shada book coverGareth Roberts (based on the scripts by Douglas Adams)

Ace Books

2012

The Doctor sagged, gasping for air. He’d given everything he had, and it had not been enough. After all these years, after so many battles facing down Daleks, Cybermen, even the Black Guardian, he was going to die on a Sunday afternoon. With a really stupid hat on.

The Doctor’s old friend and fellow Time Lord, Professor Chronotis, has retired to Cambridge University, where among the other doddering old professors nobody will notice if he lives for centuries. He took with him a few little souvenirs – harmless things really. But among them, carelessly, he took The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey. Even more carelessly, he has loaned this immensely powerful book to clueless graduate student Chris Parsons, who intends to use it to impress girls. The Worshipful and Ancient Law is among the most dangerous artifacts in the universe: it cannot be allowed to fall into the wrong hands. The hands of the sinister Time Lord Skagra are unquestionably the wrongest ones possible. Skagra is a sadist and an egomaniac bent on universal domination. Having mis-guessed the state of fashion on Earth, he also wears terrible platform shoes. He is on his way to Cambridge. He wants the book. And he wants the Doctor…

To many sci-fi geeks, the name Douglas Adams needs no introduction, qualifications, or justification. “Brilliant”, “genius” and various other adjectives have been used to describe the late author, all of which – as I slowly but surely work my way through his books and other media – are well deserved.

One of the afore-mentioned “other media” happens to be his work as writer and editor on another one of my geek obsessions, the television show Doctor Who. “The Pirate Planet” and “City Of Death” serials bear his name in the bi-line, and are considered highlights in the show’s classic run. But there was a third Doctor Who story that got lost in the rather convoluted shuffle that is television broadcast politics: “Shada”.

Without going too detailed in the background history of “Shada” (it is rather fascinating, and I would encourage you to research this further), it’s become something of a legend among Doctor Who fans over the decades. Even the eventual VHS release that had the filmed bits of the serial with bridging narration provided by Tom Baker didn’t satisfy the curious (or please Adams), but for twenty years since then it was the only glimpse at the overall idea Adams had for the story, albeit a rather corrupted one. Sure, many of the plot points and concepts found its way into Adam’s novel Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, but what of Shada?

Well, in 2012 came the publication of Shada, novelized by Gareth Roberts, based on the scripts and notes for the serial. And since this is a review of this novelization, and not in fact a poorly written Wikipedia article, I shall heretofore do my best to treat this blog post as such.

Incidentally, I got my copy of Shada from my usual supplier of my gross literary addiction, namely Half Price Books. Nifty place, that. And I must say, this particular novelization of Shada was quite the fantastic read for yours truly. Gareth Roberts, who is himself a veteran writer of the Doctor Who series in its various media versions, as well as other sci-fi genre ventures, manages to capture the tone and style of Douglas Adams’ writing style, giving the story a much needed shot of whimsical absurdity when compared to the video version. And yes, I have seen the video of Shada, narration by Tom Baker and all. I am a massive fanboy nerd, after all. But, quite frankly, having read the novel, I can say that I do prefer this form over that.

Shada by Gareth Roberts is not just a mere Target Book-like adaptation. It’s a ripping good Doctor Who yarn that had me chuckling more than once throughout the piece. Highly recommended for fans of both Doctor Who and Douglas Adams alike.