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by Paul Scoones & Jonathan Preddle

Book Review by Pat Albertson

Tom Baker's sixth season as the Doctor is regarded by some as being his worst; yet, despite this, it contains one of his most interesting stories. What makes Shada so interesting is not the script itself so much as the fact that, due to an industrial dispute at the BBC, it never reached the screen (apart from a few brief shots, which were used in The Five Doctors). Also, due to the reluctance on the part of writer Douglas Adams, it has never been novelised. That is, until now...

Using, amongst other things, a video of the completed parts of Shada, Paul Scoones and Jonathan Preddle have very successfully adapted the story to book form.

The plot concerns the evil schemes of Skagra in his search for a mysterious Time Lord book, which he needs to locate the infamous criminal/folk-hero Salyavin on the Prison Planet of Shada. The Doctor, Romana, K9, Professor Chronotis and a couple of young students from Earth must pit themselves against Skagra, his sentient ship, his Krarg servants, and his mind-devouring sphere in a bid to save the Universe, yet again!

Scoones and Preddle have fitted the six-part television story into about 28,000 words. Considering they did not have access to the original script they have done an excellent job. I found this book hard to put down and the suspense and action came across very well. Likewise the humour and if this is occasionally a bit obvious and annoying the blame lies with Adams' original script, not with the novelisation. In fact, the book is so faithful to the script that Scoones even details in the Author's notes which bits he was forced to improvise himself, e.g. the TARDIS interior scenes, which were never filmed. Also in the author's notes is information about what actually was filmed, why the story was never completed, which parts were used in The Five Doctors, and what relationship Shada had to Douglas Adams' Hitch-hikers and Dirk Gently novels.

It's a pity that the scenes on Shada were never filmed as the Doctor's fight with the prisoners is dealt with a little vaguely in the book. A force comprising a Cyberman, a Dalek, a Zygon, a gladiator, Nero, Genghis Kahn and others would have been quite a spectacle on TV. Incidentally, according to David Banks' Cybermen book, Pat Gorman was to have played the Cyberman but his name is missed from the cast list.

The layout of the Shada novel is similar to TSV and the pages are typed. It is 76 pages long, 67 devoted to the story and nine pages of notes, etc. Although it sounds quite short compared with the Target novelisations, part of this is due to Shada having larger pages and smaller print. I would guess that if Target printed Shada as it was written now the resulting book would be about 110 to 120 pages long.

In his letter in TSV 13 Paul Scoones says he may attempt to novelise Resurrection of the Daleks next. I hope he does decide to go ahead because if Shada is any indication, the results will be well worth a read.

To sum up, I would recommend that everyone who collects Doctor Who novelisations should buy a copy of Shada. At $6.00 it's well worth the price!

This item appeared in TSV 14 (July 1989).

Index nodes: Shada
Related Items: Doctor Who and Shada eBook