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Recap / Doctor Who S17 E6 "Shada"

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The Doctor: When I was on the river, I heard a strange babble of inhuman voices. Didn't you, Romana?
Romana: Yes.
Professor Chronotis: Oh, undergraduates talking to each other, I expect. I've tried to have it banned.
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The one screwed over by shenanigans.

Intended to air at the start of 1980note , filming on "Shada" ("SHAH-duh") was never completed due to a union strike at the BBC in 1979 interrupting the studio shoots after all the location filming was completed. While the show has had a number of stories that were scrapped earlier in development, this is the first — and, to date, only — example of a story that had to be abandoned midway through filming. But Douglas Adams scripts aren't so common that they can be discarded so easily, and eventually five official versions saw the light of day.

The first was the incomplete filmed version. Clips from this episode were initially re-used in "The Five Doctors", which saw the Doctor and Romana time-scooped out of the "Shada" plot altogether. In 1992, a full episode was finally cobbled together out of the existing bits, with linking narration provided by Tom Baker — appearing as a curator (ho ho) in a museum full of old Doctor Who things, and telling the story in first person.

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A Big Finish-produced audio (also available for free with some web-animation) was recorded from the full script in 2003. It stars the Eighth Doctor Paul McGann as the story's Doctor, and Romana during her time as President of Gallifrey, as per Big Finish Doctor Who canon. In this version of events, the two decide to investigate what should have happened when they were time-scooped out of their previous attempt to have this adventure.

A 2012 novelisation was written by Gareth Roberts, based on the final versions of the scripts.

Finally in 2017, it was announced that the BBC had commissioned the serial to be completed using animation to create the scenes that were left unfilmed (as well as new live-action model shots), and it would be released on home video for the holiday season. It was finally broadcast on television in December 2019 — nearly 40 years overdue — as part of a marathon for the revival series in the leadup to the 2020 New Year's special. For all intents and purposes, this version is considered the definitive take on the unfinished serial...

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...Or at least, it was until 2021, when the BBC announced that yet another new version would be released in December as part of the Season 17 Collection Blu-ray boxset. This version will use the same dialogue recordings as the 2017 version, but featuring new enhanced animation. The 2021 version will also be divided into six episodes as orignally intended, whereas the 2017 version was only available in omnibus form.

Dougles Adams ended up recycling entire chunks of the plot, as well as the character of Professor Chronotis, into Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency.


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One day, the Doctor gets an invitation from Professor Chronotis, a retired Time Lord posing as an eccentric old Cambridge don. He and Romana drop by St. Cedd's College, Cambridge, in 1979.

Chronotis is extremely old, even for a Time Lord, which makes his memory spotty and unreliable... but after some gentle prompting, he eventually remembers that he'd wanted the Doctor to take a certain book back to Gallifrey. No ordinary book, this, but an ancient relic from the days of Rassilon, the founder of Time Lord society, and possibly (read: almost certainly) full of uncertain and dangerous powers. The three Time Lords begin to search Chronotis' flat for it.

Unfortunately, Chronotis has already forgotten that he'd just that morning lent it out to physics student Chris Parsons — who's taken his new toy over to the lab to examine it, with baffled fascination, and even asked his girlfriend Clare to come have a look.

Even more unfortunately, someone else is after the book, too: a guy named Skagra, and with a name like that he's got to be evil. Skagra's putting the finishing touches on a brain-in-a-jar — actually, a collection of great minds, whom he'd lured into working with him under false pretenses and then mind-napped — and just needs one more mind. Specifically, he wants the mind of legendary Time Lord criminal Salyavin, who was said to have the power to project his own mind into other minds; with this power in Skagra's brain jar, he'd be able to control the rest of the universe. Salyavin is imprisoned on the prison planet of Shada, whose location has been lost for centuries, but Skagra is convinced that the directions are in Chronotis' book.

