TOM Baker is returning to the screen as Dr Who with the creative help of a North-East animator.

As the show prepares for his latest, and most controversial regeneration, into the show’s first female doctor, fans can see an earlier version of the Time Lord from next Monday.

Rob Ritchie, from Doxford Park in Sunderland, has given viewers an early Christmas present as next week sees the release of the ‘lost’ 1979 episode, Shada.

It was meant to be broadcast on the BBC from 1979-80, and more than half of the final show was recorded in and around Cambridge, with fourth doctor, Tom Baker.

But a strike by technical staff meant that the majority of the studio shoot did not go ahead, and the serial was abandoned.

It 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 was not until earlier this year that Shada was finally brought back to life.

Mr Ritchie, a University of Sunderland graduate, said: “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.

“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.”

Mr Ritchie’s involvement was sparked his by Media Production degree, in which he studied the Science Fiction and Fantasy TV module.

Up until recently it was considered too expensive to recreate an entire serial in animated form, but the pioneering work of the freelance animator changed that.

Last year, Mr Ritchie brought another lost classic, The Power of the Daleks back, which was significant because it was the first appearance of second doctor, Patrick Troughton.

He added: “Tom recorded new lines for this I had the chance to meet him on one of his recording days.

“It was an absolute delight. Even at the age of 83 he’s still able to walk in and own the room, always entertaining from start to finish and still able to perform the character of the Doctor perfectly.”

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

Tom Baker said: “Shada was one of my favourite Doctor Who stories.

“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.”