Lost Doctor Who episode rescued by Sunderland Time Lord

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A pivotal Doctor Who episode lost for decades has been rescued from the sands of time by a fan from Sunderland.

As lovers of the series prepare for the lead character's historic regeneration into the show's first female Doctor, an earlier version of the Time Lord will appear on screens next week - thanks to a man from Sunderland.

Rob Ritchie

Rob Ritchie

Freelance animator Rob Ritchie, from Doxford Park, has given Doctor Who fans an early Christmas present as next week sees the release of lost 1979 episode Shada, a piece of television it was thought would never be seen.

The Sunderland University graduate used his creative skills to complete the episode - working with Doctor Tom Baker, who returned to the role to finally finish the project he started all those years ago.

“Tom recorded new lines for this and I had the chance to meet him on one of his recording days,” said Rob. “It was an absolute delight."

Baker, who played the fourth Doctor, even dressed in his iconic scarf and stepped inside his Tardis for the final scenes of Shada.

Tom Baker

Tom Baker

The actor said: “Shada was one of my favourite Doctor Who stories. I have many fond memories of shooting the location scenes in Cambridge, and it was disappointing not to finish the story in studio.

"I’m so glad that BBC Worldwide have found a way to bring fans a complete visual version.”

Shada was meant to be broadcast on the BBC from 1979-80, and more than half of the final show was recorded.

However, a strike by technical staff at the BBC meant that the majority of the studio shoot didn’t go ahead, and the serial was abandoned.

“Whereas there are a lot episodes that are still missing, Shada is significant as it is the only Doctor Who story that was never completed,” said Rob.

“This story was never finished, due to industrial action at the BBC the cast and crew were not allowed back into the studio one day and this carried on until the production had to be abandoned.”

The serial was written by Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy creator Douglas Adams, and was considered by many fans to be a lost classic.

Many attempts were made over the intervening decades to rescue the show, but it wasn’t until earlier this year that Shada was finally brought back to life.

Up until recently it was considered too expensive to recreate an entire serial in animated form, but Rob's pioneering work changed that.

Last year saw his hard work and dedication bring lost classic The Power of the Daleks back.

The episode is significant because it was the first appearance of second Doctor Patrick Troughton – and (in the twisted timeline of the show) follows on directly from this year’s Christmas special, which tells the story of the first Doctor meeting the most recent incarnation, twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi.

Rob’s involvement in the project was originally sparked by his studies at the University of Sunderland.

As part of his Media Production degree he studied The Science Fiction & Fantasy TV module. The module has been running for nine years, and covers science fiction, horror and fantasy from the 1930s up to the present day.

Doctor Who: Shada is available on DVD from Monday December 4, and digital download via the BBC Store.

Parker Trust

The Parker Trust Sunderland allowed the access to a replica police box used in the picture above.

The first ever police box was made in Sunderland and installed at the corner of Kayll Road, the replica was originally created by Learning Curve at Pallion for a West Area Committee heritage event.

Based in Pallion in Sunderland, the Parker Trust charity provides resources advice, assistance and access to programmes of physical, educational and social activities for young people up to the age of 25.

Its mission is to help young people to develop their skills, advance in education and relieve unemployment - ultimately enabling them to be independent, mature and responsible individuals with an active role in society.