If you’re scratching your heads over this one, thinking, “I’ve never heard of any Doctor Who episode called ‘Scream of the Shalka’,” you’re not crazy. It’s not a well-known episode, and it’s actually not canon–at least, not anymore (although I’m not sure if it ever was considered canon). “Scream of the Shalka” was an animated serial that ran on the BBC’s Doctor Who website in 2003. Yes, 2003, two years before the modern revival, two years before anyone even knew Doctor Who would be returning to television. Consequently, the Ninth Doctor in “Shalka” bears zero resemblance to the one we saw in “Rose”. Instead, we got this guy, voiced by Richard E. Grant, who would later go on to play Dr. Simeon/the Great Intelligence in “The Snowmen” and “The Name of the Doctor”.
Alternate Nine doesn’t need no leather jacket.
Frankly, I liked this version of the Doctor more than I expected because he had a definitive classic vibe that the modern series hasn’t really emulated. Oh, and I loved how Derek Jacobi was voicing the Master–nice little foreshadowing of how he would later play the Master in “Utopia”. Plus, I really loved his version of the Master in “Utopia” and was sad that we only got to see him for one episode. I should note, however, that in “Shalka” he was technically an android version of the Master because…actually, I was a bit fuzzy on why the Doctor was traveling around the universe with an android Master.
The story itself was nothing overtly spectacular–the Time Lords send the Doctor to Lancanshire to stop an invasion that’s coming from the ground, and he teams up with a local barmaid named Alison (Sophie Okonedo, who would later play Elizabeth X in “The Beast Below”), who’s the only one who seems interested in fighting back–but it does get exciting towards the end. As the above artwork indicates, it looked a lot like a comic book in animated format, which was a bit weird at first, but after a while it didn’t really bother me.
What I liked most about it, though, was its thoroughly classic vibe. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy the modern series. I just thought this was an interesting look at how Doctor Who might have evolved if it hadn’t been for Russell T. Davies and Christopher Eccleston. The revival was Doctor Who updated for a twenty-first century audience whereas “Scream of the Shalka” was more like classic Who set in the twenty-first century. The modern feel was probably the best way to go in the end because an overly classic feel would likely have turned off new viewers, and chances are the show would have been canceled by now. However, I can’t help but feel just a little bit wistful that we almost had a modern series that kept all of the good bits from the classic one.