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Unseen Doctor Who Pitch by Douglas Adams Uncovered

A previously unseen idea for a Doctor Who story by Douglas Adams has been discovered among the late writer’s papers at the University of Cambridge.

Before anyone gets too excited at the news, we should stress that it’s a very rough synopsis that sets out a possible story in the sketchiest terms and, at little more than 100 words, it’s surely too short to form the basis of a future novel or audiobook along the lines of Doctor Who and the Krikketmen.

But anything by Douglas Adams is worth a look for his legions of fans and it shows his vivid imagination at work at an early stage, as well as demonstrating that Doctor Who was on his radar long before he worked on the programme.

The synopsis appears in the first page of a notepad dating from 1972; for context, that was the time of Jon Pertwee’s Doctor as the programme headed into its ninth season. The full text reads:

  • DR WHO
  • — Travel forward
  • Caught in ‘time pocket’
  • Land again on Earth
  • Everything — slow motion
  • — (20 yard area around the Tardis)
  • Find barrier — Where? London?
  • Hemispherical — mirror — force field
  • — beings inside turn out to be projection of each observer
  • i.e. whoever looks at them simply sees images of himself — Why?
  • Because humans are a race of individuals
  • — self centred. These people, Zotons, are a community — each individual is a cell, and sees each other cell as an image of the community.
  • Come from a different space-time continuum to study this life form, which seem only to exist in this particular STC
  • [Margin notes]
  • Communicate telepathically
  • Attempt show image of community — mindblowing!

It’s not known whether Adams developed the idea further or if he envisaged it as something worth pitching to the BBC. Like most writers, he would often rework story ideas from unproduced material for use in later scripts and novels, and it’s possible to detect hints of 1978’s The Pirate Planet.

In 1972, Douglas Adams was studying English at St John’s College, Cambridge, graduating in 1974, although by his own admission he largely occupied his time writing, performing and producing comedy sketches and revues.

The notepad is just one item in an extensive catalogue of Adams’ papers held by St John’s College Library. Other items in the archive, listed in full by Archives Hub, include scripts and other material from Doctor Who and the Krikketmen, The Pirate Planet, and Shada.

No less than 67 boxes of Douglas Adams’ papers are held by the library’s Special Collections. Kevin Jon Davies, known to the Doctor Who community as director of More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS and numerous other documentaries for DVD releases, is working his way through the papers in preparation for a crowdfunded book, 42: The Wildly Improbable Ideas of Douglas Adams.

Jonathan Appleton

A regular Doctor Who viewer since Pertwee fought maggots and spiders, Jonathan isn't about to stop now. He considers himself lucky to have grown up in an era when Doctor Who, Star Trek and Blakes 7 could all be seen on primetime BBC1. As well as writing regularly for The Doctor Who Companion he's had chapters included in a couple of Blakes 7 books.

Unseen Doctor Who Pitch by Douglas Adams Uncovered

by Jonathan Appleton time to read: 2 min
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