Monday 17 September 2012

Scream of the Shalka

Scream of the Shalka was an animated webcast put out by the BBC in 2003. It featured a new Doctor voiced by Richard E Grant. For a while there was talk of a new series being launched with this Doctor.

I like the Gothic look of this Doctor, though I find it frustrating that they decided to give him a generic Victorian look. This is disappointing because it does not set him apart from the McGann Doctor. In personality, the Shalka Doctor most closely resembles Pertwee, though he is loaded with a massive dose of angst and guilt. This was not an original move, as both the New Adventures and the BBC EDAs had been full of angst, with the Doctor variously feeling guilt over manipulating Ace, blowing up Skaro or blowing up Gallifrey. On the whole, this Doctor comes across as just a bit too angry to be likable. Paul Cornell's script gives him a lot of humour, but Grant plays it so straight (like Pertwee) and so he comes across as an humourless man trying to be funny. Of course, it's unfair to judge this Doctor by this one performance. Most of the Doctors have taken a few stories to completely get into their role. Sylvester McCoy's Doctor evolved massively during his time on the show. Scream of the Shalka offers us a faint glimpse of what might have been.

The animation for this story is very nicely drawn, but the movements of the characters are not terribly fluid. One could probably enjoy a series of such animations had it ever been made. The real problem with the story is its traditionalism. There is too much effort made in trying to come up with all of the elements of Pertwee-era Doctor Who; the Doctor arguing with the military, an alien invasion, the Master and the Doctor not wanting to kill.

The only really clever idea this story has is the robotic version of the Master in the TARDIS. The idea of the Doctor keeping the Master as a kind of mascot or buddy is quite inspired and deals with the difficulty of taking seriously a Delgado-style Master in a 21st century story.

RT Davies has made it quite clear that Scream of the Shalka is not considered to be canon and that the 9th Doctor is Christopher Eccleston. If you are a fan who loves the Shalka Doctor, you can probably find a few clever ways to incorporate this story into the Doctor Who mythos. Lance Parkin includes this story in his AHistory guide to Doctor Who continuity by suggesting that this might be a future Doctor after the 9th Doctor. His Gallifrey Chronicles novel famously stated that there are three versions of the ninth Doctor, a meta-textual reference to this story, Curse of Fatal Death and Eccleston. In his discussion of Gallifreyan history, Parkin provides another potential solution as to how there could be more than one 9th Doctor. Attempting to tie together the War of Heaven in the BBC novels and the Last Great Time War of the new series, Parkin argues that the Eccleston Doctor could be a regeneration of the Grandfather Paradox version of the 8th Doctor in The Ancestor Cell. This is an interesting theory and raises the question of what happened to the proper version of the 8th Doctor. Perhaps he could have regenerated into the Richard Grant Doctor? It would be disconcerting, however, to think that there could be two Doctors at the same time.

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