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Doctor Who: Shada by Douglas Adams with Gareth Roberts

01/05/2012. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy Doctor Who: Shada in the USA - or Buy Doctor Who: Shada in the UK

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pub: Audio Go/BBC. 10 CDs 690 minute story. Price: CD: GBP 13.17 (UK), Download: GBP 9.84 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-44586-763-2). narrator: Lalla Ward.

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If, like me, you struggled to watch the original webcast of ‘Shada’ on dial-up Internet, then finally enjoy the glorious book of the not-ever filmed properly ‘Shada’. The stuff of legend in its own lunchtime. To listen to this is to experience a unique, between your ears excitement. Not only does it have a Chapter 42 but the ultimate answer is discussed. There are elements here of ‘Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy’ and ‘Dirk Gently’ and it is certainly a fitting tribute to the great Douglas of the Adams despite the fact he didn’t want it published. As Adams was notorious for not finishing on time, it must have been a strange project for Gareth Roberts to…er…finish on time.

Mr. Roberts has done an amazing job of putting this together from the original scripts and apparently ironing out the creases and polyfillering the plot holes.

The story may be familiar to you. The Doctor and Lady Romana are visiting a retired Time Lord, Professor Chronotis, in his rooms at Cambridge. Unfortunately, he has two other visitors that day. One is a gormless bloke called Chris Parsons who suffers from his inability to see what is at the end of his nose. Another is an alien, Skraga, intent on taking over the universe with his weird mind-gathering sphere. It’s the interactions of the all these visitors and a lots of cups of tea that make ‘Shada’ the classic story it is.

As I said at the top, certain aspects of the story will be familiar as many bits were mined out of this for Adams other works. There is also an element of historical document, as this sits very firmly at the tail end of the 1970s when as recent TV programmes have pointed out, we never had it so good.

There are a few things in this richly sequinned story that may not mean anything to transatlantic readers. For instance, does ‘Supermousse’ mean anything? A sadly defunct frozen dessert of that era it sits alongside ‘Crispy Pancakes’ as being probably the least nutritionally useful thing ever designed. However, it sums up the entire existential angst of existence when eating said pudding partially defrosted. It’s a Schrödinger situation with ice crystals taking the place of the cat or something. I’ve just discovered its back in the freezer, leave it there for all our sakes.

Anyway, that’s it, apart from the whole chasing across the galaxy in a suspiciously sleek white spaceship with a voice and a personality. OK, you can probably see where this is going. Oh and there are more villains, bicycles, punts and an unfortunate young man who leaves behind the aforementioned Supermousse.

It’s fun and you will enjoy listening to it. Miss Romana (Lalla Ward) makes an excellent relater of the adventure with the right degree of incredulity whenever that is needed. There are plenty of characters for her to get her teeth into and the exuberance of the Fourth Doctor comes across well through the dialogue and Ms. Ward’s presentation. Professor Chronotis is well created and the villain Skraga beautifully realised. The characters of Chris and would be girlfriend brainy but hot Claire Keighley are definitely related to Arthur Dent and Fenchurch and this is their story, too. The one thing this is not is a full-on scary ‘Doctor Who’ story. This is not to do the story down but simply to state this is a little too quirky in places to be what I call ‘Doctor Who’.

As a Douglas Adams creation aided by Gareth Roberts, it forms a wonderful tribute. A final thought If this had been broadcast originally maybe there would be no ‘Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy’?

All hail the Supermousse.

Sue Davies

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