Played in the radio and TV series by Simon Jones; in the film by Martin Freeman
- Achievements in Ignorance: In Life, the Universe, and Everything, Arthur stumbles across the technique for unassisted flight (which turns out to be principally psychological).
- Action Survivor: Has survived many crazy science fiction adventures.
- Anti-Hero: In the befuddled sense.
- Badass Long Robe: His Pajama-Clad Hero getup does include a long dressing gown.
- Butt Monkey: Nothing ever goes his way.
- Catch Phrase:Arthur: So this is it. We're all going to die.
- And some variation of: "Where's the tea?"
- The Comically Serious"Now, I am the first to appreciate a joke," said Arthur and then had to wait for the others to stop laughing.
- Deadpan Snarker: Clearest and strongest in the original radio drama, where his sarcasm actually makes him famous among the bird people of Brontitall. In other versions this side of him is usually downplayed quite a bit, but he still occasionally gets in a few sarcasms.Ford: How would you react if I said I'm not from Guildford after all, but from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse?
Arthur: I don't know. Why, do you think it's the sort of thing you're likely to say?
- Earn Your Happy Ending: He was due the huge break life gave him in So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish. Too bad it didn't stick. (Though it does in the radio version.)
- Fantastic Racism: Ford, Trillian, and Marvin are the only ones who don't call him "Earthman" or "Monkeyman". Why they call Trillian by her name and not him is just another one of the universe's cruel tricks.
- Genre Savvy: Arthur always suspects the worst will happen, fitting considering he's a character in a very cynical series.
- Heroic Neutral: Arthur shares this with most of the characters, which is one of the reasons Adams found the books so difficult to write: all Arthur really wants out of life is a nice cup of tea and maybe his planet back, so he has to be forced to have adventures. Arthur in the film is a bit more impetuous and hot-blooded than the diffident Arthur of the book/radio/TV.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Ford. Even if they don't always act like the best of friends, Arthur is very happy to see Ford at the beginning of Life the Universe and Everything.
- How Do I Shot Web?: When he learns to fly in Life, the Universe and Everything.
- Iconic Item: His dressing gown and his towel.
- Last of His Kind: Apart from Trillian, anyway. Subverted when the Earth reappears in So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish and later with Random, though this fact is important to her origin.
- Limited Wardrobe: He's stuck in his pyjamas and dressing gown until So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish.
- No Respect Guy: He saves the Heart of Gold from missiles, but Zaphod brushes this off immediately when Arthur tells him "it was nothing really." Justified in that Zaphod is from Betelgeuse, where they don't have sarcasm, and presumably lack other figures of speech too:Zaphod: That was good thinking, Earthman. You just saved your lives!Arthur: Oh, well, it was nothing really.Zaphod: Oh, was it? Oh, well, forget it then.
- Averted later on Lamuella when he becomes the Sandwich Maker: the blacksmith and baker both consult his wisdom in matters related to cutlery and baking, and everyone appreciates his mad sandwich-making skillz.
- Pajama-Clad Hero: Despite his dressing gown being iconic, Douglas Adams himself didn't realise that Arthur would logically still be wearing it after leaving Earth until the TV series was made, meaning that Arthur's pajama clad status was not mentioned in the radio series or the first two books.
- Screams Like a Little Girl: Not very often, but lets out unusually high shrieks at times in the radio series.
- Spot of Tea: A Running Gag is his inability to get a cup of tea.
- Supreme Chef: When he gets stranded on Lamuella in Mostly Harmless, having nothing better to do with his time he becomes a supremely brilliant sandwich maker, revered by the local community.
- Unfazed Everyman: The former Trope Namer.
- Unknown Rival: Agrajag, a reincarnating being who Arthur has unknowingly killed many, many times over. Agrajag is understandably annoyed.
- The Watson: He's new to the whole universe thing. Bonus points for being played by Martin Freeman who played the Trope Namer on Sherlock.
