Doctor Who (2003): Scream of the Shalka

a review by Nalini Haynes

Scream of the Shalka features  as the (non-canonical) ninth Doctor, looking quite vampiric,  as the Master and  as prospective companion Alison Cheney.

An animated episode, this story was made to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Doctor Who. Originally an online story using flash software, Scream of the Shalka wasn’t even created as video because it was TEN YEARS AGO.

Sophie Okonedo and Richard E Grant as animated characters

The episode

The plot is quite fitting for a Doctor Who story: villains invading Earth through a portal underground and an isolated town with people living in fear. The Doctor appears. He investigates. He engages the interest of a young woman who is bored with her life – can anyone say ‘new companion’? They take on the bad guys.

I squeed when I saw the UNIT set. The UNIT guys didn’t even have to introduce themselves, I took one look and was like ‘OMG that looks like UNIT’.

Unfortunately the pacing for the story is a little slow. Originally the BBC idea was to produce 3 episodes of 4 parts each; that length would have better suited Scream. There was just a bit too much time where no-one was speaking, no action was taking place.

There was no musical score for this story. The only sounds were dialogue, a very few sound effects (like breaking china) and the screaming.

On the upside, there is quite a bit of humour through the story. Richard E Grant is the Master of Snide Comments; he was very much the Scarlet Pimpernel at times in this story.

And Derek Jacobi is the Master, no less; an android with programming but also the Master’s personality. That really grabbed my imagination.

The history

The extras feature interviews going into detail about the struggle to bring this story – or ANY Doctor Who story – to the fans. Interviewees talk about the struggle to find the funding. The BBC even made the experienced producer redundant then replaced her with an inexperienced producer who hadn’t watched Doctor Who previously.

TARDIS interior in Scream of the Shalka

Fan interest in the Scream of the Shalka, including their dissatisfaction with the flash version and demands for a TV series, fed into the resurrection of Doctor Who.

While not being one of Doctor Who’s finest, Scream of the Shalka has a very important place in Doctor Who’s history. The extras are definitely worth watching as well.

Conculsion

While I’d like to see a more polished version of Scream of the Shalka, I’m happy to have watched this version. (I didn’t watch it online in 2003 because DIAL UP.) Richard E Grant and Derek Jacobi melted this rock-hard reviewer’s heart. I was also very interested in the extras that place this story in space and time. This particular DVD or Bluray is probably more for the Doctor Who aficionado and the collector than the casual viewer unless you’re a fan of RICHARD E GRANT and DEREK JACOBI.

Not that I’m a fan of either actor. Nooo, not at all.

[shifty eyes]

For those interested in the development of technology and its impact on society, the story with the extras is a fascinating exploration of recent history.