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By Terrance Dicks

Book review by Paul Scoones

Doctor Who book fiction returns to its roots with this latest New Adventure which takes the form of a novelisation of a small-screen story and written by Terrance Dicks. At one hundred and forty four pages, the adaptation of the Shakedown video production is short even by Dicks' standards. It is however, as long time Target readers might expect from Dicks, a faithful and accurate adaptation of the story as it appeared on screen.

The book is divided into three parts and the video adaptation is neatly contained intact in the middle section. The rest of the plot has been constructed around this part; for instance in the video Kurt mentions a previous encounter with the Doctor and the Sontarans; this meeting takes place in the book.

Dicks writes a good solid adventure story with just the right blend of action and dialogue, but at the same time it reads like it has been written to a formula with each chapter advancing the plot by a set amount. Shakedown is a weaker novel than either Timewyrm: Exodus or Blood Harvest and I suspect the reason for this is that Dicks had interesting real-life historical backgrounds with which to embellish his stories. Shakedown is a space opera without the benefit of this dressing.

The characters lack depth and in particular the Doctor's companions are bland stereotypes. Roz is depicted as the experienced, cynical cop, Chris is the enthusiastic naive cop, and Bernice is the alcohol-loving archaeologist. These bland, two-dimensional interpretations might have been easily overlooked if the book wasn't placed directly after a New Adventure with exemplary characterisation of the TARDIS crewmembers. His deployment of the regular crew is none too ingenious either; Bernice is sent off to conduct research at a university whilst Roz and Chris investigate a serial killer.

Shakedown is a good straightforward adventure story without the complexity and soul-searching, which some readers dislike in the New Adventures. If you are one of the many New Zealand fans who haven't seen Shakedown on video then the book is worth reading to see what all the fuss was about.

This item appeared in TSV 46 (January 1996).

Index nodes: Shakedown