Two million years ago, the inhabitants of Krikkit built a deadly race of androids designed to wipe out all life in the universe – the Krikkitmen. The Krikkitmen are known and feared throughout the rest of the galaxy for waging the bloodiest war in history. Their alarmingly efficient Krikkit robots are depicted as even more fearsome than they are. Stopped only by the interference of the Time Lords, Krikkit was trapped within a temporal prison. Looking to assemble a key to free their planet, a group of Krikkitmen who escaped at the end of the war discover the human game of cricket is a representation of their war with the Time Lords.. and that the key’s components resemble elements of the game! After the Krikkitmen steal the Ashes during a test match at Lords, the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith travel to the planet Bethselamin as they try to foil the next step in the Krikkitmen’s quest to free Krikkit…
Possibly one of the most unique stories ever pitched to the Doctor Who production office, Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen opens at Lords Cricket Ground, the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith baring witness to a group of androids in cricket whites (who materialise in a pavilion) 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, a war 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, a prison that 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 before discovering that the Krikkitmen have already collected the majority of the key, our travellers head on to Bethselamin, the Doctor and Sarah seeking 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 protaganists 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… even though Adams would later sum up his rejection 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 with the intention of finding support for a Doctor Who motion picture which unfortunately 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, revising his scripts with the intention of approaching 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 major 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 primeval Earth to Lords, went through twenty different drafts alone.
The Krikkitmen plot largely remains intact in the book, the roles of the Doctor largely 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 direct to save the universe action 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 been largely 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. Whimsical, witty and brilliantly written, like all Adams’ work, what was potentially a huge loss to Doctor Who has both lived on and endured, standing as a testament that a good idea will always finally out.