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Headscratchers: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
  • Throughout the series, Earth is frequently referred to as "absolutely insignificant" and a "backwater" place that nobody has ever heard of, or if they have, it's hardly in a positive way - hell, it's even the Trope Namer for Insignificant Little Blue Planet. Yet at the same time it's also the most powerful computer in the Universe, built by Deep Thought to uncover the Ultimate Question. This Troper finds these two concepts very difficult to match up: surely everyone would know about the Earth and be interested in its quest to find the Question?
    • Famous to the Mice perhaps. This quest for the ultimate question and answer appears to be their obsession, no evidence that the rest of the galaxy ever gave a damn about it in the slightest. The only other people who know about it appear to be the Magratheans, and they have closed up shop and switched all calls to voicemail. Plus, how many people can tell (without googling) where the foremost centre for philosophical discussion is in the world right now, or state why it is important, or even identify the type of computer which is the most powerful on the planet is right now never mind give its location. These things are not important to everyday life, we only know they are important in the HHGTTG-verse because we are told they are by the author, to the peoples of that verse, they aren't as important as facts of every day life such as knowing where the next Disaster Area concert is or how to avoid the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast note .

  • So Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged wants to insult every single being in the universe, personally, and in alphabetical order. How is he supposed to deal with the fact that on Squornshellous Zeta, every mattress is called Zem and they are indistinguishable from one another?
    • Get a big megaphone and insult them all at once.
    • No, 'personally' was specified. Well, he won't be getting to the Zs for quite a while. I suppose he could hire somebody to assign them all serial numbers while he's doing the stretch from "Zc..." to "Zd..."

  • You know, if those Pan-Dimensional beings that created Deep Thought were so smart, why didn't the ask it "What is the meaning of life?" instead of demanding the "Ultimate Answer to Life, The Universe, And Everything?" It would save one hell of a lot of trouble on everybody's part.
    • It's possible that asking for "the meaning of life" wouldn't yield the result they were looking for, being that it is a computer. Better to be vague on the whole matter.
    • "Life: An object with the ability to perform self-sustaining biological processes"
    • The problem with computers is that they're very sophisticated idiots.
    • Besides, they didn't want to know the meaning of life. Heck, they'd probably already figured it out, being hyper-intelligent and all. The entire point of the Ultimate Answer to Life, The Universe and Everything is that they didn't actually know what they really wanted to know, just that they wanted to know it. So it might as well be 42.
      • Precisely. They may be smart, but they're apparently quite stupid too. (Hey, it happens. Book smarts =/= common sense.)
      • Yeah, but at first they just asked for "The Answer," which Deep Thought then asked "to what?" A better way to phrase their request would be, "Please give us a simple, intuitive general statement that any sentient being can understand and specify to itself in order to remove the necessity of ever asking any other philosophical questions, all of them being covered by the aforementioned statement."
      • Deep Thought would probably spend millions of years on it, then say "you gotta make Earth for that".
      • Giving that kind of specific question makes sense in hindsight, but they didn't know in advance how Deep Thought would respond. The whole scene is a parody of the kind of faux-profound questions like "what is the meaning of life?" that people ask to try to sound deep - "what is the ultimate answer to life, the Universe and everything?" sounds deep and meaningful, but when you start to think about it it doesn't really mean anything.

  • YMMV, but I've never understood just why the Infinite Perspective thing is supposed to be so ridiculously depressing (to wit, so ridiculously depressing it kills you). I've always found the thought quite cheering.
    • Same here! But it is a common notion that one's happiness and self-esteem ought to correlate with one's sense of relative importance, and that in that particular area, Ignorance Is Bliss.
      • Well, YMMV, but as far as this Troper understands, it has nothing to do with self-esteem. It's just that the brain/mind cannot deal with the extreme dissonance between the scale of the world it has known so far and the true immensity of the universe. It's beyond the capacity of a mind to process. Quite frankly, if such a thing was possible in real life, this Troper expects 100% of the people plugged into it would come out brain dead, including the above two Tropers. There's no 'instant depression' involved.
    • The Total Perspective Vortex is designed to shatter your self-esteem on all levels simultaneously. Part of what lets us keep going is the notion that we are all special at some level. The Vortex forces us to face the fact that we are, in fact, just an insignificant dot on an insignificant dot. Totally inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.
    • Just because the universe is incredibly big doesn't mean that individual human beings are insignificant. To think otherwise sounds to me like a very depressing worldview to live with.
      • Meet Douglas Adams. For all the jokes, he had a pretty depressing view of the universe in many ways.
    • Anybody can "know", on an intellectual level, the sheer vastness and scale of the universe. But we all delude ourselves into believing that we are more important than we are. The TPV strips away those defenses and filters that let us believe that helpful delusion. Hence, the full, clear, and total realization of just how tiny and insignificant you really are can utterly shatter your mind.
    • Basically, it forces your brain into the ultimate stack overload error. Which, given the design of the human brain in the Hitchhiker's 'verse, leads directly to irreparable hardware failure in your brain.
    • Yeah. Every try to imagine infinity? Most people have a concet of infinity that's really, really small compared to even the big numbers used in real mathematics. The TPV just makes your brain understand those numbers. And then you start screaming and never stop, because people aren't designed for that.
    • It's actually a pretty straightforward use of the Go Mad from the Revelation trope. It's just that unlike the ones in H.P. Lovecraft, this one is brought on by Sufficiently Advanced Science applied to a cake.

  • I can understand Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome, but after practically having her own book, Fenchurch is simply wiped off the face of existence and then never mentioned again, not even by her lover?
    • And yes, Author Existence Failure and a Creator Breakdown may have helped, but still, that's no excuse for such a massive bridge-drop.
    • I got nothing. It's a Downer Ending with a Downer Beginning and a Downer Middle. The only part that feels like "classic" Adams is the incident with the Perfectly Normal Beasts and the Sandwich Maker.

