Novelising Shada

By Paul Scoones

I first learned about Shada in The Doctor Who Programme Guide Volume 1. This would have been around late 1981. I was captivated by this untelevised and incomplete serial set between The Horns of Nimon and The Leisure Hive, not least because it had been written by Douglas Adams who was my favourite author. At the time I had just recently discovered The Hitch-Hikers' Guide to the Galaxy through the first two novels.

My other early sources of scant details about Shada were the Peter Haining reference books A Celebration and The Key to Time and the Radio Times Doctor Who Twentieth Anniversary Special. Terrance Dicks' novelisation of The Five Doctors also provided a tantalising snippet of the story in the form of the punting scene.

[DWM 81]

Doctor Who Monthly issue 81 (October 1983), which featured an extraordinarily detailed 'Archive' synopsis for Shada.

In early 1984 I experienced something of a Shada information overload when I bought a copy of Doctor Who Monthly issue 81 which contained a very detailed Archive feature about the story. The unusually detailed Archive synopsis ran to thirteen pages of tiny text, broken down scene-by-scene, and even contained small bits of dialogue. Repeatedly reading this synopsis, trying to visualise the episodes in my mind, I came up with the idea of trying to novelise the story, picking up where the punting scene in The Five Doctors novelisation left off (and of course filling in before this point).

The task proved more difficult than I'd expected, and I gradually realised, there was just too much material that I had to invent in the absence of a script or recording to refer to. I made a few attempts at the adaptation over a few years, always working from the DWM Archive as my primary source material, but at most I only managed to cover the first two episodes.

When I met Jon Preddle in 1987 and I shared with him some of the Doctor Who-related things I'd written, he was particularly impressed with my incomplete Shada novelisation. In April 1988 Jon obtained a copy of a video recording of Shada from another fan, David Baker, in Australia. The recording was a multi-generation copy of a fan reconstruction of the story (made by Ian Levine, Richard Landen, James Russell and Kevin Davies in 1983 and screened at that year's Doctor Who Appreciation Society convention, PanoptiCon 5). The completed footage had been edited into its correct order, sans music, effects and dialogue dubbing, and the missing material was represented by onscreen text summaries. The text closely followed the synopsis printed in Doctor Who Monthly issue 81 - which is unsurprising given that Richard Landen wrote the DWM Archive feature.

The arrival of this video renewed my enthusiasm for the novelisation. Although the onscreen information for the missing scenes wasn't the complete script there was plenty of detail and all of the relevant dialogue. I didn't have access to a video recorder at the time, but Jon offered to make a written record of the recorded scenes and the onscreen text so that I could begin the novelisation afresh using his transcript.

At first we discussed publishing the story in TSV, envisaging that the novelisation could be serialised at the rate of one episode per issue, but we soon decided that we would instead collaborate on a range of non-profit Doctor Who fan-publications, written and edited by ourselves, and printed and sold by the New Zealand Doctor Who Fan Club. We called the range ‘JPS Books’, arrived at by combining our initials. In addition to the novelisations we began producing a set of encyclopaedias (The Doctor Who Dictionary) compiled by Jon and edited by myself. The first volume, The Third Doctor Who Dictionary, was to have been the very first JPS Book, but work on this stalled in August 1988 and I turned my attention to novelising Shada.

Jon transcribed all six episodes of Shada over several months, between April and August 1988. "I remember I did the episodes out of order, starting with Part Six," says Jon "It took about two hours to transcribe each episode." Jon's transcripts were handwritten on lined notepad, duplicating the layout of a script. Jon presented me with his completed 163-page transcript on 13 August 1988 and I started the novelisation again from the beginning.


Jon Preddle's handwritten transcripts of all six episodes of Shada.

By the end of October I had completed a totally revised version of Part One and started on Part Two. The novelisation was based primarily on Jon's transcript, but also retaining parts of my previous adaptation. I typed the manuscript on A4 pages using the same manual typewriter I'd used to produce the first six issues of TSV, working directly from the transcript and from memory, having recently watched Jon's video on a borrowed VCR. I made good progress, and completed the novelisation over the first three weeks of November 1988, in between finishing my university exams and starting a summer holiday job. The manuscript was coincidentally finished on the day of the twenty-fifth anniversary, 23 November 1988.

