it and, by the final episode, you'll be enveloped by an enigmatically witty yet caustic Time Lord, a (and here's that word again...) potentially substantial TARDIS travelling companion, Allison (played by Sophie Okonedo - Liz 10 from SERIES 5's DOCTOR WHO - THE BEAST BELOW) and a traditional plot (Paul Cornell) that embodies the very DNA of the CLASSIC SERIES.
Overall, DOCTOR WHO - SCREAM OF THE SHALKA is, surprisingly, engrossing and I'm ashamed, as fan of the series, that I had ignored it for far too long, and with this release `missing blanks' can be appropriately filled in even though some (fans) may consider the production as "...putting kittens in a blender..."
In CARRY ON SCREAMING, the production team discuss the sometimes fraught genesis of the animated series (yes, this project was envisaged as a three-story 12-episode animated series) as seemingly circuitous BBC meetings to gain finance and to discuss Licencing Rights options would challenge a Möbius Strip for incomprehensibility and longevity. As the story's Executive Producers, James Goss states, "...we'd not have done it if they'd known if DOCTOR WHO was going to be brought back to TV (in 2005)" and Martin Trickey "...we asked everybody who we thought we had to ask..." and even then the production was plagued with disinterest from the Corporation's Executives. One supportive voice was from its writer, Paul Cornell, who leapt (whilst remaining as cool as a frozen cucumber) at the opportunity to write for the broadcast series and to create a new version of the Doctor.
Unsurprisingly, Goss describes the dependable Cornell as "...bomb-proof as a seaside donkey..." and he delivered in SCREAM OF THE SHALKA a timey-wimey-free linear adventure that gradually and unsuspectingly draws you in eventually assailing your senses. And you would not expect anything different from Cornell, would you? Long-time DOCTOR WHO author (including the 1995 DOCTOR WHO - HUMAN NATURE novel for Virgin New Adventures that was later developed for the NEW SERIES in 2007) not delivers an electrifying plot and a new alien menace but, in pre-dating Russell T Davies' ROSE (2005), the most `everyday' (and that a compliment not a criticism) setting & scripting for a DOCTOR WHO story to date. The relationship between Allison and hapless boyfriend, Joe mirrors that of Rose Tyler and Mickey Smith, whilst there is a just a frisson of dangerous sexuality between Allison and her Doctor that will be eventually explored by Rose and her Doctor.
There are noticeable inclusion that have - or may have - influenced Russell T Davies in his own scripting of the NEW SERIES. Cornell deploys a "motor vehicle style central TARDIS locking `click-click' scenario (see DOCTOR WHO - THE END OF TIME PART ONE) as well as his Doctor's predilection for "Hush" (see DOCTOR WHO - FEAR HER).
Furthermore, CARRY ON SCREAMING details how fans' mixed appreciation SCREAM OF THE SHALKA and the BBC's commitment to a `live-action' new series effectively scuppered future endeavours but, graciously, the production team behind the first animated DOCTOR WHO story were resigned to the fact and, it would seem, were quite pleased not to pursue the project further.
In SCREAMING SESSIONS, the cast and crew - sans Richard E Grant - discuss their roles, being turned into animation ("...you cannot polish a turd..." and "...bigger boobs and smaller feet..." were some of the statements from the actors to Cosgrove Hall Animation) and recording sessions. Whilst Okonedo describes Richard E Grant's Doctor as "...a perfect Doctor...", Craig Kelly describes him "...a quintessential Gentlemen..." which might leave some fans saying "Why wasn't he cast as a television Doctor?"
In INTERWEB OF FEAR, we see the binary relationship that DOCTOR WHO has had with BBC's own online presence, and how a key moment in political world history saw a dramatic change in how the `interweb' was going to be used and now important the BBC's online content would be (and how DOCTOR WHO would play a part within it). It's a fascinating featurette and demonstrates the exponential growth of the medium within a relatively short period of time.
The SOUNDTRACK ALBUM (in excessive of 27 minutes) is for true DOCTOR WHO aficionados who don't have two children to coordinate, a mortgage to pay, supper to make, the car to wash, the lawn to mower... you get the idea. If you have the time, listen.
Wrapped up with PHOTO GALLERY, episode commentary from Cornell, Goss and the story's director, Wilson Marcus, and a heart-stopping COMING SOON TRAILER for TERROR OF THE ZYGONS, DOCTOR WHO - SCREAM OF THE SHALKA's release on DVD is not as eccentric as initially perceived.
Certainly, it's not a 'lost classic' but, if like myself, you have never seen it, it may just impress you.
on 28 November 2015
Never saw this first time around but thought I'd give it a go. The animation is quite basic, perhaps due to the medium it was intended for. The style of the animation however is sharp and moody but also lively and colourful when it needs to be and it wholly adds to the drama. The new version of the theme tune is actually rather good and we get to see a few new elements that Russell T Davies revisits in the following years, including the first use of the TARDIS car alarm gag.
The Shalka aren't a memorable villain but the combination of Richard E Grant as The Doctor and Derek Jacobi as The Master lends a certain class to the production. Perhaps Big Finish could explore this combination one day and let this (alternative) 9th Doctor have further adventures in time and space.
I went in to watching this not expecting a great deal, but was sufficiently impressed with the episodes and the special features on the disc to be happy to revisit this again in the future.
on 20 September 2013
Since it's release online, I have only ever managed to watch the first episode. Possibly because it is animated, possibly because it's not canon (objections here) but more than likely because I didn't like knowing that I was watching a webcast. The screen within a screen within a screen. I've even tried to watch it on YouTube on a big tv but again only got to the end of the first episode.
I don't object to animated who but prefer to see the real deal. I was sceptical about this release and expected to make a valiant attempt to watch it but after one episode placing it on the shelf (next to the Sensorites - I've managed 2 episodes of that story).
After 10 Years then of various attempts I bought the DVD - and then watched it on my PC. (Some free time at work). I anticipated the same struggle to watch the main feature especially as the magazine reviews brought up some negatives about the story. So I started with the extras and they are all a fine bunch giving excellent coverage of the making of the story and the history of the bbc webcasting. I even liked the soundtrack running at some 26 minutes. (About as long as The Krotons so worth a release). I haven't checked the commentary or information subtitles but expect these are as thorough as previous dvds.
But what about the Main Feature - Loved it - I think the advantage this story has over the two previous 10th doctor animated adventures and missing episode reconstructions is that there is no reference point to compare. I forgot often that I was watching animation and sat back (on my office chair) and enjoyed the show.
It clocks in at around 80mins (almost a four parter usually although six here) and was longer than I expected. The cast is uniformly brilliant and there is even a couple of scares (kind of... explains the PG rating). Some reviewers say Richard E. Grant is unlikable but his earlier gruffness is far more realistic than dear old Colin Baker's panto villain in "The Twin Dilema". All I would say is that it isn't hard to hear Paul McGann's voice in the role. Perhaps a bit of head swapping and this could have been an official 8th Doctor story probably even without being redubbed.
Otherwise this sits as a fine Who story with a "Cut too early" Doctor. It's on the shelf as an offical canon adventure in my book. (Then again so is k9 & Company)
on 16 January 2014
Not knowing what to find when i put the DVD in the player, i was surprised at what i found.
A good story, although it was weird to have a non-familiar Dr in the driving seat as such.
Good story and followed in the true Dr's travels.