Mike's Reviews > Doctor Who: Shada

Doctor Who by Gareth Roberts
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really liked it
Recommended for: Anyone

In the past (thank you WGBH) I had the chance to watch Dr. Who. By the time I learned of it, the programme was more than a decade old and Tom Baker was taking over the role of the Doctor. I remember thinking that the whole concept was brilliant and ludicrous in roughly equal parts. Given its small budget, the often cheesy effects were tempered by the imagination of the writers and the fun that obviously was designed in. Dr. Who was a Children’s program yes, but one that did not pamper the audience nor treat them as infants.

Fast-forward a long, long time (let’s put it this way; entire start systems have come & gone) and I have had the pleasure of seeing some of the revival episodes in DVD. With the evolution of CGI the effects are much better and the stories and acting remain quite good. Kudos to David Tenant for challenging Tom Baker as my all-time favourite Doctor.

I was just in the middle of “The Grotesque” when I saw this book beckoning me from a display stand. I knew that “Shada” had been in production when a BBC strike halted filming and snippets of it had been used in the later episode, “The Five Doctors”. Looking for something a little less somber to follow on after the uplifting prose of Mr. McGrath, I hesitated only a few milliseconds before taking it home.

“Shada” is a bit longer and more elaborate than many of the other Dr. Who novelisations. I realize that it was intended to be a 6-episode story, but the novelization is in many ways more “complete” than those of 6- or 8-parters written in the aforementioned youth of the universe. Even with the current length, it’s not a standalone story. If you know nothing about the Doctor, the era of “The Key of Time”, et cetera, then you will probably be disappointed. But only just a little. Mr. Roberts does a bang up job of filling in a lot of background in unobtrusive and easily digested ways.

As far as Doctor Who stories go, it’s pretty good. There’s the arch-villain, a genial old Cambridge professor, a pair of bright but clueless humans that get turned into Companions, Romanadvoratrelundar (aka “Romana”), and a couple of dark, dirty secrets from the Time Lord’s past. The plot has a few decent twists and turns, while the characters (as usual) are a bit overdrawn. The dialogue flow pretty well and even the megalomaniac is amusing (although how some of the nuances would have played out on screen is difficult to imagine.)

The author clearly worked to develop this into a decent book. The afterword details how he used a variety of the original scripts in order to bring the story to a more polished state. I had no idea that the original filmed version of “Shada” with additional narration by Tom Baker had been released on video. Someday it might be interesting to see how the two differ.

If you are not a fan of Dr, Who (in any incarnation) than I suspect you will consider this a mediocre effort (maybe a 3-star rating). On the other hand, those that have or do enjoy the series will admire the “missing” episode for adding to our lore. As I wrote earlier, this is a better-than-average novelisation and it was as fun as I remember the programme to be: 4 stars.

PS: The British spellings are deliberate. Just a touch of homage.

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Reading Progress

September 19, 2012 – Started Reading
September 21, 2012 – Finished Reading
September 22, 2012 – Shelved

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