THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
NOVELS "THE ALSO
PEOPLE" AND "JUST
OFFICIAL VIRGIN 'NEW
RELEASED IN DECEMBER
VHS VIDEO RELEASED
IN DECEMBER 1994.
For thousands of
years the Sontaran
the Rutan gestalt
have fought each
other across the
galaxy. Now the
Sontarans have a
plan to strike at
the heart of the
Rutan Empire, and
utterly defeat the
suspicions, but only
one Rutan spy knows
the secret. He is being
pursued from planet
to planet by Cwej and
Forrester and by a
Sontaran hit squad.
After a SHOWDOWN
ON the RACING space-
yacht Tiger Moth, the
chase culminates on
the planet Sentarion,
where BENNY'S RESEAR-
ches into the history
of the war turn into
The Return of the Sontarans
Terrance Dicks is a living legend. I’ve read more of his Doctor Who novelisations than I can remember, and I absolutely loved his inaugural original Who novel, Timewyrm: Exodus. And true to form, Shakedown is jam-packed full of all those staples that we have
come to expect from Dicks - action, drama, humour, suspense… fantastic cliffhangers! I doubt that there’s a man alive who knows how to write a good old-fashioned Doctor Who romp better than old Uncle Tel.
If the above paragraph sounds a little familiar, then you’ve read my review of Blood Harvest, as it is identical to the first paragraph of that review save for my substituting “Blood Harvest” with “Shakedown”. Now this isn’t me being lazy; at least not entirely. I’m trying to illustrate that so far as Dicks is concerned, you know exactly what you’re going to get. I have yet to come across a book bearing his name on the spine that I haven’t enjoyed for the reasons set out above.
However, whilst the above may certainly be true, Shakedown isn’t quite as fluent a read as Dicks’ first two original Who novels. In a sense, this book is a victim of its own gimmick –
it’s trying to be a wholly original novel and a novelisation of the Shakedown video. As Dicks proves here, these two elements aren’t mutually exclusive, but consequently this hybrid New Adventure has a distinctly contrived feel to it. The structure suffers more than anything as the pace of the story is all but destroyed by the forty-page ‘novelisation’ that Dicks plants slap bang in the middle of the book, accompanied by some glossy photographs from the video, movie-novelisation style.
In fairness though, the novelisation
of the video, barring one piece of
clunky dialogue making reference
to a suspiciously familiar ‘hobo’ that
Kurt once knew, is entertaining in
itself and fits in relatively well with
the larger narrative. Lisa Deranne
is certainly a feisty piece of work – one of Dicks’ better female characters – and the shifty but likeable Kurt is even better. In the production, Sophie Aldred and Carole Ann Ford got a bit of a raw deal with their rather lacklustre characters, but in print this doesn’t grate quite as much as they are just two throw-away incidental characters, rather two over-hyped big-name guest stars.
As was the case with Blood Harvest though, Dicks doesn’t really have much success with Benny. Whilst he’s certainly got the characterisation spot on, he just doesn’t seem to know what do with her. She ends up being sidelined on Sentarion this time (as opposed to some backwater planet in E-Space), whilst the Doctor, Roz and Chris have all the fun.
“Nice fellow, Kurt.
It was curious, thought the Doctor, how he’d always got on better with rogues and riff-raff than with field-marshals, high officials and other top people. If it wasn’t for that he might still be Lord President of Gallifrey.
Thanking fate for less than respectable tastes, the Doctor…”
Throughout the author presents the Doctor delightfully, though I have to say that I especially enjoyed the prologue; it could almost have been a meaningful stand-alone short story as it encapsulates the Doctor so very well. However, it’s Roz and Chris who steal the show yet again - these two get better and better with every novel. Here it’s evident that Dicks clearly loves the pair of them and has great fun writing their sections of the story. He throws them into an old-fashioned bit of detective work in Mega City - a beautifully grim, comic book-style metropolis. Roz and Chris encounter a whole host of colourful characters, most memorably Garshak – an intelligent Ogron Policeman. Who was it that said if they had brains they’d be dangerous? Well…
“The Sontarans can never defeat us. It is we who will win.”
The finale is also a resounding success. To Doctor Who fans, the Sontaran / Rutan war has been a part of the show’s mythology ever since 1977, yet we never got to see a shot fired on screen. In this book though, we finally get to see the two mortal enemies clash and it’s every bit as epic as we had all imagined. So epic in fact, that were it not for the Doctor’s meddling, the long war may have actually come to a climactic end here…
If the truth be known though, I don’t think that this novel is on a par with Dicks’ first two
New Adventures. It’s certainly good – very good – but mostly due to its contrived format, Shakedown doesn’t read quite as well as its predecessors. Even so, as always when dealing with the scribblings of the elder statesman of Doctor Who, there’s nothing to be found therein but a tumult of magnificently well-written action and adventure.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
Unless otherwise stated, all images on this site are copyrighted to the BBC and are used solely for promotional purposes.
‘Doctor Who’ is copyright © by the BBC. No copyright infringement is intended.