'Chris reflected that a horrific place like this, with all the odds so grotesquely stacked against him, was where the Doctor magnificently belonged.'
(I read this book because J made me but the timing of this post is pretty rad, check out the teaser for the complete, feature length version they're (finally) making based of the actual episode here. I might post about it when it's out because it's really quite cool!)
I love Doctor Who but I hadn't read any of the novels before. Shada, though, was a unaired serial of the 17th series of Doctor Who with a script by Douglas Adams. That's pretty exciting, right?
Shada follows the Fourth Doctor and Romana to Cambridge, where a fellow Time Lord, Professor Chronotis, has found a home for himself. Upon leaving Gallifrey, he took with him something that proves to be dangerous. There's also a couple of grad students, Clare and Chris, cutely in love with each other but not able to admit it.
'But where was Chris? Why wasn't he there with her, starting off on this amazing journey? 'Aha!' the Doctor was saying, but she didn't want his 'Aha!' — she wanted Chris's 'Aha!' And where was Chris?'
Because it's Doctor Who, there's also monster of the week - Skagra, who wants to take over the world with the use of Professor Chronotis's little souvenir. He's a cool villain and I definitely felt the urgency in stopping him.
I listened to this as an audiobook, with the sound effects and all, which was excellent. It was read by Lalla Ward, who plays Romana, and included David Brierley as K-9. What's not to love about that? The world needs more a) female narration b) female everything actually and c) K-9.
'At the woman's side, somehow looking equally concerned, was a metal box about three feet by two feet with 'K-9' emblazoned on its side in what somebody had obviously thought was a futuristic typeface. From the front of the box sprouted what was clearly meant to be a head, with a glowing red screen for eyes, a snout with a nozzle at the end and two miniature radar dishes in place of ears. It sort of looked, a bit, like a dog. It even had an antenna for a tail and, for a campy finishing touch, a tartan collar.'
You've probably figured this out by now, but this book definitely assumes that you know your Doctor Who. It doesn't really give you any general rundown of the background or any of that, but just plunges you in the deep end. Nothing wrong about that of course, but just something to keep in mind. I think no one assumes you pick up one of these and use it as your stepping stone into the wider universe, but the other way around.
All the characters are excellent, which isn't exactly surprising. It's hard to pick a favourite but my top three would be Skagra's ship that was tweaked to shower him with compliments, Clare and Romana. Girl power! Also, I feel like the Doctor was actually the weakest character here. He came across as a bit annoyed all the time (Which may have to do with Lalla Ward having been married to Tom Baker at one point, J tells me).
The writing is also excellent, very fun and smart and kind of tongue-in-cheek. There's a lot of both dialogue and description but it all kind of fits together.
All in all, Shada is an excellent Doctor Who story. It's weird and fantastical and fun and pretty much what you're meant to get. The dialogue and characters are more than enough to make up for the fact that the plot itself may not have been the most innovative out there. If I had to change something, I'd cut out around a hundred pages of nothing really happening, though I understand that could be detrimental to the experience. Still, sometimes I zoned out while listening to this, and I want to mark it down for that.
For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I could not find a spot for this. This is getting so tricky!