6 Links Between The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy & Doctor Who

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is perhaps the most remarkable, certainly the most successful, series ever to come out of the great publishing corporations of BBC Television Centre. (Except maybe for Doctor Who.) Intriguingly, there is a key link between these sci-fi staples, and that is the wonderfully quirky Douglas Adams, creator of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and script editor and writer for Doctor Who in the 1970s.

He wrote the classic 1979 story City of Death, which often comes high on the list of fan favourites, and he was also the scribe of the famously unfinished Shada, which continues to be re-imagined in various forms some 30 years later, as well as The Pirate Planet, the second installment of The Key To Time season in 1978.

But there are a number of other connections between Doctor Who and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s as if the two shows were subconsciously influencing each other – a remarkable coincidence in the theoretically infinite world of storytelling! Here are just some of those connections. There may be some potential spoilers ahead, but whatever you do – Don’t Panic!

Shada, the lost Doctor Who adventure by Douglas Adams

First, we have Bistromatics! And just what are Bistromatics, I hear you ask? Well, as the Hitchhiker Wiki puts it…

“There is, inside the ship of the Bistromathic I what appears to be a small Italian bistro. Everything in the bistro is mechanical, including waiters, customers, and tables, all of which act together in a complicated routine to power the ship. Things such as stirring one’s coffee, arguing with the robotic waiter, returning your steak, insisting for a better cooked steak, and arguing about the noise from the robotic party across from you park, power, create, and move the Bistromathic I, in a mind-numbingly complex work of science and manipulating the nature of the universe.”    

Anyone who saw the Doctor Who episode Deep Breath cannot fail to see the connection here. I refer of course to the wonderful scene featuring the Doctor and Clara in the bizarre Victorian restaurant, which was inhabited by creepy clockwork droids, ‘dining’ in a cold, mechanical manner, all part of an elaborate plan to ensnare living people and make off with their organs! Was Deep Breath‘s writer, Steven Moffat, perhaps inspired by Douglas Adam’s Bistromatics? If so, it wouldn’t be the first time. Indeed, the Doctor also makes a reference to the Hooloovoo in The Rings of Akhaten, which was an episode overseen by Moffat. And according to Wikipedia, a Hooloovoo is a “hyper-intelligent shade of the colour blue.” I think you have a fan, Mr Adams!

Doctor Who: The Rings of Akhaten

But, you actually have to look to another Doctor Who producer to see the most obvious nods to Hitchhiker’s. Russell T Davies, who oversaw the show from 2005 to 2010, even named an episode after one of Adam’s most famous gags. “42” was the answer given to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything, thanks to rather humorous supercomputer called Earth. And as you probably know, 42 was also the name of a Doctor Who episode from Series 3, in which the Doctor and Martha had 42 minutes to save a ship from plunging into a sun. Coincidence? I think not!

Furthermore, if you hop back in time a couple of years, you will see the same Doctor fighting the dreaded Sycorax atop their somewhat rocky space vehicle. The recently-regenerated Doc, donning a dressing gown borrowed from Rose Tyler’s mum, defeats the alien invaders and swaggers away proudly, turning to his companion and saying: “Not bad for a man in his jim jams – very Arthur Dent! Now, there was a nice man…!” Arthur Dent, of course, is the main character from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a man who spends most of the story dressed in – you guessed it – his pyjamas!


Of course, the Doctor Who writers may simply be acknowledging the eerie parallels between the two shows, as opposed to deliberately shoe-horning ‘Douglas Adams’ references. Indeed, when Russell T Davies came to write 2007’s The Voyage of the Damned, he’d originally intended to call it Starship Titanic, but he decided against it as the title had already been used by another writer. And that writer was… Douglas Adams! It’s at this point where one must surrender all previous theories, and accept that the whole thing is an elaborate plan conjured up by Dalek Caan. Or Steven Moffat!

So what do you think, Kasterborites? Could it be that there is nothing new under the sun, and it is inevitable that some sci-fi ideas will crossover? Or are the Doctor Who writers deliberately showing their affection for one of the genre’s most respected scribes? And can you think of any other links between The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Doctor Who? Let us know!


likes William Hartnell, whisky, being creative, debating canonicity, The Gunfighters, The Keys of Marinus and City of Death. He has a strong dislike of cold quiche, corporate PowerPoint presentations and lanyards, but loves terrible puns. He's currently employed by a mute teddy bear with black ears.

