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Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The

Entry updated 8 April 2019. Tagged: Film, Radio, TV.


1. Radio series (1978, 1980). BBC Radio 4. Written and created by Douglas Adams, produced by Simon Brett (first episode) and Geoffrey Perkins (subsequent episodes). Cast includes Peter Jones as The Book, Simon Jones as Arthur Dent, Geoffrey McGivern as Ford Prefect, Stephen Moore as Marvin the Paranoid Android, Mark Wing-Davey as Zaphod Beeblebrox and Susan Sheridan as Trillian. Six 30-minute episodes broadcast weekly from 8 March 1978 to 12 April 1978. Christmas special 24 December 1978. Second series of five 30-minute episodes broadcast daily, 21-25 January 1980.

Douglas Adams's phenomenally successful Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy sequence began in March 1978 as a six-episode radio series, officially numbered Fit the First through Fit the Sixth in echo of the section divisions in Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark (1876 chap). Two episodes of this first series (#5 and #6) were cowritten with John Lloyd, who was to be associate producer of the later television series (below). This initial series was followed in the same year by a one-off Fit the Seventh timed as a Christmas special; the first year made Hitch Hiker the only radio show ever to achieve a Hugo nomination, as Best Dramatic Presentation in 1979. A second series of five episodes was broadcast in January 1980. Hitch Hiker built up a massive (for radio) cult following. Commercially released recordings of the radio broadcasts – initially as two double sets of LP records in 1979 and 1980, produced by Geoffrey Perkins – sold widely; the first series, first LP (1979) and second series won the newly introduced BSFA Award media category in successive years, 1979-1981. Adams then turned his scripts into the bestselling novels The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979) and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980), eventually followed by three further volumes. The radio scripts appeared in book form, with some additional commentary and trivia notes, as The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The Original Radio Scripts (coll 1985) edited by Geoffrey Perkins. The three further novels were adapted back for radio after Adams's death as The Tertiary Phase (2004), The Quandary Phase (2005) and The Quintessential Phase (2005). [DRL/PN/GS]

2. Television series (1981). BBC TV. Written and created by Douglas Adams, produced by Alan J W Bell, associate producer John Lloyd. Peter Jones and Stephen Moore voiced The Book and Marvin, as in the radio series. Cast includes Simon Jones as Arthur Dent, David Dixon as Ford Prefect, Mark Wing-Davey as Zaphod Beeblebrox and Sandra Dickinson as Trillian. Six 35-minute episodes, re-edited to seven episodes for first US release. Colour.

This television serial began life as a BBC Radio 4 production, as above. The television version was largely based on the first six radio episodes, only slightly on the subsequent six; many scenes from the radio series were not included in either the television or book versions. Adams had substantial television experience, having been a script editor on Doctor Who. The television series was very funny indeed – although less liked by many aficionados than the original radio version – and was notable for the then-sophisticated graphics with which the eponymous talking Guidebook itself was animated (see also Travel Guides). Hitch Hiker belongs to a very English school of comparatively deadpan (and somewhat cruel) absurd humour, based on the implicit premise that the Universe is arbitrary and unkind, especially to the English, and suffers from galloping Entropy. Although US television seldom produces work of this sort, the programme was successful there also, although not to the same extent as in the UK. It is often replayed, and is available on video, slightly expanded, with average episodes of 40 rather than 35 minutes. [PN]

3. Videogame (1984). See The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

4. Film (2005). [[Entry needed]]

see also: BBC Radiophonic Workshop.


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