The finished adaptation included a number of embellishments, including an epilogue that linked the end of Shada to the beginning of The Leisure Hive, explaining the Doctor's costume change (I suggested that the Doctor hadn't liked being confused for one of the students in his bohemian attire). Likewise, a scene in the first chapter tied the end of The Horns of Nimon into the beginning of Shada. Many of the unrecorded sequences also had some amount of invented dialogue to flesh out the scant information gleaned from the on-screen text and DWM Archive descriptions.

The cover artwork was drawn by Neil Lambess. Jon had sketched a version of the cover himself and had also asked a fellow Doctor Who fan, artist Mark Roach (who later designed the Sixth Doctor Who Dictionary cover), to come up with a design. Neil hadn't been asked; all he knew was that Jon and I were working on the novelisation and he produced the artwork as a surprise for Jon. Neil presented Jon with the artwork in September 1988. Neil visualised the cover as “based on the TARDIS and Chronotis's study in the vortex but closed down like the beginning of the opening [Tom] Baker [titles] to draw you into the cover...,” Neil explains. “I had the central idea of the vortex, which is at the climax of the story, leading you into the drawing. Chronotis and the sphere had to be central, with the sphere offset (because it made it easier to balance the study on the left against a smaller TARDIS on the right). Under Chronotis I just had to have the book [The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey] and I think I drew the Krarg separately and stuck it into place at a later stage because it didn't balance out properly without it. I remember just sitting down at the kitchen table and drawing it in one go as the muse took hold and being quite happy with the result... it only took about three hours.” Neil's artwork contains some hidden messages and in-jokes in the hieroglyphics of the text seen on the open pages of the book: “The words ‘Doctor Who’ are hidden on the left-hand page at the bottom, and the dedication ‘for Patrick Troughton and Colin Baker’ (some of which is written backwards) as well as my signature on the right hand page.”

[Edition 1 cover]

The 1989 first edition (cover artwork by Neil Lambess)

Jon was credited as co-author (as ‘Jonathan Preddle’) on the book. Although I'd written the novelisation itself, we agreed to a co-author credit in recognition of the hard work he'd done producing the transcript. The 73-page book included seven pages of background notes as an appendix. The book was first printed in March 1989 in Christchurch and the first copies of Shada were presented to Jon, Neil and myself on 24 March at an science fiction convention, Conscience, in Auckland. “I remember we were terribly excited about this; our first book!” says Jon. The book had a total of three printings in 1989 and 1990. The first and third printings had a white card cover and the second had a blue card cover. The first printing was limited to 40 copies and in total around 100 copies had been printed by the end of 1990.

Douglas Adams visited New Zealand in November 1990 for a book signing tour (promoting his books Last Chance to See and The Deeper Meaning of Liff). Myself, Jon and Neil among others got to meet Douglas Adams and get our books signed. In amongst all the Hitchhikers and Dirk Gently novels, Douglas was shown copies of our Shada novelisation and asked to autograph them. One of the copies had previously been signed by Neil, Jon and Paul, who had respectively written alongside their signatures ‘great cover, great writing, great writing’. Neil says that Douglas Adams “raised an eyebrow, laughed at our egotistic [signatures] and then wrote ‘great cover’ as well.” Jon adds, “I took along my copy to see what, if any, reaction he would give it. But he simply signed the opened page, took a glance at the cover, shrugged and handed the book back to me. If that isn't an endorsement, then I don't know what is!”

[Signed pages]

The inside front cover and title page of Jon Preddle's copy of the 1989 first edition of Shada, signed by Neil Lambess, Paul Scoones and Douglas Adams.

By this time I was already planning for a new edition of Shada. In September 1989 Jon Preddle had obtained a set of Shada rehearsal scripts from David Baker, the same Australian contact who had earlier provided Jon with the video recording. These scripts were the versions that were later reproduced as a book available only with the 1992 BBC Video release of Shada. Prior to the video release, these scripts were a very rare and valuable acquisition. From the moment I first flicked through these scripts, I could see that there was a great deal of material - notably large sections of dialogue - that had not previously been available to us. These scripts were both a blessing and a curse. The Shada novelisation was less than a year old and already it seemed flawed and dated to me. Nor however did I relish the prospect at that time of writing yet another version of the book.

In 1991, having taken over editing and publishing TSV and the running of the fan club, I re-launched the book range as TSV Books. By mid-1991 the JPS Books Shada novelisation had been out of print for many months. I felt that the time was finally right to produce a new version so I borrowed the Shada scripts off Jon and began rewriting the novelisation. The scripted dialogue differed in places quite considerably from what appeared on screen in the recorded material, so I treated the televised material as the 'default' version but added in deleted lines from the script to these scenes wherever possible. For the unrecorded scenes the new adaptation was based directly on the scripts.

