MBR Reviews: Scream of the Shalka


Let’s talk about Doctor Who behind-the-scenes history for a moment. Production begins in 1963, then it’s paused for 18 months in 1985, then production totally stops in 1989. Gone forever. Until one day some plucky Brits reached out to the USA and got a back-door pilot movie made continuing on the story. That movie flopped (though Paul McGann is still canon and performed wonderfully) and the US reboot was cancelled. Doctor Who was once again, gone forever.

Then suddenly, in late 2002, a small team of BBC freelancers discovered nothing was being done by the corporation to celebrate Doctor Who 40th Anniversary in November 2003. They decided to bring the show back. Planned as a multiple story animated series, the project shrunk into this 6 episode web-cast. Somewhere after filming finished but before the story aired on the BBC website, a press release appeared saying Doctor Who was triumphantly returning to BBC1 on Saturday nights! This little web cast disappeared from memory and canon… The DVD was finally released in 2013 and appeared in my letter box a couple of days ago.

I’m pleasantly surprised with Scream of The Shalka, I’m a fan of the animation company Cosgrove Hall (before they sadly went bust) and love Paul Cornell’s writing (Family of Blood/Human Nature being my favourite New Series story ever!) but still wondered why this story had never been followed up or covered much by the ‘big reviewers’ in this world. It’s very much still restrained by the stigmas of a dull cheap Classic Who story, never being one to use too much humour and repartee, but still thoroughly enjoyable.

The story it’s self is of a human society living under threat of alien attack. Or at least it would be if the action ever left a small town in Lancashire. Don’t get me wrong, I love a small scale Who, but Shalka feels like it needed a bigger plane to work on. They needed to show us what the aliens were doing all over the world to make them seem like a true threat.

Richard E Grant plays The Doctor apparently. To me he isn’t the Doctor but more a colder, duller, imitation of the Doctor. His eccentricities feel forced and muted when/if they appear, I’m kinda glad he isn’t counted as canon. How’s that for being a totally objective reviewer? I’m never getting that job working for a proper Who review site…

The story just about manages to fill 6 episodes, but it needs more sense of mystery and more character development to get into the ranks of ‘Good Who’. It rests firmly in the middle and the average being somehow simultaneously dull and enjoyable.

Final points:

  • Theme music ruined by those bloody drums
  • Nice little cameo from David Tennant in his pre Doctor life
  • I wonder if Moffat considered having Grant as The War Doctor in 2013 to make Shalka canon…
  • I wouldn’t advise Who fans to get this one unless you REALLY want to learn about what could have been

MBR Total: 5/10


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