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Monster Spin-Off As Doctor's Fans Shake It In Space

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1994-10-30 Observer.jpg


LIKE a production of Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark, Doctor Who is back - minus the Time Lord. Five years after the BBC axed it, fans of the series - including professional filmmakers and actors - have made a film that is as near as dammit Doctor Who.

Shakedown, a 60-minute whodunnit-in-space, will be released on video through fanzines next month and on sale in the shops in December. BBC copyright required the name-change and exclusion of the Tardis. Yet many ingredients, including the monsters, are still kosher Doctor Who.

The story is by Terrance Dicks, a script editor and writer from the Jon Pertwee era of the Doctor. Many of the technical staff, including composer Mark Ayres and special-effects veteran Ian Scoones, have done time with the series. And, with a large amateur input, it retains the rough-and-ready charm of the real thing.

The cast includes Carole Ann Ford and Sophie Aldred - the Doctor's first and last companions - and Michael Wisher, who played the Dalek leader, Davros.

But it is in the monsters, the Sontarans, that Shake Down really has a coup. This is the first time a Doctor Who spin-off - and there have been several - has obtained the rights to use a creature from the original series.

The story begins as a space-age adventure holiday, during which a group of yuppies' galactic tour aboard a 'solar yacht' is interrupted by hostile Sontarans - many played by fans - boarding the ship ...

Shakedown was completed in a fortnight during the summer. The interior of the space craft was filmed aboard HMS Belfast on the Thames, with post-production at Pinewood in a studio borrowed from Cliff Culley, yet another old Doctor Who hand.

'We got people involved for next to nothing because they believed, like we did, that a good concept was being wasted and, if the BBC didn't pull their fingers out, then we should,' says executive producer Gary Leigh.

Mr Leigh, who also publishes the Doctor Who fanzine, Dream Watch, reckons he is on to a money-spinner. The video was premiered at a London convention this weekend, with copies at pounds 16.99. 'Because of all the goodwill, we've managed to pull it in for pounds 25,000, and we reckon we've got a film worth 10 times that amount,' he says.

Doctor Who is lucrative business. A video called Tomb of the Cybermen outsold all BBC videos in 1992, and total sales of Doctor Who videos breached the million mark last year. One BBC estimate puts earnings over the last decade at pounds 10 million.

Fans have never forgiven Jonathan Powell, then controller of BBC1, for axing the series that ran for 750 episodes and at one time commanded a global audience of 100 million. But BBC Worldwide, which handles Doctor Who marketing, says that a deal for a series with Steven Spielberg's Amblin Television is imminent.

Mr Leigh is sceptical. 'I think there will be a new series, but whether it is anything we're used to is another matter. If they do muck it up, we'll continue doing it to the quality we want.'

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  • APA 6th ed.: Murphy, Dominic (1994-10-30). Monster Spin-Off As Doctor's Fans Shake It In Space. The Observer p. 9.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Murphy, Dominic. "Monster Spin-Off As Doctor's Fans Shake It In Space." The Observer [add city] 1994-10-30, 9. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Murphy, Dominic. "Monster Spin-Off As Doctor's Fans Shake It In Space." The Observer, edition, sec., 1994-10-30
  • Turabian: Murphy, Dominic. "Monster Spin-Off As Doctor's Fans Shake It In Space." The Observer, 1994-10-30, section, 9 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Monster Spin-Off As Doctor's Fans Shake It In Space | url= | work=The Observer | pages=9 | date=1994-10-30 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=5 February 2023 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Monster Spin-Off As Doctor's Fans Shake It In Space | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=5 February 2023}}</ref>