We’ll Fi­nally Have Paris

Dou­glas Adams Who story is nov­elised at last

SFX - - Red Alert -

Un­less you’re well- versed in the minu­tiae of Doc­tor Who pro­duc­tion, the re­lease of City Of Death may leave you baf­fled. Why has it taken 36 years for this nov­el­i­sa­tion to come out and why are there three au­thors listed on the cover?

“I know,” says one of them, James Goss. “When they of­fered it to me I went, ‘ Is there enough space on the cover for the ti­tle?’”

The an­swer is ex­plained by an­other of the listed au­thors – Dou­glas Adams. In the late ’ 70s Adams was script edi­tor of Doc­tor Who. One of the scripts he worked on, “A Gam­ble With Time” by David Fisher, he rewrote in a week­end. The re­sult was “City Of Death” a tale of a hoax Mona Lisa, a one- eyed alien and time travel set in Paris.

But Adams was too busy to nov­elise it, and never granted the rights for some­body else to adapt any of his Who sto­ries. Such legal hur­dles were fi­nally over­come in 2012 when Gareth Roberts’s nov­el­i­sa­tion of Adams’s “Shada” was pub­lished. “City Of Death” was the next ob­vi­ous step, but Roberts pulled an Adams and pleaded, “Too busy.”

In steps James Goss. “But if you’re third choice af­ter Dou­glas Adams and Gareth Roberts, you’re not do­ing too badly,” he rea­sons prag­mat­i­cally.

For re­search, he had ac­cess to David Fisher’s orig­i­nal “ex­ten­sive” plot out­line and Dou­glas Adams’s orig­i­nal re­hearsal script: “Adams’s stage di­rec­tions are great – I’ve tried to pre­serve as many of them as pos­si­ble be­cause they are very, very funny. You think, ‘ Why should I de­scribe how the Countess falls to the floor when Dou­glas Adams has writ­ten an en­tire de­scrip­tion of it? I’ll just steal that.’ That’s what peo­ple are re­ally buy­ing the book for – as much Dou­glas Adams and as lit­tle of me as pos­si­ble.”

He has added a few em­bel­lish­ments of his own, such as an open­ing chap­ter that’s “more a pas­tiche of The Da Vinci Code” and a few Easter Eggs for New Who fans to pick up on.

“I hope peo­ple stop try­ing to work out what all the other dif­fer­ent ver­sions of it are and just go, ‘ This is a Doc­tor Who book with dia­logue by Dou­glas Adams and not too much else in the way.’”

City Of Death is re­leased by BBC Books on 21 May.

Nice cover art, but still not Chris Achilleos.

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