By the time Chronotis remembers Chris Parsons' name (going through the alphabet until he reaches "Y"... "Young Parsons!"), Skagra has parked his spaceship outside town and gotten a lift to St Cedd's. The Doctor's just left, though — he's borrowed a bike and gone off to fetch Chris from the physics lab, little realizing that the guy he nearly crashed into on the way was Chris himself, on his way to see Chronotis to ask about the book.

The Doctor does meet Clare at the lab; with her in tow, and in possession of the book, they return to Chronotis' flat — to find the old professor dead, killed by Skagra while Romana was in the TARDIS looking for milk for the tea. With the help of some Time Lord technology, Chronotis manages to convey a final message: watch out for Shada.

Shada turns out to be a prison planet, and the gang soon all find themselves there. The Doctor is (of course) captured by Skagra, fibs his way through an interrogation by pretending to be really dumb, and is promptly killed by a very annoyed Skagra. However, the Doctor knows enough about this sort of thing to relax his mind at the last moment, meaning Skagra only gets a copy of his memories and the Doctor continues to live. He convinces Skagra's ship that, since he's now dead, he's not a threat anymore and the ship can freely listen to him. The ship is a bit confused, but rolls with it.

Professor Chronotis, meanwhile, is Only Mostly Dead and uses Clare to track down the others (using his TARDIS, which turns out to be have been his living room all along). He also turns out to be Salyavin. Once the Doctor rejoins the plot (after taking a short unprotected trip directly through the vortex and MacGyvering one very silly mind-shielding helmet), he's able to mind-control Skagra's golems and prevent the Assimilation Plot. He and Romana decide to simply drop Chronotis/Salyavin off back home, since rumours of his great evil were probably for the most part just exaggerated nonsense. The Doctor wonders if people will say the same about him someday.


