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Beth Meacham, David Brin

Shada (Dr Who)

Shada (Dr Who) - Gareth Roberts “The stranger looked between her and the spectrograph and seemed to come to a decision. He smiled suddenly and unexpectedly, with teeth like two rows of great gleaming tombstones. ‘Hello, I’m the Doctor,’ he said, extending a hand.”

Dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum (etc.)… Ooo-ee-ooo OooEEooo… oooooEEooooo… OoooEoooo… oooeEoooo… Du Du Du Du… Du Du Du Du…

Sorry, I always get the urge to do that when I review a Doctor Who book (this is only my second one*, perhaps I can refrain from doing this by the third book). I imagine “teeth like two rows of great gleaming tombstones” is enough of a clue for most diehard Whovians to figure out which Doctor this book is about. I mean who can forget these pearly whites:


Shada is a novelization of [a: Douglas Adams|4|Douglas Adams|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1189120061p2/4.jpg]’s script for a six parts 1979 Doctor Who serial that was only partially filmed and never completed due to a writers strike at the time. The incompletely filmed script has been adapted several times for animated direct to video release, audio drama and whatnot (see Wikipedia’s Shada entry). The only adaptation that concerns is here is Gareth Roberts' novelization.

The basic plot of Shada concerns a psychopathic alien’s plot to find an ancient Gallifreyan book that will lead to his dominion of the universe (a minimal goal for most Who villains**). It is up to the toothy Fourth Doctor, cute Time Lady Romana II, and the wondrous tin dog K-9 to save the day; added by an elderly Time Lord and a couple of regular earthlings.

The Doctor, Romana II, and K-9, with these three names I already have no resistance to this book, if it was very bad I would probably still quite like it. Fortunately it is the polar opposite of very bad. The breezy, affable narrative tone through most of the narrative is reminiscent of Adams’ [b: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy|11|The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, #1)|Douglas Adams|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327656754s/11.jpg|3078186] books, and a bit of [a: Terry Pratchett|1654|Terry Pratchett|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1235562205p2/1654.jpg]. I have not read anything by [a: Gareth Roberts|257752|Gareth Roberts|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1367537218p2/257752.jpg] before so I don't know if this is how he normally writes, though I am quite familiar with his works on NuWho episodes, namely "The Unicorn and the Wasp", "The Lodger", "Closing Time" etc. These episodes clearly indicate that he is no stranger to comedic writing. However, beside being very funny Shada is also a proper Doctor Who adventure. It is not wall to wall jocular silliness, the stakes are high, there is death and destruction, and even moments of pathos. The humorous tone of the narrative during the first half of the book recedes noticeably in the second half to make room for the sci-fi thriller aspect befitting any well balanced Who story, though it is still there in the background.

The characterization work in this book is top notched, The Fourth Doctor, Romana II, and K-9 are exactly as I remember them on TV. It is very easy to imagine Tom Baker and Lalla Ward acting out the story and dear old K-9 the tin dog has some dialog to die for. The supporting characters are all very well written, with the befuddled Time Lord Professor Chronotis being particularly memorable. The trusty TARDIS, the sonic screwdriver, and the wibbly space-time vortex are all present of course.

Shada really is a blast to read from beginning to end and should not be missed by Whovians and other Earthlings. It is even better with a bag of Jelly Babies.

Do read it, and don’t wander off!
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* The other one is Alastair Reynolds' [b:Doctor Who: Harvest of Time|17162398|Doctor Who Harvest of Time|Alastair Reynolds|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1365109462s/17162398.jpg|23587921] featuring the Third Doctor (Pertwee!). It is also brilliant, a ton of fun, but lighter in tone than Reynolds' legendary [b: Revelation Space|89187|Revelation Space (Revelation Space, #1)|Alastair Reynolds|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1405532042s/89187.jpg|219037] (non-Who) space opera series.

** The truly ambitious ones would seek to dominate all multiverses.