[Rehersal scripts]

The BBC rehearsal scripts for Shada.

To distinguish this new edition from its predecessor, I asked my then- partner, Felicity Fletcher, to create new cover artwork, based on my rough sketch of how I wanted the cover to look. My concept, which Felicity reproduced faithfully, had Skagra's mind-sapping sphere resting on the open pages of The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey and seen within the sphere was the prison complex of Shada itself (based on a production photograph of the model). The book was printed with a pale peach-coloured, parchment-textured card cover.

[Edition 2 cover]

The 1991 second edition (cover artwork by Felicity Fletcher)

This completely rewritten, 71-page version was produced on an electric typewriter and first published in October 1991. I was the sole credited author and this second edition sold approximately 100 copies.

Shada remained in print until early 1995. Around the middle of 1995 I planned to reprint the TSV Books novelisations with uniform new-look cover designs based on Virgin Publishing's new novelisation cover format. A few test copies of Shada were printed in this format, but I wasn't happy with how these turned out, and the reprints were shelved.

The TSV novelisations range was finally reissued between January 2000 and April 2002, as a set of five books, including a never before published novelisation of Resurrection of the Daleks. I intended to republish Shada as the fifth and final title in the set as the three Douglas Adams stories were to be released in story order. This would have also meant that the book would in effect have come full circle, finishing where they had began, with Shada. My plans changed however when David Lawrence requested more time to rewrite his City of Death novelisation, so Shada was switched with that title.

I scanned each of the typewritten pages from the 1991 second edition into my computer so that I could tidy up and format the text. I made a large number of minor revisions and altered the running order of certain scenes. Perhaps the most notable change I made was to hold back the revelation of Skagra's identity until he was first named on screen late in the second episode. In the first and second editions, each chapter had covered an entire episode. For the third edition I split each episode up into two chapters, selecting a suitable 'cliffhanger' mid-way through each chapter. I also gave each chapter a name - in the previous editions the chapters had simply been numbered.

Long-time TSV cover artist Alistair Hughes created the cover artwork which, as with the other TSV four novelisations, was intended to emulate the Target cover art of its time. This was actually Alistair's second Shada cover. “The first,” Alistair explains, “was for the InVision issue covering the making of that story. The brief for InVision included a specific desire to avoid the look of the Target book covers, so for TSV Books I was doing exactly the opposite. The Season 17 book covers became the template this time, with the Doctor's head and shoulders featured in the foreground, and his foe behind him, once again with a relevant background. I had a vague memory of the Horns of Nimon cover in mind when I came to design Shada, and on seeing the Target book afterwards was surprised at how similar the two covers are, even down to one of the Doctor's hands being visible.”

[Edition 3 cover]

The 2001 third edition (cover artwork by Alistair Hughes)

Although I had not requested it of him, Alistair was determined to try not to use images that had previously appeared on book covers. “I found a good clear Tom Baker reference to use, only to discover later that it had actually been used on a Missing Adventures cover!” says Alistair. “The Krarg is drawn from a variety of sources, and I was eager to make it look frightening if I could. On viewing the story I was struck by the implicit horror of the irradiated Krarg striking down the ‘zombified’ Think Tank scientists, as they simply stand by mindlessly and let it happen. This seemed quite out-of-odds with the light hearted reputation which this story has, so I decided to depict the creature from this scene, firing a lightning bolt from it's upraised weapon and filling the Think Tank corridor with smoke. The smoke also disguises the fact that I had very little reference to use for the corridor set! I think the portrait of Baker worked much better this time, but I'd unfortunately put so much detail onto the Krarg to suggest the over-lapping crystals, that it seems to have all merged into black on the printed cover - perhaps it makes the Krarg look even more threatening?”

Alistair delivered the cover shortly before the book's publication. The cover was printed on red card. The third edition, retitled Doctor Who and Shada, in line with the Target style of its time, was published in October 2001 (the tenth anniversary of the second edition) as a 92 page (36,779 words) book. The book was reprinted numerous times between 2001 and 2005 (reprints were not recorded on the publication page after 2002), with an estimated 470 copies of the third edition printed in total. The last reprinting, a batch of 50 copies, occurred in May 2005 and the book was announced as out of print, along with the rest of the TSV novelisations, in November 2005.

In July 2006 Doctor Who and Shada was reissued as an e-book novelisation on the TSV website with minor revisions and corrections to the text, and a set of background features about the novelisation and the story.