  • Random...just...Random. And how Trillian somehow believes that because she got an artificial insemination that it's Arthur's responsibility to take care of her mentally handicapped, violent, and unbelievably unstable daughter. What the hell, Trillian!

  • Why is it that across the wide, infinite universe everything is measured in Earth Years if Earth is so insignificant? And I don't just mean from Arthur's POV, it's mentioned in the Guide and by Ford before as well.
    • ...Maybe the Earth years are some kind of Translation Convention for the (Earth-based) readers?
      • The Babelfish.
      • Exactly. If the actual unit of measurement is used, that means something has slipped by the fish. What I want to know is why the Guide is in perfect English when only a certain Insignificant Little Blue Planet uses it. We know the Babel fish doesn't pick up written language, because in book two they see Slartibartfast's signature is in Magrathean.
      • Maybe Prefect was just carrying around an English edition for his personal use?
      • That'd be like bringing a French novel to read in Canada when you don't speak French or English. It's unlikely Ford even knows the basics of English, for all the research he did, so for his personal use he's more likely to have a copy in his home language.
      • In the first book, the Guide is shown to read out its information audibly. Given that the Babel fish can, quite clearly, translate PA systems, robots, and computers, it's not hard to imagine that it would be able to translate the voice coming out of the guide. This, however, does not explain why the keypad and the on screen read-out should be in English
      • Ford knows how to speak English, or how could he talk to the Babel-fishless humans on Earth? Plus, Arthur reads the entry on Vogon Constructor Fleets before he receives his Babel fish. And Ford says "fast-wind the index to V" when he's teaching Arthur to use it, so the index is even arranged by the English alphabet. Maybe the Guide can be set to many different languages, and Ford switched it to English just before handing it over.
    • Earth is an artificial planet. It's likely that it's years and days are specifically designed to fit the Universal Universe Time.
    • Also, English might be similar enough to whatever Golgafrichans speak that Ford was able to learn rudimentary English, monitor Earth communications to learns some more, then program the guide with the language option.
    • Ummmmm, guys? Methinks that Ford would know English. He was living on it for 15 years.
      • And small fish tend to have short lifespans, so Ford may have had no choice but to learn English when his Babel fish died of old age.

  • Having reread the series after the movie came out: How the hell could they ever possibly film a sequel? Nothing happens after the first book.
    • Well, there is...but it's all talking about time travel, eating at fancy restaurants and talking with various god like entities. Not enough death for the average audience, I guess.
      • I've often thought book three would do nicely as a movie. There's a lot more story structure to it, so there's less need to add stuff in.
      • *Krikkit, Krikkit*
      • Book Three was originally written as a movie; a Doctor Who movie. Then that didn't happen and Adams was left with this plot hanging around.
    • How come? Book two catches up from where book one left, and then book three does the same even more obviously. Book four might not make it(even though it's awesome, just wouldn't make a good movie IMO), but there's plenty of material in the next ones(including the reason to the bowl of petunias' only line "Not again"). Then again, the way they ended the movie quite kills the mood for some reveals on the second and fourth books...
      • Send Arthur et al to the Restaurant at the End of the universe, where they discover that the Krikkitmen are plotting to destroy the universe early and disrupt causality. As the gang tries to stop the plot, toss them across time and space, the B Ark, Slartibartfast, etc.
      • Unfortunately, given the pretty negative reaction to the movie by most of the fans and the subsequent box-office failure (the director of the first movie said in a recent interview that fans shouldn't hold their breaths for a sequel), we'll probably never know how they would have done it.
      • Don't forget that as a different incarnation of the H2G2 series, it is supposed to divulge from the other series. They could just add some more movie like plot points at whim.

  • Speaking of the movie: It does NOT start with Arthur Dent waking up, as the narrator tells us. It starts with the dolphins singing.
    • Correction: the narrator tells us that our story begins with a man. The dolphins don't really contribute anything to the plot—unless the next three books end up as movies, and even then the singing doesn't really do anything for the overall narrative.
      • The dolphin song is really just a badly placed mythology gag, for all it adds to the story.
      • That blunder, if it can be called that, is peanuts compared to the error in the radio series, which states that Arthur Dent is one of the minds behind the Guide when he didn't contribute so much as a full-stop to the work.
      • The series was being written as it was produced, so Adams probably decided on a different direction once the episode had already been finished. It was such a minute detail that he probably up and forgot to fix it in post. Which is more than you can say about the film, which should have its consistency errors all worked out before it's finished.
      • Dude, the movie is supposed to have "consistency errors" Its SUPPOSED to be different.
      • I was talking about internal consistency. The movie should fit together properly with itself.
      • What's even worse is that the dolphin song is probably the best part of the whole movie.

  • In The Movie, Trillian shows Arthur a hole you stick your head in and think about what you want, and it appears, and a laser knife that toasts bread while cutting it. Wouldn't that be pointless if you already have the whatever-you-want machine?
    • But the other side of the slice would be cold, and cooked to the last person;s toasting preference. Anyway, I think that the so-called "anything you want machine" was like Eddie's drink dispenser in the books: gives you either what your taste buds say you'll like, or a vague approximation of (i.e., "almost entirely unlike") what you ask for, and mostly sticks to thinks that can be poured.
    • Well, you could argue that the laser knife heats up the entire piece of bread as it cuts. And the freshly cut surface should still be hot enough for butter or whatever. As for why you'd need a laser knife, look no further than Star Trek. Even with replicators there are still people who like to make food by hand.
      • And it's not as if having multiple gadgets with redundant technologies is unheard of. How many digital clocks are within arms' reach right now?
    • The Nutri-Matic was in the movie; there's a very brief shot of Arthur taking a sip of "tea" and spitting it out. The "makes-anything machine" therefore makes the Nutri-Matic completely redundant, only thrown in as a gag to appease the fans.
    • Since, in Trillians words, "it detects what you're craving", then maybe the machine will misinterpret the toast craving as some other burning thing.
      • I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to stick my extremely-irreplaceable head inside any product manufactured by the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation. Just saying.

