Doctor Who: Shada – Novel


Doctor Who: Shada

Written by Gareth Roberts

Published by BBC Books

When ‘And another thing…’, Eoin Colfer’s authorised sixth book in the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, was published, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Problem was, I couldn’t finish it. It wasn’t Douglas Adams, the attempts to mimic his style fell flat, and the story suffered as a result.

Fast forward a few years, and we have Shada, Gareth Roberts’ novel based on Douglas Adams’ aborted Doctor Who adventure from 1979. My anticipation was as keen as before, and my disappointment equally painful.

This is not to say Shada is a disaster. I did make it to the end, and for large chunks of the book I was amused and entertained. But for some of its length, particularly in the later chapters, I felt bored.

Shada was conceived as a six part serial. The problem with most of Who’s six parters is that at least two episodes are effectively filler between the main plot points. You can perhaps get away with that if Tom Baker is applying the filler with his inimitable trowel, but I’m afraid on the page it is as dull as cement.

Douglas Adams was reportedly never happy with Shada. When he came to write his first Dirk Gently novel, he took some of the key characters and ditched all the tedious jetting around in the space time vortex. He was never afraid to reframe and restate his creations to suit the various mediums he worked in.

It’s a shame Roberts hasn’t taken the same approach with this novel. By sticking so reverentially to the various scripts (shooting, rehearsal) available, he has failed to capture the essence of Shada, which was never conceived, let’s remember as a book. That’s not to say there aren’t pleasures within – Skagra’s sentient ship is a pure delight – but the novel would have improved with the loss of at least two dozen of its micro chapters.

I returned to Eoin Colfer’s novel after a year, away from the hype and anticipation, and enjoyed it for what it was. What it wasn’t, and never will be, was a new Douglas Adams novel. There can be no more of those.

Perhaps one day I will reread Shada and reevaulate it as a well written Doctor Who novel. As the Doctor himself might say, time will tell…

Gareth Roberts Signing Dr Who Shada

GARETH ROBERTS will be signing the Doctor Who novel, SHADA (BBC books) at the Forbidden Planet London Megastore on Wednesday 14th March from 6 ? 7pm.

Based on the scripts for the original television series by the legendary Douglas Adams, SHADA retells a Tom Baker era adventure of the Doctor that never made it to the screen in 1979, due to industrial action.

The Doctor’s old friend and fellow Time Lord Professor Chronotis has retired to Cambridge University – where nobody will notice if he lives for centuries. But now he needs help from the Doctor, Romana and K-9. When he left Gallifrey he took with him a few little souvenirs – most of them are harmless. But one of them is extremely dangerous.

Gareth Roberts has written a huge number of Doctor Who spin off titles and has also written scripts for the TV Series and The Sarah Jane Adventures.