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4.6 out of 5 stars
Doctor Who: Shada
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on 27 January 2014
Renowned for many years as being the lost Fourth Doctor story due to industrial action, ‘Shada’ has been released, re-imagined and remade across various forms of media more than any other Doctor Who story. Since its initial failure to be completed for television it has experienced a VHS release complimentary of Tom Baker’s accompanying narration, been made into an audio play and released as a web based animation featuring the Eighth instead of the Fourth Doctor. It has also finally been released as a novelisation, which feels as if it might be the closest to what Douglas Adams intended.

It is an amalgamation of Douglas Adams’ original scripts and notes and the inventiveness of Gareth Roberts, renowned for writing some of the most popular Fourth Doctor and Romana novels (some of which are to be made into audio plays later in 2014). As a product of two authors it works very well. Roberts clearly knows and understands Adams’ unique style and humour and there is little indication of who wrote what. Having Roberts, writer of several televised scripts since the programme’s return, write the novelisation has the advantage of making the story feel that it is influenced by both the original run of Doctor Who and its return since 2005. Hence there are references to such things as Carrionites and the Corsair. It makes the story feel less routed in 1979. In a way it becomes more historical than modern.

The writing style is basically what you might expect if you’re a Hitchhikers fan or of any other works of Adams. Effortlessly whimsical and tongue in cheek but rarely frivolous to the plot and never pointless. The balance of humour is perfectly pitched. The novelisation is a fully fleshed out version of the TV story. This provides much more depth for the small cast of characters making them stronger and more dimensional, providing greater incentives and motivations for their actions and behaviour. Thus, however despicable, Shagra also manages to become a figure of sympathy. The love story angle between Chris and Claire is covered more satisfactorily and Salyavin becomes a far more understandable and explained character (something that felt a little absent in the TV version).

It’s great after all these years that ‘Shada’ finally gets a novelisation. It’s a good example of Douglas Adams’ marvellous contribution to Doctor Who and cements Gareth Roberts’ mastery over the Fourth Doctor/Second Romana era. I look forward to novelisation of ‘City of Death’.
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on 10 September 2013
Douglas Adams was famous for missing his deadlines in a spectacular fashion. So it's somehow fitting that this novelisation of his scripts for a Doctor Who story should be published 12 years after his death. Late again, Douglas!

For those unfamiliar with the history behind Shada: in 1979, Douglas Adams was script editor on Doctor Who, during the same period that The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy was taking off on radio. So it's unsurprising to find that his TV scripts channel the same brilliant combination of science fiction, humour, wordplay and outrageous ideas. Shada is as much classic Douglas Adams as it is classic Tom Baker-era Doctor Who.

There are two reasons why Shada in particular is unusual. First, it's the only Doctor Who adventure that was cancelled during production - it never made it to the screen. Second, although all other Doctor Who episodes have been novelised, Douglas refused to do so with his stories (mainly because nobody ever offered to pay him the going rate for a bestselling author!). Anyone who has read his novel Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency will recognise several ideas from Shada, recycled because he assumed they would never otherwise see print.

So here comes Gareth Roberts to correct that, combining his own style with Douglas's to bring Shada into the 21st Century. Rather than just a straight transcription of the TV scripts, this is a highly inventive and imaginative novel that isn't afraid of straying from the course. Minor characters Chris and Claire now gain a comedic full-blown romance, and we get to see the battle to prevent an ancient Time Lord book from falling into evil hands from Chris's perspective, making him much more of an Arthur Dent-style everyman hero than the TV episodes would have done.

I was initially wary of this book, fearing that it might fall between the gaps of its ambitions. But apart from a few niggles, I thoroughly enjoyed it and believe it successfully achieves all of its goals. For Douglas Adams fans, it is written appealingly close to his style without being a soulless copy. For Doctor Who enthusiasts, it retells an old story with the right mix of nostalgia and modernity (there are perhaps a few too many continuity nods to the current TV series, but Who fans tend to love that sort of thing). And for everyone else, it rattles out a rollicking, silly, enjoyable yarn that is more humour than sci-fi.
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It's well known that, before Douglas Adams wrote The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Five Parts in it's various forms, he was a script editor on the "Doctor Who" TV series during the era of Tom Baker. He even wrote two serials himself. Though Target novelizations from the series were made, to my knowledge Adams did not write them. He also wrote another script which was only partially filmed because of production problems. This was "Shada."

In the meantime, there have been completions of the television version issued. Something of a legend has also grown up over the story. Hence, in some ways it is a surprise that a novel of the Shada story has not been written up until now, despite there being an industry in its own right of Doctor Who novels to which Gareth Roberts has contributed in recent incarnations.

