Not Just a Set of Ideas: Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen Review

The Fourth Doctor and Romana make a splendid return in James Goss’s novelisation of a lost Doctor Who treatment by the late, great Douglas Adams

Death just doesn’t stop some people. Whether the people in question are Time Lords or writers is hardly important, as both are apparently capable of regeneration. Douglas Adams died far too soon and too young, but his influence lives on. More than that, he appears to have a new book out. Now, he didn’t change face in 2001 and slip into the shadows of another life. Neither has he returned as his own ghost writer. Enter James Goss, who isn’t a ghost writer either. He’s a very much alive one, thank you very much. Goss hasn’t so much written his own Douglas Adams novel, as written Douglas Adams’s novel for him.

We’ll Always Have Paris

Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen City of Death

Adams was a writer and script editor on Doctor Who between 1978 and 1979, before his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy took off. His classic (completed) serial “City of Death” plays Adams’s trademark humour and offbeat storytelling against that Doctor Who rarity: a location shoot abroad. Paris is as much a character in the story as the Fourth Doctor and Romana, which brilliantly comes off like Who tinkering with the French New Wave. Yet it wasn’t plain sailing with Adams on Doctor Who. The production of “Shada” was shut down due to industrial action at the BBC, which left it frustratingly uncompleted. Nevertheless, the story became an important one to Whovians and that remained the case over the years. So much so that it was recently completed (only 38 years late, although it could never be too late), with the addition of animated sequences. The end result is quite marvelous, with the animation not a distraction at all – the power of Adams’s story shines through. It would appear that Adams’s Doctor Who material is experiencing a very healthy second life at the moment. James Goss is playing a significant part in that.

Goss has become closely connected with Douglas Adams’s Doctor Who work, having written novelisations of “City of Death” and Adams’s other completed serial “The Pirate Planet.” It shows, because he is more than at ease writing as Adams in Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen. If that seems a straightforward task, then think again. Pick up a Douglas Adams book, open it at any page, and read a passage. That isn’t prose that anybody can do. How James Goss does it is a mystery.

No Reference to Star Wars

Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen Douglas Adams

It had been widely believed that The Krikkitmen was “a rejected Doctor Who idea that ended up as [Adams’s] third Hitchhiker book, Life, the Universe and Everything.” That was until the original treatment was discovered, which is how this novel came into existence. Goss explains in the appendices:

“The treatment for The Krikkitmen wasn’t just a standard couple of sheets of paper you’d expect for a television show. It was 33 closely typed A4 pages, going into a great deal of detail and including a large amount of dialogue. It wasn’t just a set of ideas – it was a full roadmap, complete with backseat driver.”

The treatment is included and it makes for interesting reading indeed, particularly in light of the novel.

There’s also an introduction from Adams. It’s taken from a film presentation of The Krikkitmen (it was also almost a movie at one stage) wherein Adams takes the opportunity to assess the state of science fiction at the cinema. Goss dates it to 1976 because the successful science fiction films Adams mentions were released in 1973 and 1976 (Soylent Green and Logan’s Run respectively). “Also, and here’s the big clue,” says Goss, “he makes no reference to Star Wars.” Not 1977 then.

Home Counties Invasions

Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen Shada

It’s a book about cricket. Sort of. Rather like reading those great American novels about baseball, you don’t need to understand anything about cricket to get Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen. In fact, the more alien you consider cricket, the more you’ll accept the whirlwind shenanigans of the story. As a cricket aficionado, on the other hand, you might arrive at the conclusion that your worldview has been built on lies. But they’re beautiful lies, dressed in pressed white, with nothing behind the faces.

There’s a delightful joke early on about cricket as an in-universe explanation for the BBC-ness of alien invasions on classic Doctor Who:

“At least a dozen races had given ‘cricket’ as their reason for attacking the planet. It went a long way to explain why most invasions began in the home counties.”

The book is as clever, funny, and more than a little crazy throughout. Which is how it should be, considering the source material.

Cleverest Person in the Room

Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen Romana

As a Time Lord herself, Romana is more than a match for the Doctor. She is his best friend, as many of his companions are, but their particular relationship is more one of equals. Romana really understands the Doctor and it makes her shake her head at times:

“Typical of the Doctor, thought Romana. Sulk until you spotted a chance to be the cleverest person in the room.”

Of course the Doctor likes being the smartest person in the room and that isn’t the case with Romana around. He’s therefore happy to be the most demonstrably smart person in the room, which he excels at and is given ample opportunity to do in this story. Romana lets him get on with it in these moments. At the end of the day they make a great team saving the universe.

There’s much to admire about Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen, but perhaps the greatest compliment is to say that it reads like one is watching a Fourth Doctor and Romana serial. Goss absolutely nails the Doctor/Romana relationship and with the brilliant imagination of Adams behind him it comes off like a classic serial that never was. Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen also links into “Shada,” which cements its lost and found status within Doctor Who canon.

Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen by Douglas Adams and James Goss is published by BBC Books and is available now.

Stewart Gardiner

Writer. David Lynch nerd. Unreliable narrator. Arthouse cinema and Hollywood dreams.

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