Sunday, October 19, 2008

Doctor Who "Scream of the Shalka"

"Don't hand me a gun. I'm helping under duress."

In 2003, in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of its long-running live-action science-fiction show Doctor Who, the BBC commisioned an animated story, Scream of the Shalka, to be distributed as a webcast. That story featuring Richard E. Grant (see here) as the Doctor, Derek Jacobi as his nemesis, The Master, and future Oscar nominee Sophie Okonedo as his assistant Alison is available in full at the BBC's website and you can watch episodes one and two (of six) at YouTube, see the clips below.

This wittily written and beautifully drawn animation shows the promise of such a medium for science fiction. With the cost of animation being an amount per animated frame, the special effects possible are limited only by the writer's imagination, not by the price of real-world set design. But after commissioning this new story and the animation of two previously written but unproduced shows the BBC eventually opted to reinstate the live-action series.

Grant's performance here is brilliant. His delivery is perfect for the benevolent but put-upon explorer. He is always willing to help, but doesn't want to be reminded that the Time Lords are controlling his destination according to their needs for hero-on-the-spot. In many ways, the Doctor is an ultra-hero, having saved every single planet in the universe "a minimum of 27 times" this traveller in time and space has been everywhere and done everything in his nine centuries, and usually manaved to accomplish his ends without resorting to guns or superpowers.

Grant had long been rumored as a possible cast to portray the Doctor. And he did so as well in the charity spoof, The Curse of Fatal Death, also available on YouTube. The BBC ended up casting Christopher Eccleston and then David Tennant to play him instead. But the live action series is thriving, and once Tennant concludes his run, we can only hope that Grant will reprise the role.

Scream of the Shalka (1.1)

"Everybody's scared, and nobody's doin' anyfin' about it" (1.2)