Radio: Geoffrey McGivern; TV: David Dixon; Film: Mos Def
- Artifact Alias: Ford Prefect is so named due to a research error in which he mistook the name 'Ford Prefect' as an equivalent to 'John Smith', without realising that it was the name of a popular model of car. However, he continues to be called this (as opposed to his birth name, which is unpronounceable, or his childhood nickname, Ix) by everyone long after Earth is destroyed. Even characters who hadn't seen him since before he was stranded on Earth and would have no way of knowing this pseudonym, like childhood friend and semi-cousin Zaphod Beeblebrox. The explanation is apparently that the Galactic civil service has access to time machines - who doesn't? - and finds it easier to change his name so that it has always been "Ford Prefect" than it would be for them to maintain two records for the same person.
- In the movie this was changed to that he identified cars, not humans, as the dominant life form on Earth.
- Bearer of Bad News: When you tell everyone you meet that the world is going to end in a few minutes, you are indeed a bearer of bad news.
- The Blind Leading the Blind: Anytime Ford tries to attempt Technobabble, it becomes abundantly clear he knows as little about it as Arthur, or sometimes less. One moment in the radio series had him try to explain Time Travel with a wine bottle and a napkin.
- Cheshire Cat Grin: Smiles "a little too broadly, giving people the unnerving impression he was about to go for their neck." David Dixon in the TV series took this and ran with it.
- Creepy Blue Eyes: In the TV series. The actor tried using purple contacts but they were just gilding the lily of his already creepily intense eyes. (In And Another Thing... it's revealed that Ford finds it relaxing to not blink and can go for eight minutes without doing so — he's timed it and wonders if it's a new record.)
- Deadpan Snarker: Actual verbal irony is not a concept they have on his planet, but he still manages to be a smart-ass without it.
- Died Laughing: As the Earth is destroyed in Mostly Harmless.
- The Drag-Along: In Life, The Universe, and Everything, Ford isn't too keen on the whole "saving-the-universe" thing, but is dragged along by Slartibartfast anyway.
- Fashion Dissonance: Ford wears tacky abstractions of Seventies fashion.
- The Hedonist: All he wants from life is to drink copious amounts of alcohol and dance with girls.
- Herald: Sends Arthur on an adventure, but far from a traditional example and in no way a mentor to the protagonist.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Arthur. Of all the humans to save from Earth's untimely destruction, Ford chooses his best mate in the hopes that they can bum around the galaxy together and have a laugh.
- Human Alien: Despite presumably being the same species as Zaphod (they're semi-cousins) Ford doesn't have any extra appendages and looks perfectly human, give or take a disturbing smile.
- It should be noted that Zaphod's third arm is not a natural feature, but something he acquired (either to help with his "ski-boxing", or so he could fondle all three of famed prostitute Eccentrica Gallumbits' breasts at the same time).
- It's All About Me: Not as bad as Zaphod, but he was more concerned with his sacrifice of a pair of shoes than Arthur's daughter going missing.Ford: Mine's better.
- Last of His Kind: To some minor degree, according to a footnote, but he doesn't seem to let it get him down.
- Mr. Exposition: He tries to be this to Arthur, but barely knows as much as Arthur.
- No Name Given: "Ford Prefect" is an alias used on Earth due to Ford believing that cars were the dominant life form on the planet. A footnote reveals that Ford is the last remaining survivor of the Great Collapsing Hrung Disaster on Betelgeuse VII, and his original name was thus lost. His schoolmates on Betelgeuse V nicknamed him 'Ix', which in their language means "boy who is unable to satisfactorily explain what a Hrung is, or why it should collapse on Betelgeuse Seven."
- Purple Eyes: For the TV version, David Dixon put in purple contacts to make his eyes look stranger. For filming, they decided his eyes looked plenty strange enough, thank you very much.
- Race Lift: Appears to be, or is described as, white in all versions but the film, where he is black.