  • David Coulter

    It is obvious that they inhabit the same universe.
    When the Doctor was trapped under fallen rubble on Skaro he pulled out and started reading a book written by Oolon Colluphid.

    Thus the events in HHGTTG occur in the same universe as Dr Who.


    • Jason Z

      Except that in ‘The Wormery’, the Doctor appears to refer to Douglas Adams as a friend – see the third point at . Having said that, you may not count Big Finish as canonical – and in any case it’s exactly the sort of postmodern (is that the right word?) thing that Paul Magrs would write on purpose (since he knows full well that Adams wrote Doctor Who).

      • Bar

        The Doctor is aways befriending SF authors – travels with Mary Shelly are great fun, as is the mashup of Who and Orson Wells famous radio SF event WOTW (and since NOTD I’d say have to count as canon) though some are best glossed over – HG Wells for instance.
        Not sure ‘canon’ and ‘postmodern’ can exist in the same universe though.
        HHG says that if anyone ever finds out what the universe is for it will instantaneously be replaced by something even more bizzare and inexplicable. Which might be the Whoniverse.
        The two white mice who time travel in ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan might have been Franki mouse and Benji mouse’s forbears, the TARDIS is the original hyper-intelligent shade of the colour blue, and any number of the Doctor’s mechanical foes would qualify under Marvin’s definition ‘What a depressingly stupid machine.’

      • Philip Rock

        Except in the mini episode “Night of the Doctor” moffat made all the big finish audio adventures canonical by referencing all of the 8th doctors companions.

    • zontar

      If they happened in the same universe, then how come the Doctor didn’t stop the Vogons?

  • kevin merchant

    “42” could also have been a reversal of “24”, also supposedly in real time.

    42 minutes and 24 hours

  • Roderick T. Long

    From the Hitchhiker’s Guide:

    “When the ‘Drink’ button is pressed it makes an instant but highly detailed examination of the subject’s taste buds, a spectroscopic analysis of the subject’s metabolism, and then sends tiny experimental signals down the neural pathways to the taste centres of the subject’s brain to see what is likely to be well received.

    However, no-one knows quite why it does this because it then invariably delivers a cupful of liquid that is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.”

    From “Meanwhile in the TARDIS”:

    “Every time the TARDIS materializes in a new location, within the first nanosecond of landing, it analyzes its surroundings, calculates a 12-dimensional data map of everything within a 1000-mile radius, and determines which outer shell would blend in best with the environment.

    And then it disguises itself as a police telephone box from 1963.”

  • zontar

    Actorwise, of course, we have Trillian from the TV show, played by Sandra Dickinson the former wife of the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison and the mother of the Doctor’s Daughter (in more ways than one)-Georgia Moffett–who is also a Doctor’s wife as she married David Tennant–so in a sense Trillian is the Doctor’s Wife & Mother in Law.
    River SOng seems normal now…

  • Doctor HUN

    Maybe you left out the part where you should tell the people how Douglas Adams wrote, co-wrote and was a producer of few episodes of Doctor Who?

    • Doctor HUN

      Never mind, just saw the first sentence…

  • Adam Hart-Dyke

    The Earth was the computer built to calculate what the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything actually was. Deep Thought was the supercomputer that determined that the answer to this question was 42 and then designed the Earth to calculate the question.

  • garrett r

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned that in the 11th hour when Amelia is praying for someone to help her with the crack in her wall, she remembers to throw in “thanks for the fish”

  • diddly42

    Of course Douglas Addams influenced the Who-niverse. Nothing new there. But you did get one thing wrong. Earth didn’t calculate 42. “Deep Thought” calculated it. The Earth was supposed to calculate the question to the answer.

  • Jeremy

    in voyage of the Dammed 42 was used again by the doctor to try to get access to the hosts, he spits out random numbers until he gets to protocol 1 but 42 was one of the combinations he used,

  • Snufflebottoms Galactipus

    Can’t believe nobody has brought up Professor Chronotis!

    • Jason

      He’s from Dirk Gently, isn’t he, not HHG?

      • Snufflebottoms Galactipus

        Yes but, the Dr visits the Professor in the Shada series and in Episode 2 of the webcast version, a vending machine-like object in the background is labelled “Nutrimat”, and two other references are a sequence where Skagra steals a Ford Prefect and when images of Hitchhiker’s Guide characters appear as inmates on Shada itself.

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