  • For years after I read the first book, I've been wondering... was there any clue I've missed about whose upper arm was bruised during the incident over Magrathea?
    • I can't remember if this was in the book, but at the end of that episode in the radio series Arthur makes an offhand comment about the bruise on his upper arm.
    • The two-tape version of the TV miniseries has the Guide say that it was Arthur who bruised his upper arm at the end of the first tape.
    • When I was a kid, I figured that "upper arm" meant Zaphod, since he quite literally has one arm above another on his right side, and that the line about not revealing whose upper arm gets bruised was supposed to be a joke because Zaphod is the only one with an upper arm in the first place. Of course, the TV series explicitly says it was Arthur's bicep, so never mind.
      • No, actually your explanation makes sense of an Orphaned Punchline. I'll just assume that's the intended use of "upper arm" in the book, and wave off the radio version as Alternate Continuity.
    • On the old-style vinyl LP record (there is one, in fact, three), the reveal that Arthur bruised his upper arm is on the run-out groove at the end of the side, a la Sergeant Pepper.

  • Why do people complain that the movie sucks because it's different from the book and "got all sorts of things wrong" when the book was different from the radio series before that and no-one cares, and moreover each different incarnation (radio series, books, radio series, show) is SUPPOSED to be different from the other. They're basically complaining that the movie is doing exactly what it was supposed to do and it annoys me to no end. The movie was fine to me. *shrug*
    • The main complaint I've seen is that the movie does away with a lot of the dry, subtle British comedy that embodies Douglas Adams and simply resorts to physical comedy/gags in a lot of scenes. This is justified; the tone set for the movie by the dolphin song opening is completely different to that of the book/radio series/TV series and basically is a huge warning label that Douglas Adams' dry wit has been heavily purged.
    • I'm sorry, I didn't realize there was such a thing as a science fiction fan who doesn't complain about what he loves. (Rim Shot.)

  • Why is Random's surname apparently Dent? Arthur was nothing more than an unwitting sperm donor, and when a woman has a child outside wedlock, the kid almost invariably takes the mother's surname, especially in the case of sperm donation. Shouldn't her name therefore have been either Random McMillan or Random Astra?
    • I thought her full name was Random McMillan Dent, or possibly McMillan-Dent. But maybe that's just me. Do we have any evidence that she had a last name before Trillian dumped her on Arthur?
      • I've always thought that her middle name should be Axi. Think about it.
      • You Win. Her name would be Random Axi Dent (Random Accident) in case you missed it.
      • I was thinking the above writer meant axi as in axis of probability (the parenthesized part was unnecessary). That's just... brilliant.
    • It's worse than you think. Random explicitly calls herself Random Frequent Flyer Dent, meaning that Trillian is such a huge bitch that she gave her only daughter a name that insults both Random and Arthur in one go. It's entirely possible that Random is making that part up, but she seems to be too busy being moody to summon any great snarking ability.
      • Any respect I had for Trillian was just lost at the reveal of Random's name. She has this kid so that she can feel like she can fit in, and when it doesn't work, she drops the kid off in a time zone daycare and just swans off to have her own life anyway. What's worse, the one tie Random has to anything (what with being a member of a species which only has three members) has not only left her behind, but has given her a quite hideously random name. Even if realising that Arthur was the father was a no-brainer, why give the kid his name if you intend for him to be completely absentee? From Random's point of view, it must have seemed straight out of the gate that Trillian felt no attachment to her. Frankly, I find Random's moody behaviour somewhat justified.
    • "Child born out of wedlock invariably takes the mothers name". Really? My kids didn't (though it was a stable relationship). It depends on the nature of non-marriage/relationship, and the mother's cultural viewpoint.
    • It could simply be that non of this is Trillian's fault: The guide 2.0 explicitly has the power to abusively retcon reality. The Guide 2.0 needed a emotional cripple to work with so it ensured Random's life was pure crapsack. Whatever bad (or unforgivably horrible) decisions Trillian made were the result of every possible variable leading to those decisions being made. Or at least, that's how I'd handwave it.

  • The rundown of the universe's statistics in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is funny, but it has a very basic math mistake. It says that if the universe is infinitely large, it should contain an infinite number of planets, but that since not all planets are inhabited, there must be a finite number of inhabited planets, and thus a finite total population. Dividing a finite number by infinity gets you "as near to nothing as makes no odds," so the average population of each world in the universe is zero; therefore, "any people you may meet from time to time are merely the product of a deranged imagination." This would certainly explain a lot about the universe, but it's fundamentally flawed. It's true (as we here on Earth can easily see) that not all planets are inhabited, but that doesn't mean a finite population in an infinite universe. Consider the natural numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, and so on.) There are, of course, infinitely many of them. Not all of them are even, and yet there are still infinitely many even natural numbers. So a universe with infinitely many planets could have both infinitely many inhabited ones and infinitely many uninhabited ones, for an infinite total population.
    • That's the joke.
      • It possible this is related to well known puzzling facts from probability, such as the probability of a random real number between 0 and 1 being rational, algebraic, or computable are all 0 for a similar reason to this (there are uncountably many real numbers but only countably many numbers of each of those types). Although this can be taught to high-schoolers, I doubt that Adams was referring to it though. (A kind of converse to these statements is that the probability of a number being "normal" is 1, but no rational number can be normal and none of the well known irrational numbers has ever been proven to be normal.)
      • Don't forget that the editor who wrote that bit did so by blatantly plagiarizing a box of breakfast cereal, so the logic is probably intentionally screwed up to show just how unreliable the Guide really is. Even when the book was written, I'm pretty sure that we already knew that the Universe is not in fact infinite in its dimensions.
      • Actually, we're still not sure if the universe is infinite or finite in its dimensions. We can only observe a portion of the Universe (a circle centered at Earth with a radius of x light years, where x is the number of years since the birth of the universe), so we're not sure what lies beyond that circle of vision. We do know that the age of the universe is finite, for a variety of reasons. The easiest is deduced from the facts that hydrogen is constantly and irreversibly being converted to Helium-4 and there is still hydrogen in the universe. We still can say nothing about the finiteness or infiniteness of the other 3 dimensions of the universe.
      • Consider: The universe (theoretically) started from a singularity, which suddenly began to expand. Unless its speed of expansion was infinite, then there's no way that the universe's outer boundaries could have expanded into infinity.
      • Friend, you're thinking of things in a three-dimensional context. The universe does not have an actual outer boundary. Even if it is finite, there would be no boundary. Instead, the universe would wrap around itself so that, if a traveler were chugging along in a straight line at impossible speeds, they'd eventually return to the place they left from. If you're familiar with the balloon analogy for universal expansion, we're basically just sitting on the surface of the balloon as it expands. Light would also only travel along the balloon's surface so that things that are far away would seem to be moving away from us very very quickly. But, in truth, both we and the observed object are actually traveling away from the centre of the balloon (which in our 11-dimensional universe would be in a direction that we can't point to). An infinite universe works in a similar fashion, but it's a lot more difficult to wrap one's head around it.

