Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Doctor Who Shada audiobook review

Part of me is really surprised that there hasn’t been a bigger deal made abut this new book and audiobook release from AudioGo.
I mean, it’s not every day that you get some ‘new’ material from Douglas Adams, is it?
Of course, this is not ‘new’, what with him having been dead for a decade and all. And death does tend to put a bit of a kink in the ability to put out new material. Unless you’re Tupac or somebody like that, of course.

So, anyway – a brief history. A long time ago, Douglas Adams worked on Doctor Who, writing some classic adventures. He wrote one called Shada, which was put into production, but was left unfinished thanks to a strike at the BBC during the filming.
It was released some time ago on video, in its unfinished form and came with a copy of the script, but I remember buying this at the time and finding it a difficult watch… in fact I can’t even remember if I managed to watch it the whole way through.
So fast forward a few decades and here we have a brand new novel based on Adams’s scripts and written by Gareth Roberts. Again, this is another surprising thing – Roberts has now joined what can only be called an elite group of writers who have dabbled in the world(s) of Douglas Adams. But how does he do..?
I think that it is, on balance, unfair to compare him to Adams or judge him by the standards of that writer. Roberts is a very good author in his own right, and he has written a very good book here. Yes, there are sections and turns of phrase and wordplays in there that sound like pure Adams. The listener could oh-so easily assume that these bits are all from Adams, but there are some that make reference to people or events from after Adam’s death. Douglas was good, but not that good.
No, I think it is more than fair to give Roberts a lot of credit for turning the scripts into what is a pretty good novel.
That is not to say it is perfect. I think it is overlong in the epilogue, but understand why this is so – there are certain things that need to happen, in this story more than others, but I feel it could have been trimmed somewhat. It also lags in places throughout, but again, this is not necessarily the fault of the author. He was working off the scripts for a six part who story, and as any fan will tell you, the six part stories always dip in the middle.

As this is a review of the audiobook version, we better give mention to the production. First off, it is read by none other than Lalla Ward who, you will know, played the Time Lady Romana during this stretch of the series, and her voice lends a great deal of weight, as does that of John Lesson, who reprises his role as the voice of K-9 here.
Ward is a fine actor, and she attacks this book with great gusto. Her accents and voices are great, with her Fourth Doctor being particularly fun. There is some superb sound design and incidental music throughout, which help add to the feel of the package.
If I had one complaint it would be that I was disappointed that there were no ‘extras’ on the discs. I would have thought that a release of this importance, and it is important, both to Who fans and Sci-Fi fans in general, should have been marked in some way. I was hoping for some interviews at the end with the author and/or those connect with this project, but it was not to be. But that, of course, is a minor thing to be quibbling about and something that most people would not be bothered about.
If you’re a Who fan, or a fan of Adams, you’ll be needing this.

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