1 9 8 1 (UK)
6 x 35 minute episodes
There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another which states that this has already happened.
Seconds before the Earth is destroyed by a Vogon Construction Fleet to make way for a hyperspace bypass, Ford Prefect (David Dixon) – an alien from the planet Betelgeuse and researcher for the best-selling inter-galactic reference book The Hitchhiker’s Guide – rescues typical Englishman, Arthur Dent (Simon Jones) from the impending doom.
Arthur – who is surprised to discover that Ford is not, in fact, from Guildford – soon finds himself marooned in space with his alien friend.
Together they discover what a groovy place the universe can be and seek answers to many burning questions: Why are people born? Why do they die? Why do they spend so much of the intervening time wearing digital watches? They are aided along their way by the book itself – a woefully inaccurate electronic tourist guide and a source of mostly useless information . . .
Ford and Arthur start out on the spaceship Heart of Gold where they meet two-headed ex-president of the galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox (Mark Wing-Davey), his pretty young astrophysicist girlfriend Trillian – in reality, Tricia McMillian from Earth (Sandra Dickinson) – and Marvin the Paranoid Android (“Do you want me to sit in a corner and rust, or just fall apart where I’m standing?”).
Zaphod has, in fact, stolen the Heart of Gold – the first prototype ship equipped with the Infinite Improbability Drive – and is looking for the lost planet of the Magrathea, a planet that used to build custom-made planets.
Along the way, they bump into the ugly green Vogons (who write the worst poetry in the universe), the Golgafrinchians (advertising executives and telephone sanitisers who were banished from their planet for being totally useless) and plutonium rock and roller, Hotblack Desiado.
My favourite characters are probably Shootie and Bang-Bang – two enlightened and liberal galactic cops who shoot people and then agonise about it later to their girlfriends (possibly based on The Professionals or Starsky and Hutch).
Notorious for its low sci-fi budgets, the BBC graced this series with superior special effects and sophisticated computer animation converting the viewers’ screen into the Guide when necessary.
The guest stars were headed by Doctor Who‘s Peter Davison (Sandra Dickinson’s husband at the time) and David Prowse (Darth Vader from Star Wars). Douglas Adams himself appeared in the second episode, where he disrobed and walked into the sea.
An exceptional man, Adams died much too young, aged 49, from a heart attack on 12 May 2001. A film version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy was in the works at the time of his death and was finally released in 2005.
Voice of the book
Trillian (Tricia McMillian)
Voice of Deep Thought