Roberts mentions in an afterword that he has had access to various drafts of Adams' scripts. Some of the ideas in "Shada" were also reused by Adams in his novel Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (Dirk Gently 1). Thus not everything on display in this novel is completely unfamiliar. Roberts also explains he has introduced some ideas of his own in completing the story.

So what do we get here. By and large it a good story featuring the fourth Doctor as played by Tom Baker and Romana as played by Lalla Ward. The book can be recommended as having more than just curiosity value. There is a good narrative pace maintained in the story telling, It is an entertaining adventure, with the portrayal of Tom Baker's Doctor coming across particularly well. The style is also very consistent with that of modern Doctor Who, showing continuity in the series.

Yet though this is a good story, there will inevitably be comparisons made with Adams writing. I suspect there is a lot of overlap in fans of Adams and the Doctor anyway. Gareth Roberts by and large succeeds in creating a Doctor Who novel that reflects both Adams style and imagination. The characters ring true to the original series, There are many Adams like flourishes such as a talking space ship, in-jokes and traces of humour playing with the language of science fiction and science writing well as ideas. Yet Roberts would probably agree it doesn't quite have the flair of Shada's originator to whom the book is dedicated.

But that said this book is still a more than worthy achievement. Gareth Roberts deserves to be credited alongside Douglas Adams in this book It is a highly entertaining read that will be essential reading for fans of the show and both writers.
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on 14 October 2012
In 1979, Douglas Adams was working as the script editor on Doctor Who. Having written or co-written two stories for the series all ready (including the fan favorite City Of Death) and on the brink of his own creation The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy becoming a worldwide success, Adams wrote his Doctor Who swansong, Shada. The story was partially filmed before a BBC strike led to the story being left uncompleted and thus never shown on television. Now, over 30 years since those events and more than a decade after Adams' own untimely passing, a novelization of this "lost" Doctor Who story is available at last.

Shada features the Fourth Doctor (the one with the scarf who was all teeth and curls), female Time Lord Romana and robot dog K-9 and is set in 1979. It begins in Cambridge, one of Britain's most famous universities, where the time/space travelers have answered the summons of the retired and somewhat forgetful Time Lord Professor Chronotis. It turns out that the Professor took a rather dangerous book with him when he left the Time Lord's home world of Gallifrey and he wants them to return it. The problem is he's accidently loaned it out to a young graduate student named Chris Parsons, who is trying to impress his would be girlfriend Clare Keightley with it. To make matters worse, there's a nefarious alien named Skagra who's arrived at Cambridge with a sphere capable of sucking out a person's mind who is also after the book as part of his own plans. From there the story becomes a universe hoping adventure set on space stations, asteroids and eventually to the mysterious Shada itself.

This novelization has been written by Gareth Roberts, writer of such episodes as The Shakespeare Code and Closing Time for the current TV series of Doctor Who. Roberts' perfectly captures the distinctive style of Douglas Adams' prose be it the book's opening paragraph or the closing lines of chapter sixty two to name but two examples. The book is also filled with Adams' trademark style of absurd humor yet the humor never overwhelms the story but rather heightens and enhances it. Much of the book's success comes from the original Adams' scripts but kudos must go to Roberts as well for making the script into a fully functioning novel.

My only real complaint about the book stems from Roberts' own additions. Roberts makes his own stamp on the story in places and most of them aren't bad. He's good at expanding scenes with references to post-1979 Doctor Who that fits in perfectly with the original Adams script such as in chapter fifteen for example. Where this expanding runs into issues in the final third of the novel (parts five and six of the TV version) where he often rewrites complete chunks of the story. This includes an additional chapter (chapter seventy three) where the book feels like it's being drug out for an additional fifteen pages rather unnecessarily. Overall though, the changes work more often than not.

To be fair as well, Shada isn't really that "lost" is it? The filmed sequences were edited together, along with linking narration by the fourth Doctor himself Tom Baker, for released on VHS in 1992 for example. The complete story is available on audio CD from Big Finish Productions (the company who have been doing Doctor Who audio adventures since 1999) and has been since 2003, though it stars Paul McGann's eighth Doctor since Tom Baker wasn't interested in taking part. So is there any point in buying the novelization than?

To my mind, the answer is yes. This is as close to a completed version of the original story you're likely to see with the intended TARDIS crew for one thing. The changes, both great and small, made by Roberts also makes this version of Shada stand on its own as well. So while Shada itself might not be quite as lost as it's been claimed, this book version completes it nicely nevertheless.
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As tributes to Douglas Adams go, this Gareth Roberts re-interpretation of the abandoned-during-filming Doctor Who story "Shada" is much more successful than the recent Hitch Hiker's Guide attempt by Eoin Colfer. It's also significantly better than the recent (and recently cancelled) Hitch Hiker's Live stage show.