- Really 700 Years Old: According to the books, he is approximately two-hundred years old.
- Rummage Sale Reject: In the TV series, he wears a carefully clashing outfit involving a striped cricket blazer and an Argyle sweater.
- Sarcasm-Blind: They don't have sarcasm in Betelgeuse. He eventually learns it in And Another Thing..., to Arthur's pride.
Radio and TV: Mark Wing-Davey; Film: Sam Rockwell
- Adaptation Dye-Job: Blonde in the books, dark hair in the TV series.
- Amnesiac Dissonance: He erased some inconvenient memories so he could become President, resulting in a new persona who finds he's not really on-board with his past self's machinations.
- We get to see his past self briefly in Young Zaphod Plays It Safe. He's got more moral scruples than the Zaphod we know.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: Two heads and thee arms. Depending on the version of the story, they're either natural for his species or Zaphod added them himself for a multitude of reasons.
- Corrupt Politician: He is mentioned as being one of the most successful Presidents the Galaxy has ever had, having already spent two years of his ten-year term in prison for fraud.
- The Fool: Mostly because many of his apparently random impulses are actually related to memories he erased from his mind years ago. He'd rather not think about it too hard.
- Genius Ditz: He's a hedonistic, self-absorbed thrill seeker but he has moments of brilliance. His past self was much smarter, given the master plan he cooked up to meet and confront the ruler of the universe.
- The Hedonist: Just like Ford.
- Inferiority Superiority Complex: He claims to be insecure, but he's possibly just doing it for the attention.
- Informed Attribute: Voted the worst dressed sentient being seven years running. Quite a few characters compliment his outfit.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: In more than one way. He is a jerk, but is a nice guy at heart. Also, his ship is called The Heart of Gold.
- Large Ham: Especially the Sam Rockwell Zaphod.
- The Load: In the movie, he spends the latter half somewhere between this, The Millstone, and vaguely useful, because he's missing one of his heads. Ford actually has to drag him around in one or two scenes. Also, when they're getting shot at, he apparently thinks it's a dance party. Fortunately, Vogon soldiers make even the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy look good by comparison.
- Multiple Head Case: Subverted in most adaptations (where there's no distinction between the two heads), pretty much played straight in the movie, and zigzagged in the sixth novel, where the second head has a distinct personality after being removed and attached to the Heart of Gold.
- In the film, Zaphod's second head often sports a Slasher Smile while making serious threats, like promising to pull Arthur's spleen through his mouth.
- My Own Grampa: Apparently there was "an accident with a contraceptive and a time machine."
- Narcissist: Oh so very much:"If there's anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now."
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Also quite capable of actual stupidity. Telling the difference is tricky.
- Really 700 Years Old: According to the books, he's two-hundred years old.
- Screwy Squirrel: He is a complete scoundrel, will screw almost anything over for personal gain, and is far from a role model. Practically the reason why he is the president of the galaxy in the first place, actually.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Downplayed in that he's a Big Name, Big Ego.
- That Man Is Dead: In the back story he lobotomised himself to keep his plans secret even from himself. However, turns out that the 'new him' hates the old one and actively works against those plans.
Tricia MacMillan/Trillian Astra
Radio: Susan Sheridan; TV: Sandra Dickinson; Film: Zooey Deschanel
- Absolute Cleavage: Her red outfit in the TV series.
- Adaptation Dye-Job: She has dark hair in the books, blonde in the TV series.
- Adaptational Nationality: She's American in the TV series and the film.
- Advertised Extra: In the radio version.
- Ambiguously Brown: In the books, where she's "darkish", with black hair and brown eyes and a "vaguely Arabic" appearance when she wears a headscarf, although her actual ethnicity is never mentioned.
- Badass Driver: Having grown up on Earth and having spent what can only have been a couple of weeks aboard the Heart of Gold, Trillian becomes such a good pilot that she successfully evades two guided missiles for several minutes. After one especially spectacular manoeuvre:Ford: Where the hell did you learn that, Trillian?Trillian: Going around Hyde Park Corner on a moped.