Tropes

  • Actually, I Am Him: The somewhat doddery old Professor Chronotis turns out to be the notorious Time Lord renegade Salyavin.
  • Accidental Misnaming: Chris introduces himself as "Chris Parsons, Bristol Grammar School". The Doctor appears to misparse this phrase, and refers to Chris as "Bristol" thereafter.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
    • The 2003 animated version sexes up Claire from a woman dressed in mainstream (and nowadays slightly silly) late-70s fashion into a late-70s British Punk, bondage gear and all. Chronotis is also much more handsome.
    • Zig-zagged with Skagra. He's a pretty good-looking guy in the original TV version, while the webcast version voiced by Andrew Sachs has him as a Lean and Mean, Evil Old Folks type. The novelisation goes the other way again and has him as downright Evil Is Sexy.
  • Adaptational Heroism: From the TV version to the 2003 webcast, Salyavin moves from a reformed villain to someone who was never actually a villain at all, but just misunderstood.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: Chris allows the Doctor to wire his brain up to a man left braindead by a particularly brutal Mind Rape. The Doctor hooks him up to the machine, realises that Chris is finding it excruciatingly painful, and kisses him on the forehead out of pity. Then he kisses the Mind Rape victim on his forehead, "for luck".
  • The Alleged Car: It turns out the Professor Chronotis' TARDIS was a museum piece when the Doctor's TARDIS was new. The main thing keeping that one from breaking down all the time is the fact that it's been two hundred years since the last time he felt the need to go anywhen. It requires a great deal of maintenance once he actually needs to use it as something other than living quarters.
  • Alphabetical Theme Naming: Names of major heroic characters and places introduced in the story begin with the letter "C" - Chris, Claire/Clare, Chronotis, Cedd's College. Names of major villanous characters and places begin with the letter "S" - Skagra, Shada, Salyavin, Sujatric and Rundgar, Scintilla, the Ship.
  • The Alcatraz:
    • Shada. Since the only way to get to it is by using the Book, breakouts from the outside are virtually impossible, and since all prisoners are put into stasis the moment they enter their cells, breakouts from the inside are also impossible. The only person to ever escape was Salyavin, who did it by avoiding getting locked into a stasis cell in the first place.
    • Skagra's brig is a smaller example. It's a small room with no exits. The only way in or out is by teleporter. In the end, Skagra ends up locked up in it himself.
  • Aside Glance: The Doctor pulls one at the end of the 2017 version; after discussing with Romana how he one day wants to be seen by others as a "nice old man" akin to Professor Chronotis, he turns to the camera and grins - as he's now being portrayed by Tom Baker aged in his eighties!
  • Assimilation Plot: Skagra wants to create the Universal Mind. "The Universe, Doctor, as you so crudely put it, will not be mine, the Universe will be me!"
  • Asteroids Monster: K9 blasts Skagra's sphere to pieces, which reassemble themselves into a group of spheres.
  • Author Appeal: Douglas Adams set the story in his own Cambridge University.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Professor Chronotis is repeatedly described by the other characters as "such a nice old man" — and he is, with a bit of old-man irascibility to balance it out. In reality, he's a Time Lord outlaw possessing the unique psychic ability to forcibly rewrite other people's personalities with his own, and likely also a Charm Person. In the final moments of the story, the Doctor wonders to Romana that maybe someday people will look at him and describe him as "such a nice old man".
  • Brain in a Jar: Skagra uses his sphere to drain people's minds.
  • Break the Haughty: Skagra. We first assume he is an Evil Genius and a totally logical, emotionless overlord, but we begin to realise he's actually an awkward nerd, alienated by his incredible intelligence and socially tone-deaf as a result, who is in love with an image of himself as a logical, emotionless overlord. His breakdown is caused by the Doctor, who enjoys being intentionally annoying, managing finally to get under his skin enough that he begins to act like the tantruming Manchild that he is.
  • Captain Obvious:
    Romana: (To the unconscious Professor Chronotis) Professor!
    K9: No response, Mistress.
  • Character Aged with the Actor: Parodied in the 2017 version, which ends with a sight gag of the Doctor suddenly being played by the elder Tom Baker as a riff on his closing question on whether he will be remembered as a kindly old man like Professor Chronotis— formerly the Time Lord criminal Salyavin— had been in the story.
  • Continuity Announcement: The 2017 version has a period-accurate one at the beginning of the serial, complete with the announcer apologising for broadcasting the story later than planned.
