The world’s end was flagged up by the departure of the dolphins in Douglas Adams’ So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish. The dolphins disappear from planet, leaving no more than a note to humanity thanking it for the fish received over the years. No-one noticed the departure, no-one saw it as an omen of trouble until it was too late.
In Doctor Who, it was not the dolphins that disappeared, but the bumble bees, foreshadowing the coming of the Darkness but not noticed until the moment when there might have been time for reflection was past.
Those who remember Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy may remember the demolition of the Earth to make way for a new road.
”People of Earth, your attention please,” a voice said, and it was wonderful. Wonderful perfect quadrophonic sound with distortion levels so low as to make a brave man weep.
”This is Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz of the Galactic Hyperspace Planning Council,” the voice continued. ”As you will no doubt be aware, the plans for development of the outlying regions of the Galaxy require the building of a hyperspatial express route through your star system, and regrettably your planet is one of those scheduled for demolition. The process will take slightly lessthat two of your Earth minutes. Thank you.”
The PA died away.
Uncomprehending terror settled on the watching people of Earth. The terror moved slowly through the gathered crowds as if they were iron fillings on a sheet of board and a magnet was moving beneath them. Panic sprouted again, desperate fleeing panic, but there was nowhere to flee to.
Observing this, the Vogons turned on their PA again. It said:
”There’s no point in acting all surprised about it. All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display in your local planning department on Alpha Centauri for fifty of your Earth years, so you’ve had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint and it’s far too late to start making a fuss about it now.”
The PA fell silent again and its echo drifted off across the land. The huge ships turned slowly in the sky with easy power. On the underside of each a hatchway opened, an empty black space.
By this time somebody somewhere must have manned a radio transmitter, located a wavelength and broadcasted a message back to the Vogon ships, to plead on behalf of the planet. Nobody ever heard what they said, they only heard the reply. The PA slammed back into life again. The voice was annoyed. It said:
”What do you mean you’ve never been to Alpha Centauri? For heaven’s sake mankind, it’s only four light years away you know. I’m sorry, but if you can’t be bothered to take an interest in local affairs that’s your own lookout.
The story of the deflection of an asteroid by NASA seemed the sort of incident that could have come from an Adams’ plot.
Somewhere out in deep space, a planet could be hit by an asteroid that would have passed by harmlessly if it had not been deflected by a probe from Earth.