- Brainy Brunette: Originally an astrophysicist and mathematician.
- Informed Ability: Trillian is described by Arthur as "devastatingly intelligent" and has a degree in maths and another in astrophysics, but she doesn't get to show it very often. In Life, The Universe and Everything she argues skilfully with the Krikkit War Council, but most of the time Trillian is just slightly more intelligent than everyone else.
- Last Of Her Kind: After the Earth is blown up, she's the last female Earth person. Again, subverted later.
- Married to the Job: As a reporter in Mostly Harmless.
- My Biological Clock Is Ticking: At the time she had Random.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: "Trillian" is just a "spacy" nickname Zaphod gave her based on her real name, Tricia McMillan.
- Parental Neglect: Her Married to the Job lifestyle means she is a pretty neglectful mother towards Random.
- She becomes less neglectful in And Another Thing....
- Promoted to Love Interest: In the film, she's Arthur's love interest. In every other version, Arthur tried unsuccessfully to flirt with her at a party before the events of the story and that was that.
- Race Lift: Described as "vaguely Arabic" in the first book, implying she has South Asian ancestry. Played by white actresses in both the TV series and the film. In the comic book, she has the same pale skin as Arthur and brown hair instead of the black she has in the books.
- The Smurfette Principle: The only female character of note until Fenchurch and Random came along in the fourth and fifth books, respectively.
- Women Are Wiser: She gives the impression of having her act together even when she doesn't. She's easily the most sensible and mature person aboard the Heart of Gold. (And there's an Overly Narrow Superlative if there ever was one.)
Marvin "the Paranoid Android"
Radio: Stephen Moore; TV: voiced by Stephen Moore, body of David Learner; Film: voiced by Alan Rickman, body of Warwick Davis
- Catch Phrase: "I think you ought to know I'm feeling very depressed", "Life? Don't talk to me about life." some of the first two lines he says when introduced in every continuity of H2G2. There's also his "Here I am, brain the size of a planet..." speeches.
- The Chew Toy: He gets treated like crap (or makes himself believe he is, at times) by almost everything in the entire universe. The fact that he is several times older than the universe itself in the later books doesn't help much, either.
- The Constant: And he's not happy about it.
- Cute Machines: More than anything, you can't help but want to hug him.
- Deadpan Snarker: You'd be snarky too if you hated everyone and everything. Unlike most examples of the trope however, Marvin gets no pleasure from his sarcasm. Crosses over into Servile Snarker.
- The Drag-Along: Being depressed at all times, he has to be dragged along by the other characters.
- The Eeyore: Alive and not happy about it.
- Eye Lights Out: His death at the end of So Long and Thanks for all the Fish, after he sees God's final message to His creation.
- Flawed Prototype: Marvin was the unsuccessful prototype for the personality chip. Everything else that has it is irrepressibly cheerful all the time— including Eddie, a ship AI who will cheerfully tell you you're about to be vaporized by nuclear missiles, and even the individual doors which all thank you for passing through them. Marvin hates them all.
- Image Song: He had four such songs sung by Stephen Moore, his actor from the original radio and TV series.
- Insufferable Genius: He's ten thousand times smarter than everyone else, and regularly insults and shoots down at other people's suggestions.
- Intelligence Equals Isolation: Marvin often ends up alone by himself- not just to sulk, but because most everyone he interacts with gets bummed out by his depressing worldview and either leaves him alone or, in two cases, kill themselves.
- Long Lived: Played Up to Eleven. By the end of So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, he reveals that, thanks to time-travel, he is no less than 37 times older than the universe itself.
- Mundane Utility: Marvin has a brain the size of a planet, and he's only assigned simple household tasks.
- Personality Chip: As stated above: A flawed prototype.