  • I know the paragraph about the Babel Fish and God is running on Rule of Funny, but it's still a logical fallacy to say that God requires faith (which, in the Biblical sense, which Adams is presumably attempting a dig at, is trust based on evidence, not blind unquestioning belief) to exist. His Logic Bomb is a total dud.
    • It's a humorous jab at fideism (see the other wiki).
    • It's also not logically correct to assume that proof denies faith. If you're gnostic proof would supplement faith. None of that makes the phrase "disappeared in a puff of logic" less funny.
    • I always assumed that it was a prod at the Hollywood Atheist-types who do espouse that kind of false dichotomy, especially as the originator of the alleged Logic Bomb then went on to prove that Black was White and get himself killed crossing the street, IIRC.
      • Killed at the next 'Zebra Crossing' if I remember correctly. A very confusing British-ism for a young American kid reading the books for the first time.
    • Adams would dispute the existence of any evidence. If there is no evidence all you have is faith.
    • This troper has been told by practicing Christians that faith is belief despite evidence to the contrary. If evidence confirms your belief, that is no longer faith, it's knowledge.
      • Um, no. This Troper is no practicing Christian, but the relevant definition of faith would be belief without evidence, not despite it. Belief despite evidence is just stubborn stupidity.
    • Which is why in the very next paragraph, it says, "Most leading theologians claim that this argument is a load of dingo's kidneys...." DNA was actually making fun of the "proof denies faith" idea to begin with.
    • Uh, guys? Screw this bullcrap. It's a joke, a'ight? Calm down.
    • I've heard this kind of appeal to faith used a lot by Christians as an explanation for why god doesn't just provide some kind of unambiguous evidence for his existence. If god showed everyone he was real, then everyone would just know it and wouldn't need faith, which is important for some reason, so the fact that there is no evidence is exactly what god wants; therefore god exists. The joke was basically taking this to its illogical conclusion.
    • On a related note, how could deducing that Black = White result in anyone getting killed at a zebra crossing? A zebra crossing with its black and white bars inverted would still look like a zebra crossing, and would still plainly indicate where it's safe to cross the road.
      • If black and white are the same, though, it's just another black spot on black pavement.

  • Why is Marvin always referred to as "paranoid" when he clearly isn't?
    • Because "clinically depressed" doesn't rhyme with "android".
      • Marvin's also not an android in the strictest sense. Zaphod or Trillian probably just thought it up in a moment of whimsy.
      • No, but his full name is "Marvin the Paranoid Android," despite not being paranoid nor an android. Perhaps he was more so in his original concept.
      • Trillian describes him as "manically depressed", which is also wrong; he doesn't have manic phases.
      • She didn't say he's manic-depressive (bipolar); she said he's manically depressed. That's the joke.
      • But mania is the opposite of depression, so there's no such thing as "manically depressed".
      • Sounds to me like he enjoys the state of being depressed. The act of complaining about everything that happens is what keeps him going. And it obviously works well enough to keep him going for three times the lifetime of the universe.
    • Maybe Alanis Morrisette thought it would be ironic.
    • Just because you're not paranoid doesn't mean the Universe isn't out to get you. Marvin's already well aware of that.
    • Marvin IS paranoid, he's paranoid that everyone hates him. Which is pretty ironic since he's one of the most popular characters from the series.

  • So the Earth was created by hyperintelligent pan-dimensional beings, who took the form of mice and came to Earth to ensure that the program ran as it should. Fast forward a few million years, and the Earth's indigenous population is replaced by Golgafrinchan hairdressers and telephone sanitizers and what have you. Why in the flaming hell didn't the mice step in and do something about it? Surely they knew that the program would be compromised by the introduction of an alien species, yet they did nothing to stop it or fix the damage. I know they're not supposed to be omnipotent, but surely they could have done something. For that matter, why didn't they have some sort of safeguard in place to keep exactly that sort of thing from happening? In a universe full of spacefaring species, some of them either evil or just downright irresponsible, it seems incredibly myopic not to take some sort of precaution to prevent their billions-of-years-long experiment from being screwed up.
    • The Golgafrinchans apparently look like the original beings, which is why Arthur mixed them up in the first place. The Mice might not have noticed (And since they all came from one ship, which was sunk under tar within a day, and it's implied they became primitive really quickly, the change might have happened while they were on Holiday)
    • I always took the fact that the project was five minutes from completion, and the girl on the phone about to blurt it out, as suggesting that the Golgafrinchans died off (they were that dumb, after all) and human evolution continued as previously planned, seeing how the caveman is the one who almost gets the scrabble letters into the correct math phrase (though he gets the numbers slightly wrong, apparently cavemen think in base thirteen). Clearly the cavemen with that in their subconscious led to modern man, not the Golgafrinchans.
      • The implication, (and is explicitly stated by Ford IIRC,) is that the Golgafrinchans overtook the cavemen and became humans. The answer given by the girl on the phone would have been wrong because the experiment had been screwed up.
      • BTW, wasn't that girl Fenchurch?
      • The computer planned the crash as part of the program. The Golgafrinchans were supposed to become the race to give the answer.
      • I've always liked to think that the implication of the mathematical error is that life, the universe and everything is just really, really bad at math.
    • I always assumed that some of the Golgafrinchams mated with caveman, resulting in the decendants of hair dressers and television executives still having the Question (albeit a fundementally wrong one) in their brainwaves.

