For the last few months, the Doctor Who Instagram account has been posting occasional photographic updates from filming on series nine – and one of their latest reveals is making our minds race.
The picture features three small Tardis-blue glass bottles, one of which has a label described in the post as “*almost* too small to read” – but we’ve managed, and it’s a pretty interesting inscription.
It says: “Answer to the question of life, the universe and everything in the galaxy,” accompanied by strange (and possibly Gallifreyan) symbols as well as the words “Part 10”. But what could it all mean?
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The first thing that springs to mind is that it’s a reference to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the seminal comedy radio series and novel written by the late Douglas Adams, who also penned classic Doctor Who episodes The Pirate Planet and Shada and co-wrote fan-favourite episode City of Death under a pseudonym.
The second thing is “42” which, as all Hitchhiker’s fans know, is the answer to the great question of life, the universe and everything. It’s also the name of an episode of Doctor Who starring none other than David Tennant – aka Ten – in which the Doctor and Martha follow a distress call from spaceship SS Pentallian and must answer a series of quiz questions in order to save it (no, really).
This is wild speculation of course but could this be a hint that a series nine episode might revisit the Pentallian, and could even feature a meeting between Capaldi and Tennant’s Doctors…?
More likely, it’s just a nice hat-tip to Adams, written on a background prop that won’t actually play a significant part in an episode. The show even has form for such throwaway references, with the Tenth Doctor implying he’d met Adams’s pyjama-clad protagonist Arthur Dent when comparing himself to him in his debut episode The Christmas Invasion, and the Eleventh Doctor later pointing out an alien species from Adams’s novels (the Hooloovoo, fact fans) to Clara in the Rings of Akhaten.
However, given the Time Lord symbols on the bottle and the fact that such a reference would be a bit out of nowhere, it could mean something more – perhaps some sort of influence by Adams on a series nine episode. It was after all, a rejected Doctor Who script that he turned into the third of the Hitchhikers novels, Life, the Universe and Everything (sound familiar?)
Meanwhile, “Part 10” inscribed on the bottle could refer to the tenth episode of the new series of Doctor Who, of which we currently know very little except that it’s written by Sarah Dollard, will feature the return of series eight’s graffiti artist Rigsy (below), as played by Joivin Wade, and that it is one of only two consecutive episodes that has not yet been confirmed as forming a two-part story.
Perhaps the episode just has a Hitchhiker’s Guide sort of feel to it – based on set photos (see main image), they certainly seem to spend a lot of time looking at maps.
Alternatively, the Time Lord symbols could relate to the larger ongoing story of the Doctor trying to find ANSWERS about his people’s location, perhaps even featuring the Time Lords’ return.
Or maybe it could spell real trouble for the Doctor, because if the series finale is taking inspiration from Adams’s work then we could see the return of an old enemy. You see, in the original script that later became his novel, the killer robots of the planet Krikkit were the Daleks – and they had terrible plans for the universe (again).
In short – this prop could be either hugely significant, or a throwaway joke that will be dissected and pored over at length online. That’s the world of Doctor Who today, and we love it…