- Pet the Dog: He's unfailingly critical of all life forms, as well as all robots (including himself, except in the area of intelligence). But he does have a kind word for Trillian's deductive ability in Life, the Universe and Everything:Marvin: That girl is one of the least benightedly unintelligent life forms it has ever been my severe displeasure not to be able to avoid meeting.
- Ridiculously Human Robot: Subverted. While humanoid, his emotion chip is supposed to emulate real emotions. Unfortunately, it does that too well, and only with depression.
- Robot Buddy: Under certain definitions of the word "buddy". The marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation was probably referring to a different robot when it advertised "Your Plastic Pal Who's Fun To Be With!"
- Second Law My Ass: Marvin is a low-grade version of this trope: he'll obey, but he won't like it, and he'll never let you forget it.
- Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence: Easily of Deus Est Machina levels intelligence, but it's never put to full use.
- At one point he is put in charge of all the computing for a robotic army and fleet that can take on the whole galaxy at once, and is still so under-challenged that he composes little poems to keep himself occupied.
- Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids: Brain the size of a planet, and yet they only ask him to do [insert menial task here]? How very depressing.
- Time Abyss: Oh so very, very much. In one instance he stays in one spot from approximately 1980 until the end of the universe. By the end of the series he is, by virtue of Time Travel, six times older than the universe itself! He is then brought back to life again because numerous characters that lived when he was created were still alive, and that went against the Lifetime Insurance Policy of Sirius Cybernetics Corporation."The first ten million years were the worst. And the second ten million, they were the worst, too. The third ten million I didn't enjoy at all. After that, I went into a bit of a decline."
- Tinman Typist: Marvin sometimes uses vocal commands. In the TV version he opens the black spaceship's airlock by saying "Abracadiodularservosystems". It would be hard to judge whether he would find a plug in or voice control easier. He'd certainly be depressed by either option. In the novels, on the one occasion he directly interfaced with another AI it was Driven to Suicide, so it's probably justified.
Radio: Richard Vernon (first and second series), Richard Griffiths (fourth, fifth, and sixth); TV: Richard Vernon; Film: Bill Nighy
- Beleaguered Bureaucrat: Comes off as one in the 2003 film as played by Bill Nighy.
- Expy: Of the Doctor in Life the Universe and Everything due to the book being an adaptation of a rejected Doctor Who serial by Douglas Adams, Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen. Both the Doctor and Slartibartfast are very old human-looking aliens who travel through space and time righting wrongs in a weird looking spaceship (a police box for the former, an Italian bistro for the latter). Ford and Arthur even act as companion stand-ins.
- Mr. Exposition: In both the first and third books, he gives out plot relevant information on galactic history and technology.
- No Name Given: Subverted. It's not important.
- Wizard Classic: In the TV series, he looks a lot like Gandalf. While not an actual wizard, he looks and acts the part.
- Always Chaotic Evil: Subverted. According to the Guide itself, they are "not actually evil, but bad-tempered, bureaucratic, officious and callous."
- Bad Boss: A Vogon captain killing most of his crew in a violent rage is pretty normal for them.
- Determinator: By all indications, the Vogons were never supposed to survive, or become sentient (their brains are a badly misplaced liver). And yet, they're still around, being too damn stupid to kill.
- Evolutionary Levels: They're a species evolution didn't so much forget, but rather completely gave up on the minute it saw them.
- Green and Mean: Vogons aren't exactly known for their kindness.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: That's right, the entire race. So much so that a Vogon won't lift a finger to save their own grandmother from a painful death without an overly elaborate amount of paperwork being signed first. In triplicate.
- Planet of Hats: They're all unpleasant bureaucrats. Every last one of them.
- Except for the ones who just want to shout their way through life.
- Rubber-Forehead Aliens: In the TV series. In the film, thanks to a much bigger budget, they look much more impressive and alien.
- Suckiness Is Painful: Vogon poetry can kill people. The mere threat of Vogon poetry can kill people. The only species that made worse poetry is humanity.
Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged
Radio: Toby Longworth
- The Cameo: He shows up at the end of a Douglas Adams short story, The Private Life of Genghis Khan, and insults Khan to his face, thereby indirectly causing the Mongol's massacres.
- Death Seeker: He would like nothing better than to finally die. He envies the dead and dying.
- Embarrassing First Name: Revealed in And Another Thing: his first name is Bowerick. He stopped using it because people were calling him Bow-Wowbagger.
- Jerkass: Wowbagger has become entirely soured by his immortality. He doesn't like anybody. So he decided to tell them so.
- Noodle Implements: How Wowbagger became immortal involves a rubber band, a boxed lunch, and a high-powered particle accelerator. People who have attempted to recreate the circumstances that made him immortal have failed, looking very stupid (or very dead) in the process. Or both.
- Self-Imposed Challenge: He recognizes that his purpose in (eternal) life is meaningless and stupid, but he picked it as the only thing he could work up some interest in.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: Best shown by the fact that he has watched every movie ever made at least thirty thousand times. He's utterly bored, leading to his impossible goal of personally insulting every living creature in all of time and space.
Radio: Jane Horrocks
- Brick Joke: She is the subject of one, when the fourth book opens with a narration identical to that of the first book, then reveals that Fenchurch was the woman mentioned therein.
- Chekhov's Gunman: She is revealed to have been the woman at the start of the first book who had the startling revelation.
- Distaff Counterpart: She's slightly awkward, very ordinary, extremely British and carries a great secret of the universe around in her head but she can't remember exactly what it is. Arthur without the Y chromosome, really.
- Dropped a Bridge on Her: She's removed from the narrative very quickly in Mostly Harmless. Douglas Adams was having a miserable year. She returns in And Another Thing but only very briefly as poor Arthur is whisked away from her again.
- Meaningful Name: Named for the Fenchurch Street railway station, where she was conceived in the ticket queue.
- Look Ma, No Plane!: While entering the Mile-High Club.
- Love Interest: To Arthur.
- Only One Name: Her surname is never given.
- Replacement Goldfish: In the sixth book, Arthur tries to replace her with a ship's hologram that takes on her appearance, with mixed results.
- Ret Gone: At the start of Mostly Harmless, she suddenly never existed.
- Unfazed Everywoman: She matches Arthur nicely here.
Random Frequent Flyer Dent
Radio: Samantha Béart
- Bratty Teenage Daughter: Extremely rude towards her father.
- Deadpan Snarker: In one line towards the Guide Mark II:'Oh, great. A laser show,' said Random fractiously. 'Never seen one of those before, except at about five million rock concerts.'
- Foreshadowing: Unintentionally; there's a throwaway line Arthur makes near the beginning of the story about wishing he had a daughter so he could forbid her to marry a Vogon. The stage adaptation treats this as a Brick Joke.
- Little Miss Badass: Well, she does like to throw rocks at people who annoy her. And keeps a specially sharpened one in her pocket for the right occasion, which she can "cause a lot of trouble with".
- Perpetual Frowner: Never smiles. Ever.
- Unwitting Pawn: Being manipulated by the Guide Mk II.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy ("The Book")
Radio: Peter Jones (first and second series), William Franklyn (third, fourth, and fifth); TV: Peter Jones; Film: Stephen Fry
- Cozy Voice for Catastrophes: Particularly Peter Jones. In one particularly stressful scene in the television series, he assures the main characters' safety in advance while pleasant images appear on the screen.
- Encyclopedia Exposita: Is constantly quoted throughout the story on every subject in the galaxy the audience needs (or doesn't need, for that matter) to be told about- Played for Laughs, of course.
- Everyone Has Lots of Sex: As far as The Guide's editors are concerned.
- Footnote Fever: The glossary, since it's ripped off a cereal box (which ripped off The Guide thanks to Time Travel).
- Phrase Catcher: "Oh, that thing."