  • Disclaimer - I'm afraid I haven't read the sixth book and so I'm only going off something I read here, but a) why were the details of how Wowbagger became immortal revealed in 'And Another Thing?' when they made for a perfectly good Noodle Incident on their own and b) when they were revealed, why was it something so bland as 'he got a bit drunk and fell in the particle accelerator'?
    • Because Eoin Colfer (while a good author in his own right) should never have been allowed to continue the series. I ignore And Another Thing as non-canon.
      • Adams is guilty of the same thing, the petunia's "Oh no, not again" on its own was very funny. With the Agrajag stuff in LUAE it just seems less random which seemed to be part of the humor of the "Oh no, not again".
      • I dunno, I didn't think it was less funny because I find that a large part of the humor of H2G2 is the author's intent. My Mileage Varies.
      • YMMV, my friend (but I agree, AAT should be dis continuified).
      • Aw, I found And Another Thing to be excellent.

  • Putting aside my feelings about Zaphod Beeblebrox's portrayal in the film, and accepting the fact that movie!Zaphod would lose to a dingo's kidney in a battle of wits, why did no one else realize his plan made no sense? The video he had said that the Question was elsewhere, and the new computer was planet-sized, so going to Magerathea for the Question is pointless! Even if the people there knew where the Question was, 1. the place has faded into myth centuries ago so anyone there is probably dead, and 2. the fact that he asked Deep Thought shows that asking one of the natives was clearly not his intention.
    • Just re-watched the movie, and it's actually pretty easy to figure out: Zaphod's recording ends just as Deep Thought is about to reveal the name of the new computer who is to calculate the new question. Even if no natives were left on Magrathea, Deep Thought hopefully would be, so Zaphod's original plan was to ask Deep Thought where this other computer was. However, by the time he actually gets to Magrathea, he's Taken About Five Levels In Dumbass thanks to his second head being removed, and can't even remember what his original plan was. Something about the Ultimate Question and a really smart computer? Oh well, he'll just wing it. He's Zaphod Beeblebrox, zark it, there's no way he'll make a fool of himself.

  • In the first book, Arthur speaks of finding the demolition orders for his house "'on display' a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard.'" My question is, what the hell is "Beware of the Leopard" supposed to mean? Or is it just supposed to be a random non sequitur? That's the only thing I can figure, but the problem is that it's almost too random to really be funny because it doesn't connect with anything.
    • I just assumed the sign was a total lie to keep people out. They're REALLY stretching the term "on display."
      • Or Arthur was just exaggerating.
    • This Troper's question is a little different: Where on Alpha Centauri did they get a "Beware of the Leopard" sign? 'Cause This Troper wants one.
      • Not on Alpha Centauri, on Earth, at some zoos and any "Make your own sign" booth (the kind that have "Beware of dog", "Beware of cat", "Beware of [breed of dog/cat]", "Beware of [other pet species]", "Beware of [blank]", and "[blank]" signs for sale).
    • I took it as a sign of how random and disorganized the whole office is, that their records are in a locked filing cabinet in an unused bathroom in the basement that, for whatever crazy reason, has a ludicrously irrelevant "beware of the leopard" sign on it. Maybe there was an escaped leopard at some point, or some worker just hung it up as a joke and then forgot about it, or the town once made a brief and ill-fated attempt to domesticate leopards as guard animals (in the Hitchhiker universe, you never know).
    • Um... it's not funny because it's random? Why do you read H2G2?
    • It's a jab at the Obstructive Bureaucrat tendencies in English government. They will simultaneously claim that plans were "on display" while taking every step they can to obstruct and confuse anybody who could do anything to stop the plans going forward.

  • The bad reception the film got and the fact that people will say that it's rubbish compared to the Radio version. The thing is as with Doctor Who and James Bond there is no "Best version of H2G2" There is really only Your version, meaning the one that got you into the series. Plus all the complaints about the changes the film made to the story, even though most of them were made by Douglas Adams himself and that No two incarnations of the first part of the series are the same.

  • Why didn't Hillman Hunter adopt a more "Oirish" name? I know the meta reason is that his name is a nod to Ford Prefect but given how far he bases his public image on Irish stereotypes why doesn't he call himself Paddy O'Shea or something?
    • Hillman Hunter was an assumed name, based on his grandmother's favorite Oirish comedian.
    • A Hillman Hunter is also a make of car, from the pre-Thatcher days when Britain actually had a car industry, so it could be he made the same Brick Joke as Ford Prefect.
  • Given how clearly Marvin's appearance is described in the books, can anyone explain why the movie (which I otherwise enjoyed) made him look like a Teletubby?
    • Because.
    • All the adaptations are supposed to have differences.
    • Can't believe I'm standing up for the movie here, but: 1) The only discription of Marvin I recall is that his eyes are red triangles. They nailed that. 2) The books describe Ford as a ginger and Trillian as vaguely Arabic. If that doesn't bug you, there's no reason for Marvin to. 3) Tech marches on. Marvin's discription might've sounded cool by early 1980s-standards (I don't know, I don't remember it and don't have the book in front of me) but the film was going for a more 2000s look, which is perfectly reasonable.
    • I heard a rumour that the thinking behind the film Marvin's look was: the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation tried to make him look cute, but (as they do) got it ever so slightly wrong and ended up squarely in the Uncanny Valley.
    • The theory I always had was that if they had Marvin saying his whole "brain the size of a planet" thing, most audiences would be confused. By making it kinda large and more rounded, the audiences who haven't read the novels will think "Oh, they mean the size of a small planet."
      • According to the commentary, they wanted him to look like his head was actually the size of a planet. As for the Teletubby thing, this troper has no clue what giant-headed, long-armed, faceless Teletubbies you watched growing up.
    • Speaking of adaptation differences, the 80's TV series Marvin appears in the movie. When they're pushing their way to the front of the line on Vogsphere (to get Trillian released) Arthur does a double-take at a robot standing in line. That was the TV series Marvin.

