Tag Archives: cartoon

Review: Scream Of The Shalka… Special Features

I’m not sure I’ve reviewed special features rather than the “main attraction” before, but hey, there’s a first time for everything.

There are certain times when it’s easier to watch the special features than it is to watch the main attraction. I started watching Doctor Who through with Oldest, and we’re currently stalled at The Keys Of Marinus: the first episode was too scary for Middlest.

I’ve picked up a few Doctor Who DVDs, most of them are to fill gaps. There were two stories that I didn’t have on videotape, and then rediscovered missing episodes and stories, and animations of missing episodes, make up most of the other DVDs I’ve bought.

Somewhat of an oddity in the Doctor Who DVD catalogue, is a recent purchase of mine: The Scream Of The Shalka.

Some people at the BBC realised that the BBC wasn’t planning to do anything for the 40th anniversary of the show, so they knocked on a bunch of doors to see if they could do an animated story for the website. They managed to get permission to do it, and so they did. Development took a long time, and suffered quite a few setbacks, but in the end, production happened. Richard E Grant was to be the Ninth Doctor.

Post-production took a long time, and so it was that two months before Shalka was released onto the website, the announcement was made that Doctor Who Was Coming Back. Shalka became instantly overshadowed by this news, and is an oft-overlooked chapter in Who history.

And yet, had Shalka not been made, NuWho might not have happened.

There are three particular special features I want to talk about.

One, and it’s more of a mention, is an interview with some of the people involved, from the time the show was made. And I think pre-post-production, so before the return was announced. I think there are some shots of David Tennant there (who managed to talk his way into a small role, he was recording something next door, found out they were making Doctor Who, and figured it was his only chance to be in Who… funny world).

Another is the tale of how the show came about, with more recent interviews with behind-the-scenes people. This was really interesting, and there’s so many interesting little things, including interaction between members of the Shalka crew, and production staff of NuWho.

When trying to find out if they could do something for Who’s 40th, they ran into people who cited “rights issues”. So one of the crew members was tasked with researching the rights issue. Practically everyone to do with rights at the BBC was contacted, and the only thing that seemed like it could be an actual problem was “maybe something about the Daleks”. but the Shalka crew weren’t planning to use Daleks, so they went ahead. And filed away all the research and responses to the rights issue.

A new head of BBC was appointed, who said she’d love to bring back Doctor Who, if the rights issues could get sorted out. concerned fans contacted the Shalka crew to find out whether these rights issues would affect the Shalka release. The Shalka people then posted an article outlining the rights issues as they understood them (basically, that there weren’t any). The Shalka team lead was then summoned to his boss for a stern telling-off. He took the research with him.

It is implied, but not explicitly stated, that it was this meeting that cleared the way for NuWho to enter production.

And that’s just a small part of what, to me, was a very interesting story.

the third special feature I want to talk about, concerned the development of the BBC website, and Doctor Who’s place and importance in that.

I liked the tongue-in-cheek pokes at the site’s regular rebrandings, the experimental things that people were allowed to try, while at the same time the reluctance for setting precedent. The “Live chat” feature, where interviews were conducted over Instant Messages, and broadcast in real time. Even real time over the outside window to the studio…. which was constantly hidden by a row of buses. The now-archived Cult portion of the site, where dead (Who) and living (Buffy) shows were lumped together. The previous Doctor Who animations, and issues like buffering and sound quality. A misuse of RealPlayer’s subtitle functions to do animations. The PhotoNovels reconstructions of missing episodes. The development of iPlayer. It’s like a digital history lesson, and I’m interested in history and also computer stuff, so this was up my alley.

I’m not sure that I watched Scream Of The Shalka when it came out. I may have tried, but buffering, and the terrible audio quality of streaming at the time may have prevented my watching much of it. And I haven’t yet sat down and watched it this time round (maybe at some point when Youngest needs distraction, or maybe with Oldest if he gets schoolwork done early). At this point, it almost doesn’t matter, the special features were entertaining enough to warrant the price of admission.