‘SCREAM OF THE SHALKA’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Carry On Screaming
The Richard E. Grant era of ‘Doctor Who’ is here! And it’s very short! 😀
In 2003, ‘Scream of the Shalka’ was released on the BBC website. This was the first official animated ‘Doctor Who’ story made by the BBC website to celebrate the show’s 40th anniversary. This was made at a time when there was some uncertainty that ‘Doctor Who’ was going to return to TV screens again.
At that time, the BBC had made no official plans to celebrate the 40th anniversary of ‘Doctor Who’. The show was considered to be dead by that point and it seemed there was no chance of it ever coming back. But the BBC website people wanted to celebrate and acknowledge the series’ 40th year.
Thus, they set about plans to creating a season of ‘Doctor Who’ stories that were to be made in animation. The original plan was to have three four-part animated ‘Doctor Who’ stories, making it a 12 episode season. The BBC website had been involved with animated ‘Doctor Who’ tales beforehand.
In the past, there had been animated ‘Doctor Who’ stories like ‘Death Comes To Time’, ‘Real Time’ and the 2003 version of ‘Shada’. But they had all been webcasts and the animation wasn’t particularly good. It was mostly static images moving and no animation of the characters talking in certain scenes.
This time though, the BBC website were going to do something different as they were going to have the characters animated by moving their lips when they talk. The animation still has a static quality to it, but at least it is a lot better compared to previous animation attempts with ‘Doctor Who’ webcasts.
Unfortunately not all good plans for a certain endeavour like this come to fruition. There were rights issues involved; budgeting costs and eventually the pre-planned 12 episode season was reduced to one story with 6 episodes. Thus another webcast. But at least the improvement animation was intact.
I’ve come across ‘Doctor Who’ animation like this in ‘Scream of the Shalka’ before. Beforehand, I saw the animation episodes of ‘The Invasion’ with Patrick Troughton. That’s how I came to know about ‘Scream of the Shalka’ and was looking forward to seeing this animated tale when it came out on DVD.
The DVD was released in 2013 in time for the 50th anniversary of ‘Doctor Who’. Since then, there have been more animated ‘Doctor Who’ stories for us to enjoy. There have been more animated episodes of missing ‘Doctor Who’ tales as well as ‘The Infinite Quest’ and ‘Dreamland’ featuring David Tennant.
So what did I make of ‘Scream of the Shalka’ as an animated ‘Doctor Who’ story overall? It was okay. I wouldn’t consider it great, but it is okay. I suppose the fact that it’s not part of the official ‘Doctor Who’ continuity as was intended to be by the BBC website is the reason why it didn’t have an impact on me.
The six-part animated story is by Paul Cornell, who would go on to write ‘Doctor Who’ stories like ‘Father’s Day’ and ‘Human Nature’/’The Family Blood’ in the series as well as writing my favourite stories ‘Circular Time’ and ‘Goth Opera’. He also wrote the Target novelization of ‘Twice Upon A Time’.
To be fair, Paul Cornell is a good ‘Doctor Who’ writer and he delivers a fairly decent adventure in this animated story. But I didn’t feel the story was exciting enough and there were things about the story that got me less interested while watching it. Also the episode lengths feel shorter at 15 minutes each.
Now I can appreciate that being the case considering this was released on the BBC website not on TV. You can only have a certain amount of time to show an episode of ‘Doctor Who’ due to memory space. But with advances in technology in recent years, I would’ve preferred a longer story instead of shorter.
It also isn’t the most exciting story to watch despite its shorter length in episodes. It’s basically an alien invasion story and the characters feel bland in their execution. It’s not something you’d get with certain classic series and new series ‘Doctor Who’ stories that do have strong character development.
Richard E. Grant stars as the Doctor in this animated adventure. In ‘Doctor Who’ circles, Richard E. Grant previously played one of the Doctors in ‘The Curse of Fatal Death’ Comic Relief sketch. He would later go on to play Dr. Simeon in ‘The Snowmen’ and ‘The Name of the Doctor’ stories with Matt Smith.
