#MissingEpisodesMonday: Why the BBC should animate Shada

It’s funny to reflect that a blog that began as a simple homage to the existing back catalogue of classic Doctor Who (and to get me back into writing on a daily basis …) has now becoming a long running commitment to getting the BBC to fill the gaps in the catalogue and bring back the missing episodes. It goes to show that one never quite knows what one is getting oneself into …

The latest on missing episodes is … that there is no latest. I’ve just bought myself The Nightmare Fair to delve into the episodes that would have been produced had Season 23 gone ahead as planned rather than gone on hiatus. I’m also trying to decide whether to invest in the TARGET novelisations of stories like Galaxy 4. In short – I’m resigning myself to being relatively patient.

I say relatively, because I still see no reason why the BBC should not proceed ahead with filling the gaps in the back catalogue, unless they have a reasonable prospect of getting the real thing back. We know they are willing to commission or receive animations of currently missing episodes, and I have set out a number of stories that could be the springboard for future animations: specifically The Smugglers, Marco Polo, and The Abominable Snowmen. We also know from the animation of lost Dad’s Army episode ‘A Stripe For Frazer’ that Philip Morris’ ongoing search for material has made the BBC reluctant to pursue animations that might become redundant.

So our tribute to missing episodes today poses a different question – why not animate a story that is missing because it was never created in the first place? This is in fact the logic used by Ian Levine, who commissioned a private project to animate Shada – the Tom Baker adventure intended to conclude Season 17, cancelled after a strike by BBC technicians interrupted filming. Levine’s logic is that with no material to be returned, it is a low risk investment to plug the gap – a similar logic to why he animated the lost episode Mission to the Unknown, which is believed to have been permanently wiped.

The 1992 VHS release of Shada, which features Tom Baker narrating the gaps between the survived studio and film material, has only increased fans’ enthusiasm to see this story as it would have been broadcast. The full animation is sadly no longer available online, but a youtube video shows trailers for several of the projects Levine’s team were working on, including Mission to the Unknown, and the currently missing Evil of the Daleks:

The reason the video is no longer available is for the simple reason of copyright – the BBC own the rights to Doctor Who, and the estate of Douglas Adams own the right to the story he has written. While the BBC did commission a replacement Shada in 2003, featuring Paul McGann’s 8th Doctor reuniting with Lalla Ward as Romana (now President of Gallifrey), it obviously was not the same as the recreation Ian Levine created.

So, while we are waiting for the results of Philip Morris’ search to be made known, and the BBC are unwilling to commit resources to animate Marco Polo, I think the BBC ought to commission an animation for Shada – because it is missing, never to be returned, and so there is no risk in producing a resource that could become redundant without warning. The success of the Shada animation could then become the catalyst for subsequent animations, both of existing missing episodes, but also of stories that were never broadcast like The Nightmare Fair.

So it’s over to 2Entertain, the BBC Store, and BBC Worldwide. What do you think guys?

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