Doctor Who novel: Shada by Gareth Roberts

A review by Nalini Haynes

After finishing off my epic book review post, I walked away thinking to myself that I’ve only read 2 books in the past 2 to 3 weeks.  One was Stormdancer that I finished last night, but I couldn’t remember the other one.  Finally it came to me; Doctor Who Shada.

shada cover

Shada by Gareth Roberts is a Doctor Who adventure with comedy and pathos in the best pantomime tradition.  Die-hard long-term Doctor Who fans know the story of the unfinished Douglas Adams script starring Tom Baker as the Doctor and Lalla Ward as his companion Romana.  The script was unfinished, shooting was rushed.  Conflict on set was the last straw; this story was cancelled after some scenes were shot.

About 20 years ago hubby and I found the shot scenes with a script available for hire from a DVD rental store.  Watching these scenes in context revealed that snippets from this story had been shoe-horned into the Five Doctors to compensate for Tom Baker’s absence.

Gareth Roberts took the surviving scripts and notes, massaging them into a cohesive story, adding bridging scenes and reworking the script until he developed a satisfying narrative.

Professor Chronitis is an ancient time lord living in Cambridge – but which one?  The TARDIS appears in his study, flattening the professor’s books.  Chris is a socially inept geek whose would-be girlfriend (in my opinion) needs a good dose of women’s lib to initiate their requited but unfulfilled romance.

Skagra is a new villain seeking to control the universe with his dastardly melodramatic plan and greater knowledge of Time Lord history than even Romana, who was a brilliant student at the Academy on Gallifrey.

I love Doctor Who best when it’s having fun as a pantomime, not taking itself too seriously and yet has a plot that holds together with likeable companions.  Shada has it all.  There’s one big plot-hole [spoilers, sweetie] but I forgave it.  The sense of humour, of fun, permeating Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy comes through without the over-the-top surrealism.

Every fan of classic Who should read Shada, if only for the ‘missing story’.  Fans of New Who should give it a go, you’ll be hooked.

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