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Shakedown: Big battleships and new look Sontarans

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1995-06 SFX p38.jpg

  • Publication: SFX
  • Date: June 1995
  • Author:
  • Page: 38
  • Language: English


Everybody knows someone who looks like a Sontaran. You know-those potato-headed clone warriors from Doctor Who's heyday, the ones your *MP mate Fat Andy looks like. Except he doesn't any more - because the Sontarans have now been completely redesigned to star as the baddies in "Shakedown," a claustrophobic slice of science fiction action from the people who publish top fanzine Dreamwatch.

"Shakedown," which was released late last year, came about when the shoot for "Downtime" (see page 40) was rescheduled as a result of actress Deborah Watling's work commitments. Dreamwatch publisher Gary Leigh had booked Downtime to premiere at a convention he was organising for late '94, but it soon became obvious that the Reeltime effort wasn't going to be ready in time. The solution? Do it yourself.

Gary and a business partner put up the money and then set about assembling a crew. First on board was director Kevin Davies.

"I was offered "Shakedown" largely because of my work on 30 Years In The TARDIS," explains Davies, a professional animator who works mainly in adverts (he did the original National Lottery ads last year, for instance). He'd also previously directed the critically acclaimed Making Of The Hitchhiker's Guide video.

"Originally, 'Shakedown' was built around Elizabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who), but for various reasons that never came about, so it was almost cancelled. But I thought, 'If I can't have my favourite Doctor Who lady, I'll have my favourite Blake's 7 actress.' So in came Jan Chappell, Cally from Blake's 7, to play the Captain in 'Shakedown'."

Other cast members included Sophie Aldred (who plays a cowardly character very different from the designer streetwise Ace alongside Sylvester McCoy's Doctor) and Brian Croucher (Travis from Blake's 7). Carole Anne Ford (Doctor Who's very first companion, Susan) also came on board.

Terrance Dicks, the script editor on Doctor Who during the Pertwee era, provided the script. "Terrance gave us exactly what we wanted incredibly quickly - he wrote it in a fortnight, I think. If we'd had a bit more time I could have done some work on the script with him, and we could have dressed HMS Belfast a bit better."

HMS Belfast?

"Yes. That's where it was filmed. I chose HMS Belfast because I knew that Douglas Trumbull (with Silent Running) came up with the idea of using an aircraft carrier as the spaceship interior.

"Although there were TV professionals at the helm, practically all the assistants were fans or volunteers. It was an 11-day shoot over a two-week period on the Belfast, plus an extra day doing model filming at Pinewood.

"Because we had very little money, we couldn't afford two days in the studio, so we negotiated to use 24 hours non-stop for a fee of a day and a half.

"We bought the rights to the Sontarans from (writer) Robert Holmes, but we couldn't find anybody the BBC who'd actually take the responsibility to say whether we could or couldn't use the BBC look for the Sontarans, so we just got on and designed some new ones. Again, I bought in professionals to make the masks and helmets and things. I think they ended up looking very Babylon 5."

So how does he feel about the end product?

"It's exactly what we set out to do - a '70s-style Doctor Who romp. Some things work well, and some things are a bit rough. Considering all the constraints we were under - the time factor, which was ridiculous, and the very low budget (we're talking £30,000 when the bills came in, which is a quarter of what it should have cost) - I'm very pleased."

Currently, Davies is in discussion with Video distributor Lumiere about doing a documentary on the two '60s Doctor Who movies. "I'm also working with someone on the early stages of another Doctor Who spin-off," he adds. "But I can't say too much about that." More news, as they say, when we get it.

"Shakedown" is now available from specialist SF shops and costs £16.99.


Jan Chappell, best known as Cally in Blake's 7, was second choice for the role of the Captain in "Shakedown."

Four Sontarans? Blimey, that's one more alien than the BBC used to manage, on average, per Doctor Who story.

Filming took place on a redressed HMS Belfast, which suddenly sprouted airlock doors costing less than £100.

The Sontarans were revamped because nobody - not even the BBC - was sure who owned the rights to the old design.

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  • APA 6th ed.: (June 1995). Shakedown: Big battleships and new look Sontarans. SFX p. 38.
  • MLA 7th ed.: "Shakedown: Big battleships and new look Sontarans." SFX [add city] June 1995, 38. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: "Shakedown: Big battleships and new look Sontarans." SFX, edition, sec., June 1995
  • Turabian: "Shakedown: Big battleships and new look Sontarans." SFX, June 1995, section, 38 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Shakedown: Big battleships and new look Sontarans | url= | work=SFX | pages=38 | date=June 1995 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 February 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Shakedown: Big battleships and new look Sontarans | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 February 2024}}</ref>