  • Continuity Snarl: So... which version of "Shada" really happened? Did Romana and the Fourth Doctor meet Chronotis, or did the events of "The Five Doctors" distract them and it wasn't until four lives later the Doctor remembered to go back? We'll probably just have to blame the Time War...
    • This is somewhat mitigated by the Recut of "The Five Doctors", in which the Time Scoop drops off the Fourth Doctor and Romana exactly where it picked them up, allowing them to continue the story as though nothing had happened.
  • Creator Provincialism: Douglas Adams set the story in his native Cambridge.
  • Distaff Counterpart: The novelisation has Romana make a throwaway line suggesting she'd encountered the female equivalent of the Meddling Monk (another Time Lord Renegade) — "the Interfering Nun".
  • Double Entendre: The first reconstruction opens up with Tom Baker Adam Westing enormously while going through a bunch of props and informing them that he beat them. Then he says "I was irresistible in those days... irresistible" (referencing his notorious real-life womanising and debauchery with his "time-travellers").
  • Double Take: The script called for the Doctor to enter Chris Parson's room and instead see a woman he hadn't expected to find in there. Tom Baker had added in a gag where he would burst the room in a grand way, see the woman, leave, and then a beat later burst into the room in the exact same way as before as if the first time hadn't happened. Sadly the serial wasn't finished, but the book adaptation made a point of preserving this gag.
  • End of an Era: Though never broadcast until 2019, this story marked the end of the following features of the show from a production standpoint:
    • The 1967 arrangement of the theme by Delia Derbyshire.
    • The tunnel opening sequence by Bernard Lodge and the diamond series logo introduced in "The Time Warrior".
    • Graham Williams' tenure as producer; the rest of the show's original run would be produced by John Nathan-Turner.
    • Douglas Adams' tenure as script editor.
    • Dudley Simpson's tenure as incidental music composer (though he didn't have time to compose any music before production was halted— late 80's incidental music composers Keff McCulloch and Mark Ayres ended up scoring the 1992 and 2017 reconstructions, respectively— it's highly likely Simpson would've held this duty had the serial been finished on-time).
    • David Brierley as the voice of K9; John Leeson would reprise the role the following season onwards (despite having been dead for nine years, Brierley appears as K9 in the 2017 version courtesy of archival audio).
    • The Fourth Doctor's multicolour scarf and brown frock coat; the following season would feature the Doctor (in Tom Baker's final season on the show) in a burgundy & purple scarf and a larger burgundy frock coat.
    • The TARDIS prop designed by Barry Newberry; the next nine years of the show's original run would utilize a new, fibreglass prop designed by Tom Yardley-Jones.
    • The use of six-part stories; all future serials would span four parts at most (though Season 22's use of 45-minute episodes meant that the three-part "The Two Doctors" occupied the same total runtime as a six-part story from the first 17 seasons; syndicated versions in other countries even edited it into six 25-minute episodes).
  • Everybody Lives: In the novelization, the Doctor rescues the Think Tank minds and the Victim of the Week out of Skagra's sphere and has new bodies cloned for them.
  • Everyone Knows Morse: Although in this case, Romana is able to hear Chronotis's heart beating in Gallifreyan Morse.
  • Evil Is Hammy: The Doctor teases Skagra about his emotionlessness being an affectation, because there is no way he would be fighting someone who didn't have a "manic gleam" in the eye and keep announcing things like "The universe belongs to me!!" Skagra pretends to be above that sort of thing, but still heads headfirst into Villainous Breakdown between his plan failing and the Doctor intentionally annoying him, eventually being reduced to having a manic gleam in the eye and shouting things like "The universe belongs to me!"
  • Expy: Professor Chronotis is something of an Expy of the retired Fourth Doctor Douglas Adams originally wanted to write this serial about. Later, another expy of the Fourth Doctor (Dirk Gently) and an expy of Chris (Richard) showed up in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, starring alongside a Transplanted Professor Chronotis. The character of the Curator in "Day of the Doctor" owes rather a lot to Chronotis as well.
  • Fake Shemp: The 2017 reconstruction ends with an epilogue featuring the elderly Fourth Doctor working under the TARDIS console, played by stand-in Tim Bentinck while Lalla Ward delivers her lines off-camera. It ends with the real Tom Baker emerges from under the console.
  • Fashion Dissonance: Skagra's outfit - a belted white tunic, a sparkly fedora, a glittery silver cape, a v-neck and shiny white high-waisted trousers tucked into silver platform boots - shrieks disco. In particular, it appears to be a pastiche of the outfit worn by the disco star Sir Monti Rock III (of Disco Tek and the Sex-Olettes "fame"). It is supposed to look ridiculous in-universe, and it might have been intended as a case of Skagra trying to pick an outfit that would blend in on Earth 1979 and getting it hilariously wrong, especially since he coordinates it with a carpet bag...but the story makes a point of having him dress like that when he's in space, too.