  • Deep Thought spent 7.5 million years thinking about the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything. He concludes that the Answer is 42. And then designs a new computer, Earth, to work out the Question. But surely Deep Thought KNEW the Question, or else he couldn't have known the Answer?
    • 7*x=42 x=??
      • And just to cut off the "6" answer that'll show up sooner or later, the same point is behind many of the great problems in mathematics and physics. The answer's right there, often provided by observation, but figuring out the values and equations that'd make sense of that answer is the hard part. For example, anyone could observe the standard gravity on Earth by just picking up something, dropping it and timing it. That answer, 9.8 m/s2, is the answer to an equation — figuring out what that equation actually is and how it connects to the rest of the universe is what made Isaac Newton so famous. Deep Thought did the equivalent of measuring the 9.8m/s2 value, but it couldn't figure out what it means.

  • If the Babelfish can translate anything in any form of language, why did the Vogon poem still contain words like "freddled gruntbuggly"?
    • There's no English-language equivalent is the most likely explanation. That, or the Vogons are just making up words to make their poetry worse.
    • No remotely sane non-Vogon lifeform in the universe wants to spend one nanosecond longer thinking about Vogon poetry that it doesn't absolutely have to. That includes Babel fish.

  • First headscratcher. I understand that the Babel Fish is an insanely good gimmick to make all spoken language, anywhere from any orifice, instantly intelligible to the listener. But it doesn't explain why Arthur becomes instantly fluent in reading alien languages. Think about this for a moment: a written text on an alien ship's control panel is not likely to be written in the Roman alphabet nor is it likely to be in English. Indeed, Earth alone has (had?) hundreds of different conventional systems for transcribing language - Roman, Greek, Cyrillic, Ogham, Nordic runes, Canton Chinese, Thai, Hindi, Korean... the Galaxy must have infinitely more. And reading a language is an eye-to-brain thing - a fish in the ear intercepting the ear-to-brain process of listening and comprehending cannot possibly affect this. So how can Arthur suddenly read "Do not push this button again", or the inscriptions in the suspended animation tanks on the Golgafrincham Ark?
    • Arthur also reads the Bartledanian books in Mostly Harmless, the safety procedures on the interstellar flights earlier in the book, the pamphlets for the planet of oracles he visited and so on. If it's not the Babel Fish somehow doing its thing, or some bit of standard galactic tech that automatically matches up languages with observers, then I'd blame it on Arthur and Trillian having been at the epicenter of the Infinite Improbability Drive's activation several times. How improbable is it that, once he's picked up by the Heart of Gold, every interstellar language Arthur will ever come across during his adventures will just happen to match English? The odds are insane, but since it's not technically impossible...
    • More to the point: the Babelfish works by creating a translation matrix from the speaker's brainwaves that decodes the speech, so how does it work on tannoys, recordings and foreign language TV programmes?
    • Does the book specifically say that what is written appears to Arthur as English? I mean, if Earth was obliterated and you could never come back and were left to wander the universe, you'd probably pick up on a few other languages. Arthur never learns to speak any of these languages because of the Babelfish, but he can read them :) As for the buttons in Heart of Gold, maybe those were programable and were set to English because of Trillian?

  • Second headscratcher. It is explained elsewhere that a big reason why so many series have not seen release on video/DVD, or have been butchered on release, is the fabuluous cost of paying musical royalties on other people's copyright songs. I can appreciate that. But the BBC has released every episode of the radio series on cassette, despite the radio show being chocca with borrowed, lifted and sampled tracks. Even the theme tune, Journey of the Sorcerer, is an Eagles track; Pink Floyd instrumental is extensively borrowed; and to cap it all, the Alien Disco dance song, that sublimely horrible thing, is a Bee Gees track "Stayin Alive" played backwards. Surely the licence costs payable to three big acts should be crippling?
    • I can't speak for the TV series, but the radio-series release uses a cover of Sorcerer, cuts or alters the Pink Floyd bits (specifically, Marvin's humming is changed to only sound vaguely like something the band might release and Arthur's line is changed accordingly), not quite sure what the Bee Gees thing is, but my guess is that the song played backwards sounds little enough like the song played forward for it to be a non-issue. In any case, if Freaks and Geeks—which includes songs by The Who, Van Halen, Rush, Styx, The Grateful Dead, The Moody Blues, and Billy Joel—can be released with it's soundtrack untouched, than I see no reason why licensing issues for Pink Floyd and the The Bee Gees should be that big a problem.
    • Are you saying you want the TV series on video? First of all, I'm pretty sure it's out there, as that's the first form of H2G2 I was introduced to. Second of all, WHY?
      • It is out there, I own it, it's quite good. Yeah, music got stripped out in places.
    • The Bee Gees thing: on his way to the total Perspective Vortex in the radio series, Zaphod is in the uprooted office building being tortured by a sadistic custody officer who is appointed specially to give him a hard time. allowed to beleive he's escaping, Zaphod ends up in an Alien Disco where the clentele are dancing robots (sirius Cybernetics again) and the smell of hot sweat is being sprayed over everything. The insane music playing does sound vaguely familiar, but I had to read the scripts to find out it's a Bee Gees anthem from Saturday Night Fever being played backwards and otherwise electronically mucked around with. It does sound like vile alien disco music, though, and turns out to be for the Frogstar Custody Officer's sadistic amusement.

