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!
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!
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!