  • Foreshadowing: In Episode Two, the Doctor mentions that Salyavin must have been a contemporary of Professor Chronotis. In Episode Five, it is revealed that Chronotis is Salyavin.
  • Gave Up Too Soon: Chris, at one point, discusses how he was intending to deliver a speech that night about how alien life cannot possibly exist. He laments that he’ll have to postpone it for rewrites.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The Doctor convinces a spaceship AI to do whatever he says using a long chain of intentionally faulty logic to convince her that he is dead and therefore is an ex-enemy of the ship's master so it doesn't matter if the ship tells him anything. She agrees to this but decides that since he's dead, this means she can switch the oxygen off. He certainly would have died if Chris hadn't intervened.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Skagra has a scar on his otherwise emotionlessly handsome face. The novelisation features Chris remarking in his internal monologue that it's unusual to see someone with a scar that looks that sexy. Its origin is never explained, but considering its appearance and Skagra's background and personality it's likely a Dueling Scar of the semi-self-inflicted variety.
  • Grand Theft Me: Skagra's goal is to join people's minds together into a Universal Mind.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Paul McGann vs Andrew Sachs, in the Big Finish audio version. It's rather magnificent.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Salyavin, aka Professor Chronotis.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Cambridge has so many old professors who had been around for as long as anyone could remember because of tenure that nobody noticed that Chronotis had been in their number for 300 years.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: In the novelization, Salyavin wasn't really a criminal. The Time Lords were so afraid of what he might do with his powers that they locked him up (or at least, tried to lock him up) preemptively and then spread propaganda about how dangerous he was to retroactively justify their actions. In time, people assumed that the fictional stories made up by the government were the truth. The 2017 version just has claims that the severity of Salyavin's crimes were exaggerated, but since the primary source of that explanation in both cases was Salyavin himself, and since the story of Salyavin was old when the Doctor was young, it's hard to determine how accurate it was.
  • Hotter and Sexier: For some reason, the 2003 animated version's Claire is a lot less conservatively and more punkishly costumed than the live-action version, with a pink fluffy sweater showing quite a bit of cleavage, a goth-influenced make-up job, and a studded leather dog collar. The animated Chronotis is also rather more well-preserved than the live-action one.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: In the animated version. Obviously this is required for the Eighth Doctor and Romana since they appeared in live-action TV, but it extends to the human and humanoid guest characters, who look much more like their voice actors than the actors in the live-action version.
    • Likewise an Enforced Trope for the 2017 reconstruction, as the entire point was to fill in the uncompleted scenes, and so the animated characters resemble their actors, or rather, how their actors looked back in 1979 when they did the original filming.
  • Insane Troll Logic: The Doctor convincing the ship's computer that he is dead "in a fabulous display of illogic logic" in order to get it to release Chris and K-9.
  • Instant Expert: Chronotis downloads all his knowledge of TARDIS engineering into Clare's head to get an extra set of skilled hands to help repair his ancient time machine, providing the first clue that he's really Salyavin. No mention is ever made of him taking that knowledge back out, which invites the question of what she'll do with that knowledge when the adventure is over.
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: Inverted. A Cambridge staffer reports to the police that Professor Chronotis' quarters have disappeared (because Chronotis' quarters were a TARDIS that had just vworped off after Skagra). By the time the police send someone to look into the report, Chronotis and his quarters have returned.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Chronotis. Justified in that between his handsome young appearance, seen briefly by the Doctor in a psychic vision, and the way he looks now, he not only aged about 900 years but regenerated.
  • Large Ham: The audio version features an incredibly Hammy turn from Andrew Sachs of Fawlty Towers fame as the hysterically camp Big Bad Skagra.
    "REMOVE all the contents of his MIND? Why not? Muah-ha-ha! Muah-HA-HA! AH-HAH-HA-HA-HAAAA!"