  • How come 'telaport' is written in English on Hotblack's ship? (The babel fish doesn't translate written words, as Arthur couldn't read the writing on Slartibartfast's signature on Earth, as it was written in Magratheans)
    • There's actually several instances across books of Arthur reading alien text just fine—"Do not press this button again", the novels on the depressing planet in Mostly Harmless, etc—my personal theory is that for whatever reason the Babel fish just can't do cursive.
      • How many intelligible signatures have you come across? This Troper lives on Earth and still can't read any signatures.

  • If he had the babel fish, why did Arthur need to learn the birds' language at the end of Life The Universe and Everything?
    • Animals may not provide the right psychic emanations for the Fish to pick up on.

  • Why does Zaphod call Ford (his semi-cousin, so it's not like they've just met) "Ford", which is a name Ford only adopted when he went to Earth?
    • This was explained in the scripts of the radio series (and I believe some editions of the book). When Ford goes to legally change his name, he has it retroactively changed, so that his name was always Ford Prefect.

  • Why do people think it's such a big deal that some of the story is different in the various different media? To my mind, the differences between the versions Adams wrote are nothing more than the standard sort of Adaptation Distillation that everyone does. It's only the posthumous adaptations by others that really play fast and loose with canon.
    • Well, in the usual Adaptation Decay, it's because you have a new director or writer adapting the original from whatever it was, and changing things based on a different interpretation of the material or message that he wants to send. With HHGG, Adams more or less wrote every version, and aside from the very basics of the premise (world goes boom, Arthur Dent ends up on the Heart of Gold), he deliberately made most of the story very different in each case.

  • So in the original series Zaphod Beeblebrox arrives on Ursa Minor and enters the artificial universe Zarniwoop has created inside his office, where he's sent to the Total Perspective Vortex, escapes, and later travels back in time in the Heart Of Gold to get Arthur and Ford back from Earth two million years in the past. I can accept his story of how he got the ship back ("I got lucky") but how could he have gotten to Messrs. Dent and Prefect if they were in the real universe, and how did they get into the artificial universe in the first place?
    • Zarniwoop says (in relation to Zaphod's method of entry), "You didn't notice? Well ... I'll leave that for you to figure out yourself." It seems just as easy to say, "Through the window, dumb-dumb," but since he didn't say that, we can probably assume the entrance was not, in fact, in Zarniwoop's office. There are several points where Zaphod should not, technically speaking, have survived: the encounter with the wildly shapeshifting/evolving Haganemnon, the Frogstar fighters, etc. In the books, this is made even more explicit: when Zaphod arrives on Ursula Minor Beta, he is miffed that his Peril-Sensitive sunglasses have been scratched by a strange yellow object in his pocket - which turns out to be the Heart of Gold. That means he must have been put in the artificial universe earlier than we initially suspect - perhaps when the improbability drive was first turned on without the proofing screens.

  • How did the Golgafrinchams manage to survive long enough to overtake pre-historic humans if they were as utterly incompetent as they seem to be? They have no survival skills, no technology, no leadership and Ford states that most of them died in the first winter.
    • Maybe they mated with those humans and also evolution?
    • I've always assumed they didn't survive and Arthur just jumped to the wrong conclusion.

  • Whenever I try to figure out what the forfeit is for the Janx spirit drinking game, as described in Chapter 1 of the first book, anything I imagine seems either overly or insufficiently obscene. Does anyone whose mind has a correctly calibrated degree of dirtiness want to offer some suggestions for what fresh hell is being implied here?
    As soon as a predetermined quantity had been consumed, the final loser would have to perform a forfeit, which was usually obscenely biological.

    Ford Prefect usually played to lose.

