In the 40 years since it first debuted as a BBC radio show, Douglas Adams‘ sci-fi comedy The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as also been adapted as a best-selling series of novels, a stage show, a computer game, a comic book, a towel, LPs, and a disappointing 2005 feature film that seemed to not understand its own source material (FYI: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is a location in time, not space). My personal favorite visual take on the show is the six-episode 1981 TV series that featured original radio cast members Simon Jones, Mark Wing-Davey, and Peter Jones reprising their original roles.
The story follows passive Earthman Arthur Dent (Jones) as he awakens to discover that his home is to be destroyed in order to make way for a bypass. While dealing with this seemingly most pressing of issues, his friend Ford Prefect (David Dixon) arrives and convinces him to join him at the local pub, where he reveals that he is alien from somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse, and not from Guildford after all. Meanwhile, Arthur’s home gets demolished, and just as he is throwing a fit he gets a crash course in perspective when he learns that the Earth is about to be destroyed by the vicious bureaucratic aliens known as the Vogons. Fortunately, he and Ford are picked up by the Vogon ship thanks to his pal’s ingenuity. It seems that Ford is a writer for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a remarkable electronic book that provides readers with everything they need to know about how to survive in a hostile universe.
Although it contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, the Guide is unlike anything Arthur — or viewers — have ever seen before. Soon, Arthur and Ford meet up with Zaphod Beeblebrox (Mark Wing-Davey), the egotistical two-headed, three-armed President of the Galaxy, and Trillian (Sandra Dickinson), an English woman who Arthur once unsuccessfully tried to pick up at a party. Joined by the clinically depressed Marvin the Paranoid Android, our heroes embark on a side-splitting journey through time and space in which the learn the answer to the question of life, the universe, and everything, discover how important dolphins and mice are, and catch a quick bite at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
The impact of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy can be felt not only in other series like Red Dwarf, but in countless anarchic and existential comedies released over the past four decades. On November 13th, BBC/Warner will release a special anniversary edition of the TV series, remastered and packed with special features that not only pay tribute to the late, great Douglas Adams but also to the various permutations of his enduring masterpiece.
Packed with plenty of laughs and a low-budget Doctor Who-esque charm, this new release will introduce a new generation of hoopy froods to the pleasures of Hitchhiker’s Guide. And for that, there truly is no need to panic.