This book seems to have dropped through a wormhole in the Space-Time Continuum. According to the pre-publication publicity it’s not meant to be available until 18 January 2018, but I found it last week on the shelf at Manchester Central Reference Library.
The Krikkitmen began life as a story that Douglas Adams pitched to Robert Holmes and Anthony Read, the outgoing and incoming producers of Doctor Who, along with The Pirate Planet. They opted for The Pirate Planet (broadcast in the autumn of 1978), but suggested that The Krikkitmen might make a good film. In the meantime the first radio series of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was broadcast in 1978 and made Adams famous. This led him to becoming script editor on Doctor Who in 1979 for a year: during his time on the show he also wrote City of Death and Shada (which was never broadcast because of a strike).
Adams worked on The Krikkitmen for several years, but the film, like most films, was never made, and in time was almost forgotten (although Adams did use some of his ideas in Life, the Universe and Everything.) But when researching in the Douglas Adams archive in Cambridge for his novelisation of Shada, James Goss was shown a detailed 33 page treatment for the film, including dialogue, which led him to write this novel. The treatment is included as an appendix.
Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen features the Fourth Doctor and Romana. The original treatment featured a companion called Jane, but James Goss decided that Romana would be more appropriate. In the novel she is clearly the cleverest person for millions of light years around. It also features K9, the cleverest robot dog for millions of light years around. The Doctor is…the Doctor.
The story begins in that most English of settings, Lord’s cricket ground during the Ashes. Romana is bemused by the game and wonders why they are there, the Doctor doesn’t seem like to much like cricket either (unlike the Fifth Doctor). Things get a bit more interesting when the game is interrupted, not by rain or a streaker, but a cricket pavilion which suddenly materialises. It’s not empty:
…eleven figures, all attired in perfect cricket whites, strode out of the pavilion and towards the podium. The eleven were, to all intents and purposes, role models, from their tidily laced plimsolls to their neat helmets protecting their faces. Even their bats were polished so much they shone. …but there was one thing missing. There was nothing inside the uniforms. They were empty suits of gleaming white armour, marching in unison.
The killer robots (for this is indeed what they are) start attacking the crowd, lobbing explosive cricket balls, wielding their razor sharp steel bats, and then depart after stealing the Ashes. leaving chaos and burning grass. It turns out that they are from the planet Krikkit, who were a peaceful, happy people when they believed that they were the only race in the Universe. But one day a spaceship crashed onto their planet. This enraged them so much that they built spaceships and the Krikkitmen, and then set about destroying every other race in the Universe.
They were finally stopped by the Time Lords, who sealed Krikkit in Slow Time several million years ago. Now some Krikkitmen have escaped and are intent in freeing Krikkit from Slow Time and recommencing the annihilation with millions more Krikkitman. To do this they need to reassemble the Wicket Gate, comprising three vertical sticks, the Gold Bail of Prosperity and the Silver Bail of Peace.
Of course the Doctor and Romans set out to stop them. The rest of the novel is a dizzying swoop to and fro across the universe from planet to planet and back and forth in time. The Doctor, Romana and K9 are shot at, imprisoned and then escape (several times). They meet the Elders of Krikkit, the ineffectual Krikkit rebels (who are stymied by lack of a mission statement), Alovians, the Great Khan, Mareeve II (an unfriendly planet), Devalin (a planet where they used to fish but now they don’t), Bethsalamin (a friendly planet), Professor Chronotis, a big red off and on switch, and a super computer called Hactar who seems to hold the key to everything (but perhaps doesn’t.) Oh, and there’s a Supernova Bomb that will destroy the Universe. Just thought I’d mention it. It all ends where it began, at Lord’s.
James Goss does an excellent job of channeling Douglas Adams’ prose style:
The Doctor, K-9 and Romana were running.
Romana had, in her time with the Doctor, learnt a good deal about fleeing. If anyone shouted ‘Hah’ or ‘ Stop’ or ‘Wait!’ you ignored them. They were normally taking aim.
If given a choice between running upstairs and running downstairs, always go down. Even if the lights weren’t working. Often, yes, there’d be something with tentacles lurking in the dark, but you could cross that nightmare when you came to it. Also, with a little bit of dodging, you could let it devour any pursuers while you got on with surviving.
Running upstairs ended badly. You’d find yourself on a roof with nothing but a long drop beneath you and a pressing need to do some fast talking…
Shoes. In her early days aboard the Tardis Romana had worn a variety of imposing footwear. The TARDIS wardrobe was delightfully unlike the wardrobes of Gallifre , and so offered her the chance to enjoy experimenting. Boots. Pumps. Ballet shoes. But she quickly learned that anything with heels was out. They were good for making an entrance but hopeless for an exit.
Finally, always follow the Doctor unless he was clearly heading somewhere absolutely idiotic. If it only looked mildly idiotic (eg a time corridor or burning building) then fine. But if it was towards a squadron of Daleks then perhaps not.
When fleeing, keep an eye on local signage. Signs indicating “This way to the Forest of Knives” or “Turn left for the Swamp of Death” were best avoided. Signs never indicated where there was a large amount of cover, or something blast-proof to hide behind. The Universe was disappointing like that.
There are 42 chapters, by the way.
Don’t buy it from Amazon, though please buy it from the real Amazons at the independent News from Nowhere bookshop