  • The one part of the series which really, genuinely makes me scratch my head the most is that Ford went to the bother of rescuing Arthur from the demise of the Earth, suggesting that Arthur was the best friend he had while on Earth, despite generally acting as though he really just doesn't like him very much. The cracks are already beginning to show quite early on:
    Ford rounded on Arthur with an angry flash in his eyes. Now he felt he was back on home ground he suddenly began to resent having lumbered himself with this ignorant primitive who knew as much about the affairs of the Galaxy as an Ilford-based gnat knew about life in Peking. (Ch. 13, The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy)
    • Ford's relationship with Arthur never struck me as inconsistant with either personality: Ford is mercurial, capricious and shallow. He rounds on Arthur the second someone he regards as cool - Zaphod - appears. Enjoying Earth and liking its inhabitants is a guilty pleasure for Ford. Arthur exposes Ford's secret uncoolness ot others (particularly Zaphod, of course). Having Arthur tagging along once Ford is back playing with the cool kids is a bit like having invited someone from your secret D&D group to a party of your cool mates on the spur of the moment. Their relationship reminds me a lot of Vince and Howard's in The Mighty Boosh: one party may have delusions of being too cool for the other one but ultimately that's the person they always return to.
Narrative convention makes it seem like they should be Heterosexual Life-Partners, based on how much time they spend together, through thick and thin and all that, but they really pretty much aren't. With Heterosexual Life-Partners, there's usually some acknowledgement of how close they are, but since Ford and Arthur aren't really very close at all, there of course isn't. Admittedly, they do have a few Friendship Moments...
"I'm very glad to see you again, Arthur," he added.
Arthur shook his head in a sudden access of emotion and bewilderment. (Ch. 2, Life, the Universe, and Everything)
But mostly the only thing that passes between them that could be construed as showing affection is that they spend time in each other's company even when they could avoid it. Did they get along better on Earth? Did Ford think exploring the galaxy would make Arthur more fun to be around? Did he not have any more agreeable friends? Is he just very reserved about his presumable friendliness toward Arthur? Or are they just stuck together by authorial fiatnote  in order to have a Straight Man and Wise Guy? And what's the deal with the fact they seem to increasingly dislike each other throughout the series?
  • Vitriolic Best Buds, Opposites Attract, something along those lines. I can only presume that, back on Earth, Ford was okay with having a few quiet moments and Arthur was fine being dragged to the occasional party, and mostly meeting each other somewhere in the middle. Out in space, though, Ford has limitless and increasingly bizarre options he can act on after years stranded on dull old Earth, and Arthur doesn't have much in the way of chances to opt out. I can see how that could build some resentment—especially given that twice Arthur had a shot at peace and contentment and twice it got thoroughly wrecked when Ford showed up.
    I disagree, though, that they don't have any friendship moments (my favorite's probably them watching Casablanca together in SLATFATF), as well as the idea that they get increasingly less fond of one another. (Keep in mind that Arthur is already having a rough time of it in Mostly Harmless when Ford shows up, and less inclined than usual to put up with his bullshit. After the scene in the woods they seem to get on alright.)
  • By the time of So Long and Mostly, Arthur had aged probably ten years. Ford being an alien probably looked the same since it was established that Zaphod was 200 years old and Ford was his cousin. Ten years is nothing to him. After a certain point, Arthur probably viewed Ford as the best friend who acted like they were still college kids while Arthur grew up and accepted on the responsibilities of adulthood. Arthur also wanted to find love and became less interested in Ford's freewheeling lifestyle that he was probably getting to old for anyway (assuming that many years did pass between the beginning of the first book and the fourth and fifth). It's also important to remember that Arthur is a nice guy and Ford's attitudes towards women and relationships wasn't much different from Zaphod's. In So Long, Fenchurch didn't warm up to Ford and asked Arthur if he could be trusted. Arthur responded in the negative, probably not out of resentment but out of courtesy to Fenchurch who was a nice proper girl for him. I don't think there was any mutual dislike between Arthur and Ford in later years, just that sense of Arthur having outgrown him. For one thing Arthur had the Earth back in So Long and Ford probably assumed he was living happily ever after with his new girl. Also, Arthur had become a seasoned and experienced independent traveler by the time Ford showed up in Mostly. So Ford's was no longer needed in his old role as Mr. Exposition. It also is worth noting that in Mostly when meeting Arthur, Ford was a bit more grumpy and not his usual let's find a party and be generally weird self. He was on a serious mission probably for the first time in his life, probably because his way of life was under threat. Come to think of it, the reunion of Arthur and Trillian in Mostly wasn't particulary warm either. Yet more proof that Douglas Adams was going through some ruff times while writing Mostly Harmless.
  • Interestingly, in the radio sequels (i.e. the Tertiary, Quandary and Quintessential phases), adaptor Dirk Mags and the actors imbue the Ford/Arthur dynamic with more warmth and less vitriol that the books upon which they are based. The chilliness of their relationship in the books (as well as that between Arthur and Trillian, Trillian and Zaphod etc) might have been due to Douglas Adams' ambivalence towards the Hitchhiker's books and his frustration with the limitations of the the universe at the stage he was writing. One's mileage may vary as to whether the Tertiary - Quintessential phases count as canon (and for that matter whether there even IS such a thing as canon with Hitchhiker's. But this troper appreciates that Dirk Mags was able to evoke a genuine feeling of affection between the characters. No doubt it was in part down to the real-life warmth between the actors as well - mostly returnees from the original series and old friends themselves.
  • Why do the mice need Arthur's brain specifically? If all they need is a human brain, why couldn't they just take Trillian's without having to go the effort of finding Arthur?
    • Ford and Zaphod attempt to relay the explanation:
      "Hey, will you get this, Earthman," interrupted Zaphod. "You are a last generation product of that computer matrix, right, and you were there right up to the moment your planet got the finger, yeah?"
      "Er ..."
      "So your brain was an organic part of the penultimate configuration of the computer programme," said Ford, rather lucidly he thought.
Basically, to continue the computer thing, Arthur represents the last known good configuration of the Earth. Trillian might be missing some information since she's been out and about in the galaxy for the past six months. They're trying to be completionists about it, I guess. But I don't know why they didn't go for her brain before they knew Arthur's was an option. I'd have to assume that it's just that they like her. She takes care of them, and even Marvin apparently likes her, so maybe she's just very likable.
  • So, when Zaphod attempts to use the Point-of-View gun on Trillian, she says something along the lines of "It won't work on me, I'm a woman." Um, what? Why exactly does that make her supposedly immune to it?
    • Two possibilities: either she's saying that women can already understand others' perspectives, or s
    • Trillian was being comically sexist (that is, comically in the sense of the movie, not the character, and don't tell me it wasn't funny because I'd agree with you). She was saying that only The Unfair Sex needs to be hit by the gun to see someone else's point of view. It's like Bruce banner in The Avengers: "That's my secret, Cap; I'm always angry."

  • I feel I might be missing something here, but in the non-movie versions, why is Zaphod's first impulse on stealing the Heart of Gold to take it to Magrathea? I can kinda see why he'd want to do that for its own sake, but it has nothing to do with the ruler of the universe. Did his old self put him up to it? If so, he [pre-op!Zaphod] doesn't seem to have thought it through. He should have just gone straight to Zarniwoop's office on Ursa Minor Beta. The best explanation I can imagine is that Magrathea was to play some later part in the plan, but his commands came through in the wrong order?
    • It does seem a little fuzzy. On the other hand, the pre-operation Zaphod wouldn't necessarily have an objection to the tremendous amounts of wealth that he (erroneously) thought were lying around unattended on Magrathea.
    • I'm not sure if it's the same in the book, but in the radio series it's mentioned that Zaphod and Trillian have been on the run for months. Besides, going to Magrathea wasn't the first thing that Zaphod did with the Heart of Gold. Before that he visited Earth, went to a party in Islington and picked up Trillian.
  • In a 1998 interview, Douglas Adams was talking about the prospects for making a Hitchhiker's Guide movie, and he said that the success of Men In Black had boosted the hopes for a sci-fi comedy film to be made. Then he said, "And Men In Black is... How can I put this delicately? There were elements of it I found quite familiar, shall we say?" What made him think MIB was a ripoff of H2G2?
His Dark MaterialsHeadscratchers/LiteratureThe Hobbit

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