Sep 2, 2014

[Books] Doctor Who: Shakedown (Monster Collection Edition)

I didn't realize that the BBC actually allowed folks to create independent productions based on individual characters and such from Doctor Who. In this case, the movie Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans played on this fact by creating a movie that focused only on the Sontarans and not the Doctor.

Shakedown is partly the novelization of that original movie but it's also an expansion of the story to also include our lovable Seventh Doctor. And going from a Doctor-less adventure to a more traditional one and yet still maintaining the original story at its core must have been a pretty interesting writing challenge, but on the whole it was done rather well.

And insights like that are partly why I'm enjoying these re-releases of various Doctor Who titles under the Monster Collection banner. The added introductions from the original writers does add a bit more flavor to things along the lines of a DVD extra or something. And more importantly, they're all pretty good stories that still celebrate the specific alien race (or monster) at the heart of things.

Synopsis: Doctor Who: Shakedown is a Seventh Doctor adventure written by Terrance Dicks. It was originally released in 1995 and was re-released as part of the Monster Collection earlier this year.

A Rutan spy had managed to infiltrate the Sontarans and managed to discover a vital secret - one that could turn the tides in the seemingly eternal struggle between their two races. And now the Rutan is desperately trying to get the information back home before its too late. Naturally this sets the Sontarans hot on the Rutan's trail to determine what was discovered. And at the same time the Doctor is trying to locate this Rutan in order to help broker some sort of a deal between the warring races.

Enter the crew of the solar yacht Tiger Moth on its shakedown cruise before a big race. But unfortunately they are captured by Sontaran forces who are searching every ship that may possibly contain the Rutan spy. Captain Lisa Deranne does her best to comply with the Sontarans in order to avoid any of her crew being killed. But she has no way of knowing whether or not the Sontarans will actually leave them alone should they find no evidence of the Rutan on-board.

Given this is a case of a new story being written around an old one, you can't necessarily tell that this is the case. Terrance Dicks did a pretty masterful job of creating this "new" story to supplement the old one. And the way he managed to keep the Doctor out of this particular segment of the action involving the Sontarans on the Tiger Moth was a clever bit of writing indeed. And it didn't seem all that forced that the Doctor wasn't able to get there in time - it actually felt like a natural result of the events as the unfolded. You might even go as far as saying that the events on the Tiger Moth just weren't really the heart of the action - the Doctor clearly had a lot of other things to address in his pursuit of the Rutan spy

There's no denying though that the focus of the story was on that ship. The other bits involving Bernice researching into the history of the Sontaran-Rutan conflict and Roz and Chris posing as Pinkerton Agents in pursuit of their quarry from planet to planet. They were good bits and they all worked together but they weren't quite as gripping. They weren't bad, but they clearly weren't quite as interesting. And that's well enough given the structure of the story

For a moment I thought that the book had gone on a bit too long given the way it did. I figured thing would have ended around the same place where the original Shakedown movie ended. But in the long run the whole thing rather paid off and I'm glad for how things turned out.

Shakedown is a good little Doctor Who adventure and a nice little focus on the Sontarans. But at the same time, it was nice to have a more active Rutan involved in the story as opposed to just saying that the Rutans were out there or something like that. Thus the book gets a good 4 Sontaran search strategies out of a possible 5.


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