First Lines: Shada

Once again, I’ve been a bad nerd. So far, I’ve managed to stay largely uninformed concerning the Doctor. “Doctor Who?” you ask, as if it is some kind of knock-knock joke. And then I’d say, “That’s the one.”

Seriously, though, apart from a few episodes when Doctor Who returned to the small screen some years ago, I’ve somehow managed to completely miss any and all things Doctor Who. And if Shada, Gareth Roberts’s novelization of Douglas Adams’s script for the infamous ‘lost’ Doctor Who story [1], is anything to go by, that’s a shame. It thoroughly looks as something I could completely go for. Given the sheer size of the whole Doctor Who franchise, I would have a lot of catching up to. Which, given my short supply of time to do things in, isn’t likely to be going to happen.

In Shada, Skagra—a guy far too clever for it’s own good—tries to gain access to Shada, the Timelords’s mythical and forgotten prison outside of the conventional timestream. He has his reasons: in Shada, a powerful psychic criminal is held prisoner. If only Skagra could add his powers to his Universal Mind, he’d eventually be able to control all of the universe. Wouldn’t that be nice? Fortuneately for the universe, he didn’t account for the Doctor.

Shada is a hoot and a half. Working from the most final, complete and officially approved script—well, yeah, you know how that works—Roberts harvested everything that sprouted from the seeds Douglas Adams sowed, and made a very fine wine from it. Metaphorically speaking. Sure, like And Another Thing …, that last H2G2TG novel, it’s not vintage Adams, but it’s very tasty nonetheless.

For instance, the reference to an Ultimate Answer in chapter 42 made me chuckle. As did the scene where a copy of Bonnie Tyler’s Greatest Hits turns up. Shada was conceived in the late 1970’s, when Bonnie Tyler was known for songs like “Lost in France” and “It’s a Heartache”. Her big break with “Total Eclipse of the Heart” was still to come. So a tape with unfamiliar song titles and a copyright date of 1986 turning up—I quite get that.

Book read
Gareth Roberts — Doctor Who: Shada (The Lost Adventure by Douglas Adams)
First Line
At the age of five, Skagra decided emphatically that God did not exist.
  1. As to why Shada is an infamous ‘lost’ story, well, it’s complicated and infamous. I won’t be going into that, as I’d only be parroting what I’ve read on that infamous tome of all knowledge. [2]
  2. No, not that one. The other one.