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The Last Novelization,
This review is from: The Scream of the Shalka (Doctor Who) (Paperback)
The Scream Of The Shalka web-cast was intended to be the debut of the ninth Doctor played by Richard E Grant. Unfortunately for that Doctor, but fortunate for fans, this would turn out to be the Grant ninth Doctor's only appearance due to the announcement of the return of the TV series. In the meantime there was a novelization of that web-cast was published. Written by the script's writer Paul Cornell, the novelization reads as an homage to the Target novelizations of years past in the form of the last Doctor Who novelization to date.
Fans of the original series of Doctor Who might know that almost every story of that was novelized by Target Books between the 1970s and the early 1990s. Keeping that in mind, it is perhaps best to read this book as an homage to that series of books. From the first page to the Doctor's introduction a few pages later, the entire opening of the book plays out an opening right out of a classic Target novelization. Throughout the entire book there are little moments like that including the Master's appearances, the chapter titles and even the final couple of lines of the novelization itself. The result is that it reads like a blast from the past.
The book has some nice additions to it as well, another hallmark of the best Target novelizations. It is these additions that Cornell's writing shines brightly. We learn some of the back-stories of various characters since as Alison Cheney and her boyfriend Joe for example. The book also fills in some of the gaps of the original web-cast including why UNIT doesn't appear as one might expect or just who the various groups around the world who play a large role in the finale are. The latter in particular is well done by Cornell who turns supporting characters with no names from the original web-cast into flesh and blood human beings in a matter of pages. There aspects of the web-cast that Cornell doesn't expand on such as why the Master is in the condition he is in or what the mysterious event is effecting the Doctor throughout the story but that is perhaps because, at the time, there was the possibility of more stories where those things might have been revealed. The result overall is a pleasing expansion of the web-cast.
The novelization though is literally only part of the book. Unlike Marc Platt's novelization of the fan video Downtime where the story had to be padded out to fill the novel, Cornell's novelization only takes up only three-quarters of the book's length. The rest of the book is taken up by two items. The first is an essay by Cornell about the making of the web-cast from the commissioning process to the challenges of writing it (including Cornell having someone break into his house to send the scripts to the BBC while he was in New Zealand) right up to the recording of the audio for the web-cast with some sections written by others involved in the production. The second item is the original storyline for the web-cast. Originally titled Servants Of The Shalakor, the storyline is similar yet very different which makes this section perhaps the most intriguing part of the book.
Scream Of The Shalka is in book form exactly what it was in web-cast form. It is a traditional alien invasion of Earth style story told with a new Doctor and in modern style. The novelization expands that story with additional details while playing out as an homage to the Target novelizations of the past. Combined with a making-of essay and the original storyline, the result is a satisfying read. It also marks the last Doctor Who novelization to date and a proud one to go out on.