Where Colfer's novel was barely any better than fan fiction, and the stage show diminished the original ideas into basically just a pantomime, Gareth Roberts has both the confidence and the skill to come up with a novel which you can believe is almost as good as if Douglas Adams had written it himself. It works on every level- for young and old Doctor Who fans, for Adams fans, for people with just a passing interest. It works as dramatic sci-fi but it also works as comedy. Thankfully, it reads as a modern Doctor Who novel, and doesn't drop into the style of Target novelisations.

The Tom Baker Doctor is well represented and believable. Romana comes into her own a lot during this story, which is good as even Douglas Adams' writing of female characters was dangerously one-dimensional at times. Human accomplices Chris and Clare become the real, if temporary, companions, and get fairly well fleshed out as characters in their own right.

Full marks to Gareth Roberts for doing a great job with a daunting challenge.
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on 28 March 2012
I've always loved Doctor Who from time immemorial when I was but a mere time tot and vividly remember bringing down the duvet to hide under it when the scary monsters came on. I have still found time to watch The new Doctor Who episodes even now I've reached my middle years. I'll admit I have never read any Doctor Who books, but what I have read and rate as one of my all time favourite Sci-Fi books ever is of course Douglas Adams Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy. The whole thing as many of you will know is simply pure gold and often wonder whether Douglas Adams may have in fact been god? So when I stumbled across this new Doctor Who book in the bookshop adapted from a lost Adventure by Douglas Adams I simply had to get it. The story itself is great and although not written by Adams, Gareth Roberts has certainly done a good job and enjoyed the whole thing thoroughly. It has that dramatic feel to it that makes it feel like it could be coming out the TV set and the story is a good one.Humor levels and witty banter remain constant throughout and was a very entertaining yarn indeed. So without giving anything away and if you love Douglas Adams or Doctor who or both, then just get it my time traveling cadets, its great fun all the way.
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This is a full length novelisation of Douglas Adams's original scripts for the famous "lost" Tom Baker Doctor Who TV story Shada, partly filmed in autumn 1979 but never completed due to a strike. It apparently includes a lot of original ideas by Adams that were not realised in the final version, or could not be with the state of TV technology at the time. There are also a number of new ideas and scenes inserted by Roberts, who has written a number of original Who novels in the 1990s and later and TV scripts for the modern show. The whole thing hangs together convincingly, though there were a few lines that I could not imagine the 4th Doctor saying. Much more is made of the characters of and relationship between Chris and Claire, though strangely, they are hardly physically described at all, whereas the descriptions of the Doctor and Romana are very good. It's interesting to see how a Doctor Who TV story can be reimagined over the course of a nearly 400 page novel. The story itself is very much classic Douglas Adams and, while enjoyable, isn't in my view the classic it is sometimes made out to be due to its unique partly-filmed-never-shown status.
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on 12 April 2012
I ordered this as I've been a fan of Douglas Adams for many years, Dr Who isn't something which excites or inspires me and I'd not set out to buy a Dr Who book normally. This may have changed that, yes you can see Adams in the book, and it would have been great to see this on TV but more than that it does make me wonder what other Dr Who books are like. As to this book, I won't give anything away plot wise, but it does draw you in quite quickly and makes you want to keep reading, there are funny moments, but not as many as a normal Adams book - but perhaps that's to be expected, this was after all meant to be a TV show not an extension of The Complete Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The Trilogy of Five ;-)
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on 3 September 2013
5 Stars - it's definitely worth it - and for long-term Who fans like myself who've been waiting whether it would finally make it into print. What you get is Douglas Adams' wit, and rrading closely there's some nice (and very subtle) references to the current incarnation of the TV series. Read this back-to-back with Douglas Adams 1st Dirk Gently book - which features Prof Chronotis and which makes for an interesting comparison. As elements of Shada got reused in the Dirk Gently book. What else can I say? Gareth Roberts has done an excellent job of bring to life late 70's Doctor Who, and captures Tom Baker's Doctor & Lalla Ward's Romana exactly.
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on 19 April 2012
Having been rather disappointed by the last Doctor Who book that I had on pre-order, I was a bit nervous waiting for this one. I needn't have worried; I loved it. It has humour, great characters and a really good story. Although it was originally intended for television, I think that this was a great expansion of the original idea that works (dare I say it) far better on the printed page than it would have worked on the small screen. I honestly don't know whether it will appeal to a non Doctor Who fan or a reader with no Doctor Who knowledge (are there such people?)but I would definitely recommend it and will look forward to rereading it.
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