  • Letting Her Hair Down: Clare in the live-action TV version, after she accidentally takes Chronotis's TARDIS off.
  • Literal-Minded: Neither rhetorical questions nor expletives are a particularly good idea around K-9.
  • Logic Bomb: The Doctor gets attacked by Skagra while snooping around his ship. After the villain attacks the Doctor, the Doctor puts himself into a state of Faux Death thanks to his Bizarre Alien Biology so he can escape. During this, The Ship, who is extremely obsequious towards the villain, scans the Doctor and confirms him dead. When the Doctor gets up and starts walking around and talking to it, the Ship is extremely confused, since it can't understand why he is talking if he is dead, and suggests rescanning him. At this point, the Doctor takes advantage of the situation by convincing it that the Ship does not need to rescan him, as her master is infallible, and she is therefore infallible. Therefore, her reading was right, the Doctor is dead, and as he is dead he cannot order her to do anything that would cause any harm to her or to her master, so she should start obeying his commands. The Ship starts listening to him, but also turns off the oxygen as there are no live people on board, and finds the Doctor's request to turn it back on illogical.
  • Luck-Based Search Technique: Clare is searching Prof. Chronotis' study and discovers the controls to his TARDIS by leaning on a bookshelf.
  • MacGuffin: The book, The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey.
  • Meaningful Echo: In the novelization, everyone keeps thinking of and referring to Chronotis as a "nice old man". It's implied that he'd been using his mind control powers to get people to think of him like this as part of his cover.
  • Me's a Crowd: How the Doctor defeats Skagra. Because he had been mind drained earlier, there was a copy of the Doctor's mind in the hive mind that Skagra had created. The Doctor then used his cobbled-together helmet to link with the other copy of his mind to convince the hive mind to turn against Skagra.
  • Mind Rape: The first victims of Skagra's device. Most victims are simply killed, but the first six people were left alive and so nonfunctional by the experience that they are unable to talk or care for themselves. The Doctor is eventually able to communicate with Akrotiri, one of the victims, by connecting Chris's brain to his - and Akrotiri's brain is so wrecked that the experience is excruciatingly painful for Chris (defying this trope, the Doctor tells Chris that this might happen and gets his consent first).
  • My Nayme Is: For some reason, Clare is spelt without an "i" in the script book and credits of the 1992 video version. The webcast goes for the standard spelling.
  • Mythology Gag: In the closing scene, the Doctor ponders a future in which he retires and everyone assumes he's just a "nice old man". This is a reference to the original Douglas Adams story written for this serial slot - a story about the Doctor retiring from his travels, an idea that excited him but was killed by Executive Meddling.
  • Named by the Adaptation: David Taylor.
  • Nice Hat: Romana again, wearing a white hat with berries and flowers.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In the novel, believing Salyavin to have long escaped Shada, a despairing Skagra is about to give up on his plan to conquer the universe.... but then Chris rushes in, having worked out that Chronotis is Salyavin, and dramatically reveals it right in front of Skagra, allowing the villain to continue his scheme.
  • Noodle Incident: Salyavin allegedly used his mind control powers to commit terrible crimes, which was why he was locked up. But no adaptation ever explicitly states what those crimes actually were. The novelization uses this to claim that this was because they never actually happened - the Council was so afraid of what he might do that they locked him up pre-emptively and then invented tales of him being a criminal to justify their actions.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Salyavin does this to himself, where he locks away that part of his mind and pretends to be the harmless, slightly barmy Professor Chronotis.
  • Pardon My Klingon: The Doctor uses a Gallifreyan swear word (said in the footnote to be so unspeakably rude that its translation was deleted from the TARDIS's matrix) in the novelisation of "Shada", in reference to this. Of course, being a novelisation, we just see some handwritten squiggles (apparently Old High Gallifreyan writing), one of which looks a bit like the joined-up Venus and Mars symbol sometimes used to represent sex.
    • Also spoofed in the book version of Shada with "The V of Rassilon", an ancient and incredibly rude Gallifreyan symbol, which is actually just the British V-sign.
