Monday, 11 March 2013

Book review: Shada

"Shada" was a 1970s Doctor Who story most famous for the fact that it never actually got filmed. Douglas Adams had completed a six-part story but a BBC strike meant only a handful of scenes were ever shot (one scene was eventually used when Tom Baker refused to take part in "The Five Doctors.") There were always rumours of its making a comeback in later series but that never seemed to happen. Adams' own creation The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy made him the most famous of the 1970s Doctor Who writers, which gave this "lost" story all the more of a legendary status. The original scripts were used for an audio version with the 8th Doctor a few years ago, but Gareth Roberts' novelisation means he can recast it with the 4th Doctor, 2nd Romana and K-9 as originally intended.

Roberts' version of Shada keeps the six-part structure the original serial would have had, complete with the big cliffhangers with quick resolutions, and is a fun story of a long-since-retired Time Lord masquerading as a Cambridge don in the knowledge that it's the sort of environment where everyone will be too polite to mention him living several centuries longer than he ought to. An intergalactic megalomaniac with a desire to turn everyone in the universe into versions of himself arrives, and the Doctor is needed to help stop him. The story takes in multiple alien races and an epic prison for rogue Time Lords, so maybe it's best that this is the version we've ended up with, as the original series' technical abilities would have probably struggled with the scale. Instead we get to imagine a look that matches the witty dialogue and clever story, including a fun little twist that I thought was handled quite well. I suspect I enjoyed Shada more as a novel than I would have as a TV serial.

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