Doctor Who is one of the most famous television shows of all time, and the longest running science fiction show. Its dedicated and loyal fans have kept the show going throughout its original run from 1963 to when the ‘EVIL’ Michael Grade (director of programs of BBC at the time) cancelled it the year I was born, 1989. I won’t get into the devastating blow Grade had on my childhood as well a whole generation who grew up without their Doctor. See, my generation had a very weird time with Doctor Who. I’d been a fan of it ever since I saw Tom Baker take on Davros in “Genesis of the Daleks”, and I grew up watching repeats of the John Pertwee era all the way through to Sylvester McCoy. In the mid-90s, we were treated to a one-off Doctor Who television movie starring Paul Mcgann as a fantastic Eighth Doctor. So if you want to look at it, Paul Mcgann’s one night in the TARDIS (sounds like a porno) is my generation’s Doctor… Or so I thought.
In 2003 to mark Doctor Who’s 4oth anniversary BBC put together a unique story for a new generation, long before Russel T. Davis brought us Christopher Eccleston, we were given Richard E. Grant as the 9th Doctor in “Doctor Who: The Scream of the Shalka”, a flash animation series. See, looking back on it as a Doctor Who fan, Grant was perfect as the Doctor. He was quirky, weird and had a very distinctive… alien look to him. Reminding me thoroughly of Tom Baker. Verity Lambert, one of the original creators of Doctor Who said that the reason why Tom Baker was so successful in the role of the Doctor is that you believed he was an alien, and that description was spot on here for Richard E. Grant.
When the Doctor lands his TARDIS in the Lancaster town of Lannet, in the present, he finds that something is terribly wrong. The people are scared. They don’t like going out onto the streets at night, they don’t like making too much noise, and they certainly don’t like strangers asking questions. What alien force has invaded the town? Why is it watching barmaid Alison Cheney? And what plans does it have for the future of the planet Earth?
I found the story to be really compelling but not by what was on screen, but from the character’s backstory, very much like how Eccleston portrayed the Doctor as alone and the last of his kind without really telling too much and simply showing the viewer. Its very much the same in this instance too. The Doctor is alone; the Time Lords are still around, but they appear to have banished him for reasons unsaid making him do their bidding (like how they made the Third and Fourth Doctors do all their dirty work) but interestingly enough The Master in android form is aboard the TARDIS and it makes you want to know more about this timeline of the Doctor.
The Shalka aren’t the most dangerous of the villains the Doctor has ever faced but they were sufficient enough to get the ball rolling. This was a 6 part series, with each episode roughly running for 15 minutes each and I was gripped from start to finnish. Grant was fantastic in the role of the Doctor and made me feel more upset for him as Grant would have been perfect as a live action counterpart. Derek Jacobi funnily enough is fantastic as The Master, a role he went back to on the television show before regenerating into John Simm. Even David Tennant makes a small voice cameo, ironically enough.
It upset me for a while that this hidden gem was overlooked for some time until the BBC to release it on DVD to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, and with all the extras on the disc this certainly is a must buy for any Doctor Who fan. Witness a story that could have been with a Doctor that never was.