  • Penal Colony: Shada itself.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The novelisation is something of an extreme example, incorporating information from what footage was completed, the known script, some Word of God, Tom Baker's copy of the script into which he had handwritten a bunch of extra jokes and stage directions for himself, two pages of notepaper with an entirely unknown scene handwritten by Douglas Adams, the Big Finish audio adaptation (which starred the Eighth Doctor) and even some borrowings from Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, in which a lot of ideas for "Shada" were reused - and that's before the copious changes Gareth Roberts made to update the story to feel more like a modern series story, expand on the characters, add Call Forwards and fanservice, and fix plot holes. Gareth Roberts wrote in the afterword about how he thought the weaknesses of "Shada" were not down to any weakness of Douglas Adams himself, but a result of the tight deadline the story was written in originally, evidenced by how well-done the groundwork was even where he had to fix things. For instance, the original has a part where Chris figures out The Reveal that Professor Chronotis is secretly the dangerous Time Lord criminal Salvayin, placed just as the Doctor has worked out that the villain needs Salvayin's unique Exposition Beam Psychic Power for the plot to work, and just as the villain thinks Salvayin is lost forever. It seems obvious that Chris is going to announce this to the Doctor and the villain, with the best intentions, at the worst possible time - but Chronotis instead just announces his secret identity to everyone for no reason. Roberts changes this so that Chris blows it (bursting in on an added funny scene where the villain is in the throes of a Villainous Breakdown over his plan's failure and the Doctor is giving his enemy a cuddle and reassurance), saying that this is certainly what Adams wanted to happen anyway, but probably was forced to keep an earlier draft of the scene due to time pressures. Roberts also gives Skagra a proper backstory, which was omitted from the show for time reasons, and deals more with the fallout of Chronotis actually being a legendary Outlaw in disguise.
  • Promoted to Love Interest:
    • In the novelization, the Doctor gets some fun sexual tension with a sentient spaceship. In the original her role is simply to be confused by him with a Logic Bomb, but in the book the experience (along with him also teaching her how to time travel in a way suggestively related to him teaching her how to orgasm) makes her curious about the world and eventually fall for the Doctor, who for his part is respectful but not very reciprocal of her feelings - though it's worth pointing out that when he attempts to guilt Skagra about trying to destroy the Ship, his retort (that 'a machine consciousness is worthless') is the This Means War! moment.
    • Chris and Clare also become love interests for each other, though this was an element that Douglas Adams had intended to put in the story, managed to get elements of in the first couple of episodes, but then got cut thanks to a combination of deadlines and Executive Meddling.
  • Protagonist-Centred Morality: In the end, the Doctor and Romana allow Salyavin, who they know and like, to go back to his retirement into obscurity at Cambridge instead of taking him to the cell he was supposed to be locked up in in Shada. But all the other prisoners that Skagra let out of their cells, who they have never spoken to, are locked back up the moment the Doctor finished restoring their minds, saying it's not up to them to argue with Gallifrey's courts.
  • Psychotic Smirk: Skagra's default expression.
  • Punny Name: The men in the Think-Tank have weirdly jokey names, e.g. RAF Akrotiri (the name of an airforce base in Cyprus), GV Centauri (a star), AST Thira (Ast-Thira refers to a flight route within Greece.)
  • Put Off Their Food: Early in the episode, Chronotis offers to make tea for Chris. Chris changes his mind upon learning he apparently uses lumps of milk.
  • Rapid Aging: Happens to the Doctor at the end of the 2017 version as a sight gag, with an elderly Tom Baker reprising his iconic role just for the hell of it (incidentally marking his first canon appearance as the Fourth Doctor in the main TV series since 1982).
  • Really 700 Years Old: Professor Chronotis has been around in Cambridge for as long as anyone can remember— because secretly he's a Time Lord. This being apparently one single regeneration— Time Lords age slowly— seeing as nobody cared to notice anything unusual. This also suggests that in Oxbridge colleges, everybody would be too polite to notice that a professor carried on for years (decades) without ageing— which is probably true. (Hey, it worked for the Twelfth Doctor)!
  • Retraux: Barring the animated segments, the 2017 reconstruction is made up to look and feel as close to an actual Season 17 Doctor Who episode as possible. The new model effects, Chroma Key effects, and live-action ending scene in the 2017 version were created using the exact same methods and technology that was used for the original 1979 footage, and Mark Ayres' incidental music for the 2017 version is done In the Style of... Dudley Simpson's scores for the show.
  • Sapient Ship: Skagra's Ship, which he has programmed to have a matronly voice and to view Skagra with awe and worship. The Doctor inadvertently uses a small Logic Bomb on it to get out of a scrape, and its attempts to reconcile the faulty logic with its observations lead to it questioning its entire worldview.
