(2018) James Goss, BBC Books, £16.99, hrdbk, vii + 407pp, ISBN 978-1-785-94105-4
Romana was appalled. And that was before the killer robots turned up. 'You've brought me to a cricket match?' This novel is based upon a recently discovered treatment and extensive notes found in Douglas Adams’ archive: a truly 'lost' Dr Who adventure. Intergalactic war? That's just not cricket…! Or is it?
This is a big hardback release from the BBC – with the front cover proclaiming: 'Doctor Who The Lost Adventure by Douglas Adams' and then 'Doctor Who and the Krikkit Men by James Goss'. Basically, 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. (Shades of Hitch-hikers and Adams recycling…) 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…
Before the adventure starts we get an introduction from Douglas Adams, his pitch for a film called The Krikkitmen where he discusses things like recent science fiction films, which he concludes are “gloomy extrapolations of present tendencies towards totalitarianism” and are so boring that he didn’t even go to see them; then he looks at the impact of the Apollo space programme and the decline of science fantasy and the role (and constraints) of science; then he concludes by saying that any Doctor Who film should follow the outrageous logic of the James Bond movies. Needless to say there was no Doctor Who film involving ‘The Krikketmen’ or anything else.
Following that introduction we are firmly into the story, starting with Part One and the first chapter titled ‘Important and Exciting Galactic History. Do Not Skip’ although there will be other Galactic History lessons throughout the text, along with typically Adamsian titles such as ‘Finally, Killer Robots’, ‘Why Fish Don’t Need Mortgages’ and ‘Contains Nice Biscuits’. All in all the story is told over two parts and forty two chapters, the last being ‘The Meaning of Life’. What follows after the novel is Appendix 1 – ‘Life, the Universe and Photocopying’ where we get Adams’ diary extracts from 1976 where we learn that the BBC have loved Adams’ Doctor Who story ‘The Pirate Planet’, but he has something called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in development, but that might not come to anything, and there is the possibility that ‘The Cricketers’ as it is called then could be turned into a film. Appendix 2 is Adams’ original 23 page treatment for ‘Doctor Who – The Krikkitmen’, and Appendix 3 is the start of a version featuring Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Sladen) and K9. Yours truly, who is not totally lost in Doctor Who fandom found all alternative reality information fascinating stuff.
This is a Fourth Doctor story, which might be surprising to some given that the Fifth Doctor is probably the one more closely associated with cricket, but Goss is an old Doctor Who hand, and has previous with the Fourth Doctor in book and audio form (for example, Doctor Who: City of Death), so we have a well-rounded and believable Tom Baker Doctor and Lalla Ward Romana, pitched into an epic adventure which might have worked as a big budget film, but given the budget constraints of the BBC it would have been a very pared down TV version. As a story it is slightly all over the place, probably because it was never truly finished by Adams and intended for another medium, but there are lots of different exotic locations and lots of different exotic aliens and the story just rattles along. Doctor Who completists will love this, as will Adams completists, if there are such things.
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