Shakedown started life in 1995 as a direct-to-video adventure made by Dreamwatch Media, starring various familiar faces from Doctor Who and Blake's 7. The story featured the Sontarans and was written by veteran Doctor Who script-editor and writer Terrance Dicks. For rights reasons the character of the Doctor couldn't be included in the video but when Virgin decided to commission Dicks to adapt the story in book form in late 1995 this was no longer a problem - as Virgin did have the rights to use the character.
Dicks elected to put the events seen in the video into the middle of the book - with a new plot featuring the Doctor and his companions at the beginning and end - and the new material is by far the most interesting part of the book. This sees the Doctor, Benny, Chris and Roz searching for a Rutan spy who has been masquerading as a Sontaran. The Doctor and his companions are seperated and each has to tackle their own sub-plot. There's some nice stuff here, particularly the Mega-City section, featuring the educated Ogron, Garshak.
Terrance Dicks has always been a very good storyteller, so whilst his original Doctor Who books aren't the deepest or the most experimental, he certainly knows how to entertain - and Shakedown has this in spades, with plenty of humour, action and drama.
Shakedown is a great page-turner from one of the series' key figures and it's good to have it back in print.
“He wondered what had happened to mild, gentle, womanly women. Like Ace – and Leela.”
This is a re-release of a novel first published in 1999, released again now as part of the Doctor Who – Monsters collection of stories featuring several of the Doctors in individual stories with various monsters – Zygons, Cybermen, Daleks and in this case Sontarans (and Rutans).
The Doctor (Seventh) is up to his mysterious ways again, and has sent Roz and Chris after a serial killer who is able to change his shape – killing, changing shape and skipping planets, Roz and Chris are having a tough time trying to chase him down. Meanwhile, Benny has been sent to the University at Sentarion City, where she blends in as a scholar and tries to find information on a mysterious secret that the Doctor has sent her to look for. But her search leads her into more danger than she had anticipated and she soon finds herself in dire trouble. The Doctor has been interfering with the Sontarans’ takeover of a planet, and finds himself in jail with a smuggler. But it’s all okay; the Doctor has a plan – doesn’t he? What could possibly go wrong?
This is a really great story, and I was surprised to remind myself that it was written by Terrance Dicks (who, let’s face it tends to dial down the suspense and deep characterisation of a great novel in favour of shorter novels full of action). In this story though the characters are fully drawn and well realised – Roz, Chris and Benny are of course well-established characters in this stage of the Seventh Doctor’s adventures (from the NA range), but Kurt, the crew of the solar yacht, the Sontarans and Rutans themselves, even the bit-parts of the spaceport crew, and the various law enforcemet officers and university officials who pop up in the story are all really well done. It’s easy to envisage them playing well on tv. Definitely a top-notch Doctor Who story, and a really great Seventh Doctor story, this novel also serves well to develop further the Sontarans and the Rutans and their interminable struggle for supremacy over each other’s race.
‘Shakedown’ was originally a straight to video spin-off from the world of Doctor Who. This novel, by the same author as the filmed script, is an extended version of that story. The novel is split into three sections with the middle part being a novelisation of the video release. The parts either side fill out a story around the Sontaran boarding of the solar yacht the Tiger Moth and give a fuller more complex reason for it. Strangely this novel has the task of inserting the Doctor into a story that originally he couldn’t be in. This means that the Doctor is often a background figure. But this works alright with the Seventh Doctor as it is more characteristic of him than the Doctor’s other incarnations.
This novel covers a subject that the programme has never focussed upon, the conflict between the Sontarans and the Rutons. Being partially responsible for the creation of both sets of aliens alongside Robert Holmes, Terrance Dicks knows both species really well and provides some insight into their war.
There are quite a lot of characters to focus upon in the novel. The characters from the original video (many played by actors who had previously been in Doctor Who) all receive a reasonable amount of attention with Lisa Deranne and Kurt featuring across the novel in all three of its sections. This fleshes their characters out more, particularly in the case of Kurt who we now get some background on. The main Sontaran of the story, Commander Steg, receives a similar treatment. In a race of clones he is quite a distinctive personality.
On top of this the Doctor has three companions. Bernice Summerfield gets to investigate alone for the Doctor within her particular area of expertise. Dicks shows a good understanding of this character in his portrayal. Roz and Chris also get plenty to do utilising their skills. Although it does feel a bit like these characters get forgotten about for some of the story due to its structure.
There is a lot going on in the story but sometimes its disjointed nature prevents the reader becoming engrossed. The big plus for this book being re-released for this Monster Collection series is that it offers two great monsters, the Sontarans and the Rutons. It is also good that Terrance Dicks is featured in this range.
Terrance Dicks is a storytelling genius. He's the writer who made me want to become a writer. This story is more than 20 years old. It's not, necessarily, his greatest triumph. But it's a job well done who probably knows more about wrtiing Doctor Who stories then any man alive - and that includes Russell T and Steven Moffatt.
I really enjoyed this book. It is based on the spinoff called Shakedown, which is also good, and this book doesn't disappoint. Despite not having the Doctor in it as much as other novels this is a cracking good read.
A cracking good read. I have the video it was based on ,worth watching again. Apparently This was not enough words to be accepted. Apart from saying I enjoyed the book, what else do they want me to say?- I had a nice cup of coffee and a chocolate biscuit half way through.