|“||I'll write the other two [The Pirate Planet and City of Death] when I run out of things to do. But Shada will never see print. There's no point. It's just not up to much.||”|
— Douglas Adams
Shada is an unfinished and most definitely unreleased (unless you count the unofficial novelisation, the 1992 VHS release, the audio book release of the unofficial novelisation, the second unofficial novelisation, the 2003 webcast release, the 2003 audio release, the official novelisation, the audio book release of the official novelisation, the 2013 DVD release of the 1992 VHS release and the 2017 DVD and Blu-ray animated reconstruction release) Fourth Doctor story (unfortunate, seeing as it's the only canon story of Tom Baker's era) that was written by based Douglas Adams. Some filming took place but was left incomplete due to a fluffer's strike at the BBS.
Douglas Adams stole the plot for a book he wrote, then some Kiwi wrote an unofficial book about it that you can read for free on the NZDWFC (NuWho Zealots Done Waiting For Chibnall) website, and then Gareth Roberts wrote an official book because Douglas Adams is a lazy fuck who didn't want to wake up and write another version before he died and the BBC wanted all those sweet Krugerrands or seashells or whatever Kiwis use for money. You can also get the script with one of the UK video releases (or free and illegal online).
Animated Eighth Doctor Edit
Ian Levine got together whatever actors he could, and bad impersonators for the rest, to record audio for all the parts that were never shot. Then he got a bunch of fans to animate different scenes so he could stitch them together. They do all have a vague idea of what animation is, unlike many more official attempts at animated Doctor Who, but they all have wildly different styles, and some of them don't know how to do even basic perspective drawing. He then tried to sell this work to BBC Enterprises or to get permission to sell it himself, and they reminded him that they'd said no before he even started and he'd made an even more tangled mess of the rights than they expected and the animation was jarring and just generally fuck no. So the only way to see this one is to pirate it.
Don't worry though, because the BBC decided to troll Levine by making their own animated version and releasing it to DVD.
Several editions of the incomplete footage with linking material have been released over the years, plus the various written versions and two different audiobooks of the Gareth version and the webcast and a Big Finish audio that slightly expands the webcast and the Ian Levine version and the Tom Baker narration version and the official animated DVD version so on, all due to the interest in Douglas Adams' work instead of the show.
Part 1 Edit
First, a genius mad scientist named Skagra steals the minds of some genius not-quite-as-mad scientists. He has a fancy spaceship that's so fancy it's invisible, which saves money on CGI, which is good because they didn't have CGI yet. He also has lava monsters. And a floating ball that babbles. And he drezzes for the occasion, with a fabulous disco cape. So he goes to Cambridge to go cruising for uptight middle-aged gay men and use his floating ball to steal their minds, because that's the easiest way to learn how to drive.
Meanwhile, there's Chronotis, an old Time Lord in his 12th body who retired to an Earth university spend decades as a professor of whatever-the-fuck-he-wants. He lends some books to a young professor named Chris, but one of them is a weird book that he can't read and it blows up all his equipment when he tries to analyse it. He may be madly in love with another young professor named Clare, but only if it's the Gareth version, otherwise they're just friends.
The Fourth (or Eighth) Doctor and Sexy (or GMILF) Romana go to Cambridge to hang out with Chronotis. They get on a pole-boat and chill. Romana notices the Doctor's strong, powerful frame, but only if it's the Gareth version, because in the TV version there's no hanky-panky in the TARDIS, while in the webcast version he's more beautiful than powerful. And then they get timescooped to the Death Zone, the end, but only if it's the other TV version.
Then they actually meet up with Chronotis. They talk for no good reason about an ancient Time Lord renegade named Salyavin who had the power to project thoughts into other people's minds. I'm sure that won't be important later. Then Chronotis tells them he accidentally stole a book called The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey of Rassilon when he left Gallifrey and he needs the Doctor to return it before his library late fees add up. Romana knows all about the book because she's the President, but only if it's the webcast version, otherwise the three Time Lords have to pool their knowledge to work it out. Anyway, they can't find the book, because of course it's the one Chris has.
Part 2 Edit
Everyone meets up and splits up and gets back together in various combinations. Chris notices the Doctor's strong, powerful frame and daydreams about him for the first of many times even though he's straight and in love with Clare, but only if it's the Gareth version.
Skagra mind-balls Chronotis to steal his knowledge of the book, which kills him. Romana and K9 show up and manage to get some information out of Chronotis as he dies by doing something clever with Gallifreyan Morse code, but only if it's the TV or fanclub version, something fancier if it's one of the other versions, because Adams left notes saying he didn't like this bit.
Meanwhile, the Doctor has the book, so Skagra is looking for him. They Scooby-Doo it up for a bit until they find each other. The Doctor notices Skagra's full, sensual lips, but only if it's the Gareth version. Then the Doctor drops the book, and then he gets cornered and is about to get ball-mindraped.
