Doctor Who: Shada

I recently finished reading Doctor Who: Shada: The Lost Adventure by Douglas Adams which was turned into a novel by Gareth Roberts. The novel has all the comedy you would expect from a Doctor Who episode written by Adams and starring Tom Baker – as well as a fitting hommage to Adams. For those who may not be familiar with it, the episode Shada was partially filmed when a strike brought production to a halt, so that it was never completed. But those who have watched the classic show faithfully will have seen a small snippet which was reused in another episode. There are minor spoilers in what follows, but I will try to avoid any major ones, so that this blog review will encourage people to read the book!

The story focuses on an individual named Skagra, who we later learn was (or at least pretended to be) a “moral theologian.” The book’s opening paragraph is inherently theological, and just what one might expect from Adams:

At the age of five, Skagra decided emphatically that God did not exist. The revelation tends to make most people in the universe who have it react in one of two ways – with relief or with despair. Only Skagra responded to it by thinking, Wait a second. That means there’s a situation vacant.

The story follows the attempt of Skagra to do just that – create a universal mind by extending his own mind into every other in the galaxy, forming “one godlike entity. ” The novel explores some religious themes, but also Gallifrey’s history and the mythology of the show, as well as the nature of history itself.

There are some plot elements which were presumably taken up again deliberately in the writing of the episode “The End of Time” from the David Tennant era.

If you are not a regular viewer or fan of Doctor Who, but love Douglas Adams, you should still appreciate this novel. Indeed, there are some ideas which are also found in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novels. Whether they are examples of Adams using the same idea more than once, or Roberts drawing on Adams’ other novels to be faithful to Adams’ own writing style and offer a tribute to him, I cannot say. But The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy almost gets a mention in the novel at one point.

I definitely recommend Doctor Who: Shada: The Lost Adventure by Douglas Adams to all Doctor Who fans!

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  • Julie

    Have you seen the eQuivia quiz books on Doctor Who? They are on Kindle and are a lot of fun for the true fan

    • James F. McGrath

      I hadn’t seen them yet. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Pseudonym

    When I saw the reconstructed version of Shada my first thought wasn’t Hitchhiker’s Guide, it was Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. The character (warning: spoiler alert for both Shada and Dirk Gently) of the several-centuries-old time-machine-owning professor at St Cedd’s College, Cambridge is even given the same name!

    • James F. McGrath

      I haven’t read Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, but I heard that Adams used some of the ideas crafted for Shada in it, rather than let them seemingly go to waste.

      • Pseudonym

        It’s worth a read, now that you’ve refreshed your memory of Shada. Watching City of Death again wouldn’t hurt, either.

        • James F. McGrath

          I love “City of Death”!

  • Tony Springer

    I have the reconstructed Shada story video by the BBC. It is strange mix of video and storytelling. Tom Baker is a hoot, but it boggs down along the way. Thinking about it makes me want to watch it again. Thanks for the review of the book.

    • James F. McGrath

      Roberts says that he developed further plot lines that he felt Adams had wrapped up abruptly and less than satisfactorily because of a deadline, so you may like it more than the reconstruction.

  • MoDare

    Ian Levine’s ‘Shada’, completed with most of the original cast and animated, has been leaked to Pirate Bay and other torrent sites. I’ve downloaded it, it is the real deal.