Doctor Who: Shada by Gareth Roberts
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Three stars veering towards a fourth.
This book is a late novelization of a six-parter story that Douglas Adams wrote for Doctor Who, but which never got fully filmed because of a strike. Since then Shada has had a troubled history and nearly as many incarnations as the Doctor: bits of it were used in The five Doctors, Adams himself recycled some of his own ideas in Dirk Gently, then a VHS was released with the filmed bits and narration, then it was re-cast as an audiobook with the Eight Doctor, and now the novel as well.
This is not a bad book at all and, in fact, Gareth Roberts is extremely good at channelling his inner Adams throughout the book, so much that one would be hard put to tell apart his bits of the story from Adams’ (take notes, Eoin Colfer, this is how it’s done). He is maybe a bit too good, in that at times Shada reads more like a Hitchhiker’s book with the Doctor in it rather than a Doctor Who story proper.
The whole thing is unfortunately brought down by the basic structure of a late ’70s six parter, which means that every once every 60 pages or so there will be a cliffhanger, the resolution of which never veers too much away from “and with a jump he was free”. The plot itself is thus burdened by several repetitions, a repeating of scenes from different points of view, a lot of running back and forth, and a dozen descriptions of the Doctor too many. Yes, it’s faithful to the original, but a 2012 retelling might have benefited from a few trimmings, even at the expense of a few scenes.
It still remains a very enjoyable read, and possibly the best version of Shada released so far.