Regarding his Doctor in ‘Scream of the Shalka’…I’m not a fan. Don’t get me wrong, Richard E. Grant is a good actor and I would’ve liked it if his Doctor had more screen time. But I don’t feel his Doctor is the friendliest of incarnations despite being an alternative version. He seems so grumpy and arrogant.
He seems to appear like a Dracula version of the Doctor in my mind. It’s interesting that had ‘Scream of the Shalka’ been a continuation of the ‘Doctor Who’ series following ‘The TV Movie’, Richard E. Grant would’ve been the official Ninth Doctor. But of course it’s not what happened as history knows it.
It was while ‘Scream of the Shalka’ was being made that the BBC announced that ‘Doctor Who’ was coming back in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston. Thus ‘Scream of the Shalka’ had been put aside and seems to be forgotten in the mists of time. But at least it did celebrate ‘Doctor Who’s 40th anniversary.
There are things I like about Richard E. Grant’s Doctor in ‘Shalka’ though. As well as being a good actor, Richard E. Grant is able to express moments of compassion towards his would-be companion Alison. He also has a singing voice that can shatter a Shalka alien to shreds when it’s at a high pitch frequency.
Sophie Okonedo stars as Alison Cheney, the Doctor’s companion in this story. Later on, Sophie would go on to play Liz 10 in the ‘Doctor Who’ stories, ‘The Beast Below’ and ‘The Pandorica Opens’ with Matt Smith. He also starred in the Alex Rider movie, ‘Stormbreaker’, which was the first time I’d seen her.
As for Alison, I’m afraid to say it but I found her character bland and uninteresting. She did have her moments when she was thinking about leaving her boyfriend and when she seemed to be possessed by a Shalka creature in her head. But I couldn’t get excited by her and I found her difficult to like I’m afraid.
Derek Jacobi stars as the Master in this animated adventure. This is before Derek Jacobi played the Master properly in ‘Utopia’. He’s a great actor to play the Master in ‘Doctor Who’ and sadly he’s wasted in this animated adventure. The Master does nothing. He just stays inside the Doctor’s TARDIS.
Oh and the Master is also a robot. That was a big disappointment on my part. I would’ve liked it if the Master was really there and was working with the Shalka to destroy the Earth. Also why would the Doctor need a robot duplicate of the Master in his TARDIS? Was it to provide companionship? Bit odd.
The story also features Conor Moloney as Dawson and Greaves; Andrew Dunn as Max; Craig Kelly as Joe, Alison’s boyfriend and Anna Calder-Marshall as Mathilda Pierce. There’s also Diana Quick as the Shalka Prime and Jim Norton (who I’ve seen in ‘Father Ted’) as Major Kennet in this animated adventure.
David Tennant makes a cameo appearance as a caretaker in this animated adventure! Wow! David Tennant gets everywhere in ‘Doctor Who’, doesn’t he?! 😀 This was before he played the Tenth Doctor in the TV series. I was very pleased to hear him star in this story, even if it was for a short brief moment.
And there’s the Shalka, the alien monsters for this story. I’m afraid I didn’t find them interesting. All they did was scream a lot and didn’t seem intimidating. They may have been interesting in the script for screaming and controlling people’s minds, but in terms of conquering the world they felt very bland.
The DVD special features are as follows. There’s the making-of documentary, ‘Carry On Screaming’, with behind-the-scenes interviews; ‘The Screaming Sessions’ featuring archival 2003 interviews with the cast and the ‘Interweb of Fear’ documentary which focuses on the BBC website with ‘Doctor Who’.
There’s also a photo gallery of the story; a soundtrack album and a commentary with writer Paul Cornell; director Wilson Milam and producer James Goss, moderated by Toby Hadoke. There’s an information text commentary option to enjoy and a ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘Terror of the Zygons’ with Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen and Ian Marter.
So ‘Scream of the Shalka’ didn’t do it for me overall. But I’m glad I saw it and appreciate it in trying to celebrate the 40th anniversary of ‘Doctor Who’. I’m glad this wasn’t a continuation of the TV series, but it was interesting to discover what could have been had Richard E. Grant played the Ninth Doctor.
‘Scream of the Shalka’ rating – 5/10
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