  • Saying Too Much: Chronotis blurts out his real identity in a sudden slip of the tongue at the exact point when the villain thinks Salyavin is gone forever, is patching things up with the Doctor and is just about to give up on his plan and go home— basically, the worst possible time. Since this is a case of the character having his brains splattered across the wall by the Idiot Ball (as he'd kept his identity a secret for over 700 years until then), the novelisation alters this to have the companion figure it out and announce it to the Doctor (and Skagra, who he is comforting after a Villainous Breakdown), thinking Salyavin is a danger to the Doctor and not realising that Salyavin being alive is crucial to the villain's plan, and plays it for excruciating Dramatic Irony.
  • Scatterbrained Senior: Chronotis. It's part of the reason he wanted to turn the book over to the Doctor, why he lost the book to Parsons, and why he had a hard time remembering who took it. After his death and accidental resurrection, his mind is much sharper.
  • Scenery Porn: The surviving footage shows some gorgeous location filming at Cambridge.
  • Self-Plagiarism: The episode one joke in which Professor Chronotis forgets that he has a mind like a sieve was taken from a story of Douglas Adams' that had been published in the February 27th, 1965 edition of Eagle and Boy's World, when he was just twelve years old.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Silicon-Based Life: The Kraags, probably.
    • In the 1992 BBC Video version, Tom Baker states that they're made of "crystallized coal."
  • Sissy Villain: One of the flaws Douglas Adams noted about his script was that he'd written Skagra in this way, which he admitted was lazy on his part and neither funny nor frightening, especially in comparison to the dynamic and interesting villains in his much preferred script "City of Death". He is Rescued from the Scrappy Heap in the Big Finish adaptation (in which he gets a ridiculously hammy performance from Andrew Sachs).
  • Spot of Tea: Professor Chronotis offers these to his visitors.
  • Temporary Love Interest: The novelisation has Skagra's ship Promoted to Love Interest for the Doctor. They have a bit of awkward, semi-accidental G-Rated Sex in which he talks her through achieving time travel which she massively enjoys and she falls in love with him soon after, but as she is an enormous invisible spaceship she is obviously unworkable as a companion, so she and the Doctor respectfully part so she can achieve independence (and punish Skagra).
  • Time-Travel Tense Trouble:
    Chronotis: I am, I was, I will be, Professor Chronotis. Oh dear... we Gallifreyans have never managed to come up with a satisfactory form of grammar to cover these situations.
  • Tuckerization: Douglas Adams named the characters of Chris Parsons and Clare Keightley after his friend Chris Keightley, president of the Cambridge Footlights.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Nobody in Cambridge pays any attention to Skagra's caped disco suit, or to the Doctor fleeing a flying metal sphere on a bicycle. The former is averted in the novel, where Skagra's outfit earns him some jeers and funny looks from the locals.
  • Villainous Breakdown: The Doctor intentionally annoys Skagra in the hope of causing this to happen. It works. The clincher is when Skagra ends up trapped inside his spaceship's prison by the Ship itself, which won't let him out until he accepts just how wonderful the Doctor is. Judging by Skagra's reaction, that may be a while...
  • Wacky Fratboy Hijinks: At the end of the story, a policeman comes by to investigate the report of Professor Chronotis' quarters disappearing, only to find that they had suddenly reappeared. He goes on to assume that this was some sort of student prank, like snatching policemen's helmets. Then he notices the police call box sitting in the corner of the Professor's living room and comes to the conclusion that this particular set of schoolboy shenanigans had taken it up a notch. After watching the call box suddenly vanish into thin air, the constable decides to take Chronotis, Clare and Chris to the station for questioning.
  • Weirdness Censor: Professor Chronotis has been living in the same set of rooms at Cambridge (actually his TARDIS, which is even more out of date than the Doctor's) for centuries. According to him everyone at the old Cambridge colleges are very discreet.
  • What Does This Button Do?: Clare's response to revealing Chronotis' control panel is to start pressing buttons.
  • What We Now Know to Be True:
    The Doctor: What? Do you understand Einstein?
    Parsons: Yes.
    The Doctor: What? And quantum theory?
    Parsons: Yes.
    The Doctor: What? And Planck?
    Parsons: Yes.
    The Doctor: What? And Newton?
    Parsons: Yes.
    The Doctor: What? And Schönberg?
    Parsons: Of course.
    The Doctor: You've got a lot to unlearn.

SHAAAAADAAAAAA!!
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