Part 3 Edit
Romana saves the Doctor just in time. Then everyone except Clare reunites and goes to the field where the cloaked spaceship is parked and does that scene out of Star Trek IV, and they manage to get into Skagra's ship. Which, it turns out, was pretty stupid, because they have no plan and immediately get captured. While Chris and the Doctor both notice Skagra's full, sensual lips, but only if this is the Gareth version, Skagra prepares to teabag the Doctor to death with his one giant ball and put everyone else in a prison cell. Skagra then runs off in the TARDIS with Romana because she's a qt, leaving everyone else behind with his ship.
It turns out nobody's actually dead. Well, except the gay motorist from earlier and some other people, but nobody who has a name.
The Doctor survived the teabagging by acting really stupid so the ball only shallowly mindraped him instead of penetrating deep. He then convinces the ship's computer that he's not a threat because he's dead, and this works because it's a Douglas Adams story, and then he soups up the ship so it can chase down Skagra.
Meanwhile, Clare finds a panel in Chronotis's room and it explodes, so she investigates and finds some levers and pulls them, and it turns out the room is actually a TARDIS that Chronotis stole, and she's just taken it out of space and time, and this brings Chronotis back from the dead.
Part 4 Edit
So, it turns out that Skagra's whole deal has been trying to find Salyavin, who's locked up in the ancient prison planet of Shada, which the Time Lords used before they became enlightened and invented the death penalty. They hid Shada outside of time so it could only be found by deciphering an incomprehensible book by Larry Miles, and of course it's the book he stole from the Doctor that Chronotis stole from Gallifrey, and he's got stolen Time Lord brains to decipher it, so now he can find Shada.
The Doctor, Chris, and K9 go off on a wild goose chase and eventually get to Skagra's house. And they get surrounded by the lava monsters, because again they had no actual plan, but K9 is able to hold the monsters off long enough for the Doctor to get an infodump.
Part 5 Edit
Chronotis and Clare talk about Salyavin again in case you forgot, then he uses some power to project his thoughts into Clare's mind so she can help him and oh fuck, he's Salyavin, isn't he.
There's some more Scooby-Doo chase stuff, this time involving TARDISes, which is different depending on which version this is, but everyone ends up at Shada. And Skagra captures them all again, because yet again they had no actual plan.
Shada is full of all the greatest criminals in history, who are a different set of fanwanky continuity references depending on which version this is, plus some random thugs and aliens who Skagra releases for no good reason. Then he gives them his villain monologue: just as Salyavin has the power to project minds, he has the power to absorb minds, and if you put them both together, you get the power to merge the entire universe into one mind so everyone will live happily ever after with no more racism. Triumphantly, he pulls the lever to release Salyavin, and the cell is empty. Surprise! Well, it would be a surprise if we hadn't figured out that Chronotis is Salyavin.
So, Skagra is foiled and the universe is saved.
And then Chronotis volunteers that he's actually Salyavin, and the universe is doomed again.
Skagra sends his ball at Chronotis's head to absorb his mind so he can do the thing. Fortunately, K9 is here, and shooting lasers at balls is what he does best. Unfortunately, when you shoot Skagra's balls they just turn into more balls. So now he has enough to teabag Chris and those prisoners he released earlier, and now he can control them too. Plus he has the lava monsters.
Part 6 Edit
K9 sets phasers to stun and holds off the bad guys for a fraction of a second before a lava monster boots him across the room, and everyone runs away again, and then there's a TARDIS chase scene.
Since you can't land a TARDIS inside another TARDIS (even though they did that twice earlier in the story), the Doctor works out this plan where he'll park one TARDIS near the other one and walk through the Time Vortex while Romana and Clare each hold down a lever really hard to prevent him from going all Salamander. Clare doesn't hold her lever down far enough, but we're already on part 6, so no cliffhanger here, the Doctor just somehow wakes up inside his TARDIS's workshop.
The Doctor builds a helmet out of a spaghetti strainer and some blinking lights. Meanwhile, Skagra has stopped paying attention to Romana, so she's able to kill all his lava creatures. So now all Skagra has is Chris and the Criminals (which sounds like a bad retro-rockabilly band). And it turns out that because Skagra absorbed the stupid version of the Doctor, the Doctor can control them too. So they have a mental battle, but the Doctor's helmet gives him a +5 in the opposed check, so he wins.
Skagra flees back to his ship, but the ship computer has decided she likes the Doctor better than Skagra because he souped up her engines, if you know what I mean, so she takes Skagra prisoner.
The Doctor promises that he'll return the prisoners to Shada, return the book to Gallifrey, and summon the Time Lords to deal with Skagra. But he doesn't actually do any of that, instead he plays a cruel plank on the college porter (who's been nothing but friendly and helpful to him all story), drinks some tea, and fucks off. Or I think some of the versions just end with them drinking tea.
While I didn't get into it above, most of the story is actually driven by tea. Like the reason Chronotis gets killed is that he sends Romana off to get milk for tea.
Most of the jokes are also driven by tea. For example, the old "one lump or two? sugar?" joke gets used straight, then subverted, then used straight again.
Douglas Adams is really into tea. But then he's British, so what do you expect?