BBC.co.uk Nov 13, 2002
Shada returns with Paul McGann on BBCi

Douglas Adams' lost story will be webcast in Doctor Who's 40th Anniversary Year.

The cult team are just back from the recording of next year's Doctor Who webcast - a brand new production of Shada, the greatest Doctor Who story never shown.

Originally planned to conclude Doctor Who’s seventeenth season, the original version of Shada began filming in 1979, but production was halted by industrial action. Since then there have been several attempts to remount it, but this missing story finally comes to BBCi in Spring 2003... a mere 24 years late.

Paul McGann, who played the Eighth Doctor in the 1996 TV Movie, teams up with old friends Romana (Lalla Ward) and K9 (John Leeson) in a quest to track down the most dangerous book in the universe.

Director Nicholas Pegg has assembled a stellar cast for production company Big Finish.

The role of Professor Chronotis will be played by James Fox. As well as winning a BAFTA for The Servant, he’s played opposite Mick Jagger in Performance, appeared in a Passage To India and Patriot Games, and been Anthony Hopkins’s employer in Remains of the Day. He has recently appeared as Harry in Sexy Beast, and as Lord Carrington in The Falklands Play.

Andrew Sachs displays his villainous side as the evil Skagra. Famous as Manuel, the hapless Spanish waiter in Fawlty Towers, Sachs has also appeared in The Revenge of the Pink Panther and The History Of The World Part I. With one of the best-known voices in the business, he’s recently been heard as the narrator of That Peter Kay Thing.

Young Cambridge student Chris Parsons is played by Sean Biggerstaff, the dashing Quidditch captain Oliver Wood in the Harry Potter movies.

Clare Keightley is to be played by Susannah Harker, famous as vampire-hunting Dr Angie March in Ultraviolet, Jane Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, and of course for her BAFTA-nominated performance as investigative reporter Mattie Storin in the BBC’s political thriller House Of Cards.

Hannah Gordon plays the silkily seductive voice of Skagra’s spaceship. Best known today as the presenter of Channel 4’s Watercolour Challenge, Hannah’s distinguished career includes roles in Jonathan Creek, Midsomer Murders, One Foot In The Grave, and Upstairs Downstairs. Hannah also featured in the 1966 Dr Who story The Highlanders.

In the cameo role of college porter Wilkin is veteran comic character actor Melvyn Hayes. Famous as Bombardier ‘Gloria’ Beaumont in It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum, Hayes has also starred in Cliff Richard movies, Quatermass II, and The Curse of Frankenstein.

"This is a tremendously exciting project," says director Nicholas Pegg. "We’ve really pulled out all the stops on this one. We’ve had a fantastic time in the studio and I hope people will agree that we’ve done justice to one of the greatest writers Doctor Who was ever blessed with."

Big Finish’s producer, Jason Haigh-Ellery is equally thrilled, "This is a great opportunity to finally produce Doctor Who's most famouslost script, and a fine tribute to Douglas Adams."

The new production, which will feature animated illustrations by artist Lee Sullivan, is as faithful as possible to Adams' original script. Working with the BBC and Douglas Adams' estate, Gary Russell has undertaken the minor changes necessary to adapt the script to Paul McGann’s Doctor and the new format.

All we can say is that the recordings were a blast - it's a very funny adventure, full of outlandishly clever dialogue and typically fantastic situations, and the cast were clearly having a ball. Plus we got to meet K9.

K9 model very kindly loaned by Derek Handley