Shakedown by Terrance Dicks

shakedown_cover

The Sontarans have discovered a weakness that could mean defeat for the Rutans. A lone Rutan is making his way across the cosmos to warn his people. Meanwhile the Doctor and his friends are spread across various planets to try and find and help it.

Shakedown is the legendary Terrance Dicks’ novelisation of his screenplay for the nineties Doctor Who spin-off video Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans. For the novel he has book-ended the adventures aboard the solar yacht Tiger Moth with a wider story for the TARDIS crew.

Of the selection of books reprinted for the Monster Collection, this is probably the one most unfamiliar for viewers of the rebooted television series. The Seventh Doctor as he appeared in the Virgin New Adventures is a far cry from the fun-seeking explorer that the Eleventh Doctor is. Here he is meddling in the fate of entire species, prolonging the Sontaron/Rutan war so that the former don’t turn their war machine on other species and dominate the galaxy. He sends his companions on missions, selecting them for their skill-sets and it feels more like they are assets rather than friends.

Like all Terrance Dicks books, this is brilliant. Roz and Chris are tracking Karne the Rutan on the planet Megarra, and Dicks describes this alien world with particular relish. Megacity is a rich mining colony where life is cheap and there’s danger everywhere. We get many old Doctor Who species living in the city together too, in a kind of bigger Star Wars cantina that couldn’t have been achieved on the television series.

Meanwhile Benny is investigating on the planet Sentarion, where the indigenous insect-like population are proving a hindrance. There are some nice digs at religion here, and the priveleged place it holds in societies, where it can’t be questioned or even discussed without offence.

Book Two is a straight adaptation of the Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans screenplay. The crew of the Tiger Moth are on a shakedown voyage, when they are boarded by Sontarans trying to capture their shape-shifting Rutan stowaway. Some of the crew are played by Doctor Who luminaries Sophie Aldred and Carole-Ann Ford, so it’s probably as well that the Doctor doesn’t meet any of them.

Watching the video again for the first time since buying back in 1994, it’s quite hard to see why I liked it so much when I bought it twenty years ago. I was at secondary school, and I remember showing it to a couple of mates. The main thing we took away was the way the Sontaran Steg keeps saying ‘sexual pair-bonding’, and we briefly adopted it as a catchphrase, with the voice and everything. Although, viewing it now it’s clear we had exaggerated it massively over time. Sophie Aldred is the best thing about it, and Terrance Dicks seems to agree, describing her as ‘luscious’ twice in short succession.

Shakedownvid

Novelisations by the original screenwriter give insight into how they originally envisaged the story, and as such Kurt especially comes across a lot better in this book. A grizzled space-smuggler in the Han Solo mold, Brian Croucher doesn’t live up to what Dicks has described in prose. In the film he and the Sontaran Vorn seemingly competing to out-cockney one another.

The wider plot of the Rutan spy is a creation for the novel rather than the film, but fits seamlessly with the existing story. Dicks finds humour in the literal-minded and unimaginative Sontaran troopers, which Steven Moffat would later pick up and mine to great effect with  the character of Strax.

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Order Shakedown from Amazon:

Doctor Who: Shakedown: The Monster Collection Edition

On Kindle:

Doctor Who: Shakedown: The Monster Collection Edition

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