Over Doctor Who’s near 60-year history, there have been dozens of scripts that have remained unproduced. Some, exist as mere outlines, ideas that passed through the heads of differing production teams. Others exist as a complete work, many being eventually produced on audio by Big Finish Productions for their Lost Stories range.
However, possibly one of the most unique (read: barking mad) stories ever pitched to the Doctor Who production office, came from the pen of the legendary Douglas Adams. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author wrote the Tom Baker classics City of Death and The Pirate Planet for the show, going uncredited on Destiny of the Daleks.
However, had it been made, Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen would undoubtedly have been the most “Douglas Adams” of Douglas Adams’ Doctor Who.
The story opens at Lords Cricket Ground. The Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith bare witness to a group of androids in cricket whites materialising in the pavilion before violently stealing the Ashes.
“It is the single most frightening thing I have seen in my entire existence. Oh, I’ve heard of the Krikkitmen, I used to be frightened with stories of them when I was a child. But till now I’ve never seen them. They were supposed to have been destroyed over two million years ago.”
The Doctor, Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen.
The Doctor explains that cricket is merely a race memory and a representation of the galaxy’s war with Krikkit two million years ago. This war was fought when the planet’s inhabitants launched a xenophobic crusade against all other life-forms of the universe, their weapon being the deadly Krikkitmen androids. Finally, after two millennia of bloody conflict, Gallifrey was victorious, and the Krikkit homeward was imprisoned within an envelope of Slow Time. This prison could only be opened with one thing, the Wicket Gate Key — a giant set of cricket stumps. It is this key which the Krikkitmen are now collecting. Travelling first to Gallifrey to seek answers our heroes discover that the Krikkitmen have already collected the majority of the key. They head on to Bethselamin where the Doctor and Sarah seek to stop the Krikkitmen from gaining the next part of the key, the Silver Ball, and bringing destruction to the cosmos. Adams describes the villainous protagonists in a way that would certainly have made them amongst the most memorable villains in the annals of Doctor Who:
“The Krikkitmen were anthropomorphic automata. They wore white uniforms, peaked skull helmets which housed scything laser beams, carried bat-shaped weapons which combined the functions of devastating ray guns and hand-to-hand clubs. The lower half of their legs were in ribbed rocket engines which enabled them to fly. By an ingenious piece of systems economy, they were enabled to launch grenades with phenomenal accuracy and power simply by striking them with their bats. These grenades, which were small, red and spherical, and varied between minor incendiaries and nuclear devices were detonated by impact — once their fuses had been primed by being struck by a bat.”
Douglas Adams, Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen.
Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen was originally submitted unsolicited to the production office as a six-part story circa 1976 but was rejected by then script-editor Robert Holmes. Despite the rejection, Holmes encouraged Adams to continue to submit material, recognising the talent behind the insanity. Though Adams would later sum up his refusal as “we’d like to see more talent than this.” Incoming producer Graham Williams also felt the script was “too silly” for the show and by now Adams had briefly moved on from the concept, instead focusing his energies on The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
Douglas Adams would eventually join the team the next year, penning The Pirate Planet for Season 16 after Williams was sufficiently impressed by Adams’ scripts for Hitchhikers. With his foot in the door, Adams looked again at The Krikkitmen, adapting his work into a cinema treatment to find support for a Doctor Who motion picture. Unfortunately, it failed to materialise.
“For millions of years [Krikkit] developed a sophisticated scientific culture in all fields except that of astronomy of which it, understandably, had virtually no knowledge. In all their history, it never once occurred to the people of Krikkit that they were not totally alone. Therefore the day that the wreckage of a spacecraft floated through the Dust Cloud and into their vicinity was one of such extreme shock as to totally traumatise the whole race. It was as if a biological trigger had been tripped. From out of nowhere, the most primitive form of racial consciousness had hit them like a hammer blow. Overnight they were transformed from intelligent, sophisticated, charming, normal people into intelligent, sophisticated, charming manic xenophobes. Quietly, implacably, the people of Krikkit aligned themselves to their new purpose — the simple and absolute annihilation of all alien life forms.”
Douglas Adams, Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen.
After considering the material for the unproduced second series of the BBC TV’s Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy adaptation, Douglas Adams would return to Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen once more in 1980. He revised his scripts to approach Paramount Pictures’ for the potential Doctor Who film.
Despite gaining interest from the BBC and a meeting with a Paramount representative in London, the project would again come to nothing. Yet, Adams was determined to use the material, and it formed the central part to his third Hitchhiker’s book — Life, The Universe And Everything. Despite trying domestic circumstances that left Adams with little will to put pen to paper, he took the plot outline for the Krikkitmen and tweaked it to form the new work. Adams would later recall that the opening chapter, which sees Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect’s thrilling and comic escape from primaeval Earth to Lords, went through twenty different drafts alone.
The Krikkitmen plot largely remains intact in the book, the roles of the Doctor primarily taken over by Slartibartfast, Trillian and (for the final sequence) Arthur Dent. Adams found the material hard to adapt into the Hitchhikers universe, as the characters of Ford and Zaphod would always be more inclined to go to a party and stay cool rather than take action directly toward saving the universe as the Doctor would! The first half of the original film treatment makes up the majority of the book with the second half, which had mainly been padding of the “capture, escape” variety in the Doctor Who original, condensed into the final thirty pages of the finished novel.
“Of all the races in the galaxy only the English could possibly revive the memory of the most horrific star wars that ever sundered the universe and transform it into what is generally regarded as an incomprehensibly dull and pointless game. It is for that reason that the Earth has always been regarded slightly askance by the rest of the galaxy it has inadvertently been guilty of the most grotesquely bad taste.”
Douglas Adams, Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen.
Released in 1982, Life, The Universe And Everything was another immense success for Douglas Adams, and a radio adaptation of the novel was recorded in 2003 starring the surviving members of the cast of the original Hitchhiker’s radio series.
Following the successful novelisations of Adams’ televised Doctor Who serials The Pirate Planet and City of Death, BBC Books released an adaptation of Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen in 2018 written by James Goss. The book removes Sarah Jane-Smith (who was only referred to as “Jane” in the original scripts) and adds the characters of Romana and K9, making the book fit neatly in-line with Adam’s other Doctor Who works.
Intergalactic war? That’s just not cricket … or is it?
The Doctor promised Romana the end of the universe, so she’s less than impressed when what she gets is a cricket match. But then the award ceremony is interrupted by eleven figures in white uniforms and peaked skull helmets, wielding bat-shaped weapons that fire lethal bolts of light into the screaming crowd. The Krikkitmen are back.
Millions of years ago, the people of Krikkit learned they were not alone in the universe, and promptly launched a xenophobic crusade to wipe out all other life-forms. After a long and bloody conflict, the Time Lords imprisoned Krikkit within an envelope of Slow Time, a prison that could only be opened with the Wicket Gate key, a device that resembles — to human eyes, at least — an oversized set of cricket stumps…
From Earth to Gallifrey, from Bethselamin to Devalin, from Krikkit to Mareeve II to the far edge of infinity, the Doctor and Romana are tugged into a pan-galactic conga with fate as they rush to stop the Krikkitmen gaining all five pieces of the key. If they fail, the entire cosmos faces a fiery retribution that will leave nothing but ashes…
Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen, BBC Books blurb
Whimsical, witty and brilliantly written, like all Adams’ work, what was potentially a massive loss to Doctor Who has both lived on and endured. Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen stands as a testament that a good idea, no matter how mad it may seem at the time, will always finally have its day.
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