Wed, 31 October 2007
Scream of the Shalka was a flash-animated serial based on the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It was produced to coincide with the 40th Anniversary of the series and was originally posted in six weekly parts from 13 November to 18 December 2003 on BBCi's Doctor Who website. Although it was intended to be an "official" continuation of the television series that had ended in 1989, the revival of the programme in 2005 relegated it, and its "Ninth Doctor", to unofficial status.
The serial was scripted by veteran Doctor Who writer Paul Cornell, with Richard E. Grant providing the voice for the Ninth Doctor and Derek Jacobi as the voice of an android made in the image of the Doctor's old enemy, the Master. This performance followed years of rumours that Grant would play the Doctor in a film or new series, and indeed he had appeared as the Tenth "conceited" Doctor in the Comic Relief special Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death in 1999. The Doctor's companion for this adventure, Alison Cheney, was voiced by Sophie Okonedo who a year later would be nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in Hotel Rwanda.
Previous Doctor Who webcasts had had limited animation and were little more than a series of illustrations. Earlier in 2003, BBCi had had some success with the original animated webcast Ghosts of Albion. The animation for that story was provided by Manchester-based animation studio Cosgrove Hall, who were also hired to animate Scream of the Shalka.
This story was the first officially-licensed, fully-animated Doctor Who story.
The TARDIS materialises in the village of Lannet in Lancashire, disgorging an annoyed Doctor, who has apparently been transported here against his will. He discovers the village silent, its inhabitants all living in fear except for a barmaid, Alison Cheney. An alien race calling themselves the Shalka have taken up residence beneath Lannet in preparation for a wider invasion. Despite his initial reluctance to get involved, the Doctor finds himself having to save the world again, aided by Alison and an old enemy who has become an ally.
The Shalka appear to be a serpentine alien race made of living rock and magma, but they are actually bioplasmic entities, living plasma, their physical appearance merely a "crust" concealing their true forms. They breathe volcanic air and prefer high temperatures, being most comfortable underground where lava meets metamorphic rock. They communicate through high-pitched screaming, which they can use for a variety of effects, like tunneling through rock or mentally controlling other life forms. They also use sound as a part of their technology.
The Shalka arrived on Earth via meteorite, initially landing near Mount Ruapehu, New Zealand, subsequently establishing a beachhead for their planned invasion of Earth beneath the Lancashire town of Lannet. They also created a stable wormhole for landing their invasion force, which could also be converted into a black hole to dispose of their enemies, as they tried to do with the Doctor.
As they claimed to have done to billions of planets before, they
intended to implant Shalka larvae into key segments of the population,
mind controlling them into emitting a scream that would destroy the ozone layer.
In this way, the Shalka intended to raise the surface temperature of
the planet to the point where the human race would perish but the
Shalka could thrive. The Shalka would then live beneath the surface,
with the rest of the universe believing that Earth's inhabitants had
died of self-inflicted ecological damage. The Doctor defeated their
plans with the help of the British military and a Lannet barmaid named Alison.
Doctor Who had suspended production in 1989, and aside from charity specials, had only resurfaced as an American-funded television movie in 1996, which did not garner enough ratings to go to a regular series. When Shalka was announced in July, 2003 for planned broadcast in November, the possibiliy of Doctor Who returning to television screens still seemed remote and BBC Worldwide were continuing to shop around for another possible movie deal. As a result, BBCi announced, with BBC approval, that the Doctor appearing in Shalka would be the "official" Ninth Doctor. However, events rapidly overtook this.
In September Lorraine Heggessey, the Controller of BBC One, managed to persuade BBC Worldwide that as their plans for a Doctor Who film were nowhere near fruition, BBC television should be allowed to make a new series. A deal with Russell T. Davies to produce the new series was quickly struck, and on September 26, the BBC announced that Doctor Who would be returning to BBC One in 2005, produced by BBC Wales. As a result, the "official" nature of the Shalka webcast was in doubt from even before it was webcast.
After the webcast, in February 2004, plans for sequels or a DVD release were indefinitely shelved. For a period, it was unclear if the new television Doctor would be the Ninth or Tenth Doctor, but this was ultimately settled in April 2004 when in an interview with Doctor Who Magazine, Davies announced that the new television Doctor (played by Christopher Eccleston), would be the Ninth Doctor, relegating the Richard E. Grant Doctor to unofficial status. Davies later commented that Grant had never been considered for the role in the television series, telling Doctor Who Magazine: "I thought he was terrible. I thought he took the money and ran, to be honest. It was a lazy performance. He was never on our list to play the Doctor."
The novelisation of Shalka was written by Paul Cornell, the first novelisation of a Doctor Who serial (the 1996 television movie notwithstanding) in nearly a decade (and the last so far, although novelisations based upon episodes of the spinoff The Sarah Jane Adventures were announced in 2007). The book also includes a feature on the making of the webcast, as well as the original Servants of the Shalahoa story outline. Given that the BBC and the producers of the televised Doctor Who have discounted Scream of the Shalka as being part of the franchise's continuity, this is one of the few Doctor Who novels for which the canonicity (or in this case, lack thereof) has firmly been established.
The British Board of Film Classification has cleared all six episodes of the serial for release on DVD, but the BBC has made no announcement about release of the story. As of March 2007, only clips from the serial have been released to DVD, as part of Flash Frames, a documentary on the DVD release of the restored The Invasion.
Scream of the Shalka webcast
Scream of the Shalka novelisation