Radio / The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
A Radio Drama
on BBC Radio 4
which later became the basis for various spin-offs
. It (technically) ran for twenty-six years and as many episodes.
It started with only two seasons in 1978-1980. It was later mixed-and-matched into the first two novels. It was later revived in 2003 and spawned three more seasons based on the last three books by Douglas Adams
The cast was fairly consistent across the board, with only Peter Jones and Richard Vernon being replaced in the last three seasons due to their deaths in the interim. Even death didn't stop Douglas Adams
from putting in an appearance in Seasons 3 and 5, despite the fact that he wasn't
reprising a previous character.
The original two seasons contain examples of:
- Chekhov's Gun: Arthur mentions in Fit The Fifth he has a travel Scrabble game on him. He and Ford use this to find out the question hidden in his brain waves in the next fit.
- Deadly Euphemism: Played with.
- Slartibartfast threatens Arthur that, unless Arthur comes with him promptly, he will be late — as in "the late Dent Arthur Dent".
- Hig Hurtenflurst explains his use of "revoked" to Arthur by spelling it out as "k-i-l-l-e-d". A subsequent episode reveals that this is part of a larger legal wrangle where (for various reasons) the representatives of a cloning agency were trying to get murder redefined in law. They'd managed to have the word legally changed, but not the spelling.
- Fantastic Racism: The shape-shifting Haggunenons hate all the "filthy rotten samelings".
- Foreshadowing: Ford mentions in Fit The Fifth that drunk-time traveling earns getting dumped on a prehistoric planet and being told to a evolve into a more responsible life form. Fit The Sixth ends with him and Arthur stuck on a prehistoric Earth.
- Gambit Roulette: In this version, Frankie and Benjy Mouse planned Arthur and Trillian's escape from Earth ahead of time as a back-up plan. This would involve them knowing about the Vogons' demolition plans, Ford's presence on Earth and his willingness to save Arthur, and Zaphod teleporting into a particular party and successfully wooing Trillian into leaving Arthur and going following him to the Heart of Gold.
- Giant Flyer: The Brontitall. Of the Deus Ex Machina Airlines variety. Not really that much of a spoiler.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Fit the First, Fit the Second, etc. This is a reference to Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark.
- Idiosyncratic Season Naming: Primary Phase, Secondary Phase and Tertiary Phase, while idiosyncratic, make sense as a sequence.
- Quandary Phase and Quintessential Phase, however, do not complete the pattern formed by the first three. The names were chosen because they are "less daunting, more memorable and are a bit easier to spell" than the correct Quaternary and Quinary.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: When it's established that (due to the effects of the Infinite Improbability Drive) Ford and Trillian are the only two members of the core cast who haven't coincidentally met before:
Zaphod: Oh, god. [rapidly] Ford, this is Trillian, Hi. Trillian, this is my semi-cousin Ford who shares three of the same mothers as me. Hi. [...] Zaphod Beeblebrox, this is a very large drink. Hi.
- It's a Long Story: Lintilla says this when asked by Hurtenflirst why there are duplicates of her running around. When asked for a quick précis, she crams it all down to "Because."
- Large Ham: Zaphod, played by Mark Wing-Davey, was written as such specifically because he was played by Mark Wing-Davey.
- Message in a Bottle: Arthur and Ford are stranded on prehistoric Earth, and attempt to attract the attention of a passing spaceship by waving a towel at it. A volcano then erupts, covering the towel with lava. When the Earth is blown up six million years later, the now-fossilized towel gets launched into space and found by Zaphod Beeblebrox in the spaceship Heart Of Gold, who travels back in time and rescues them. (Things like this tend to happen whenever you use the Heart Of Gold's "Infinite Improbability" drive.)
- Motormouth: A space-freighter co-pilot flying to the Guide production-office's homeworld goes on a long-winded rant about what a bunch of sell-outs the Guide management is. The pilot's reply: "...Talk a lot, don't you?" Which provokes another long rant about how there's nothing to do on this kind of long super-automated trip but talk.
- Moving Buildings:
- In the scene where Arthur and Ford are first exposed to the Infinite Improbability Drive, they briefly see an apparition of the holiday resort of Southend-on-Sea, Essex, where the sea remains steady as a rock but all the buildings on the seafront roll up and down, like waves.
- The h2g2 building in which Zaphod and Marvin have taken refuge is bodily uplifted by the dread Frogstar Fighters and transported through space to the world of the Infinite Perspective Vortex.
- Noodle Incident: The narrator/Guide mentions in passing that Arthur's only brother was somehow nibbled to death by an Okapi.
- Put on a Bus: Trillian for the Secondary Phase is in an Arranged Marriage in some distant part of the galaxy.
- Relax-o-Vision: During the approach to Magrathea where, supposedly in order to help combat rising stress levels in the galaxy, it was carefully explained to the audience that no one was going to get killed in the ensuing confusion — although one unidentified person would be bruised on the arm. It's Arthur.
- Retronym: It wasn't until the radio series were released on tape that the seasons began being referred to as Phases. (This only applies to the first two seasons, the rest were labeled Phases right out of the gate.)
- Second Episode Introduction: Zaphod, Trillian, and Marvin.
- Shaped Like Itself: Zaphod and Ford find themselves in a cave made out of marble, very slippery marble. Zaphod tries to compare it to the slipperiest thing Ford can think of. Unfortunately, the slipperiest thing Ford can think of is the marble, leading to the statement "This marble is as slippery as this marble."
- Significant Double Casting: Bill Wallis plays both Prosser (the man in charge of demolishing Arthur's house) and Jeltz (the alien in charge of demolishing Arthur's planet).
- Take That: Shooty and Bang Bang, the two trigger-happy but sensitive cops who go after our heroes on Magrathea, are a cruel parody of series/Starsky & Hutch.
- Tricked Into Signing:
- The Frogstar Prisoner Relations Officer pretends he wants Zaphod's autograph to trick Zaphod into signing a release form agreeing to be shoved into the Total Perspective Vortex.
- A cloning machine accident results in a large number of clones of a young woman named Lintilla. The company's clean-up plan involves an equally large number of attractive male clones and a set of "Agreements to Cease to Be" disguised as marriage certificates.
- Unstable Genetic Code:
The Haggunenons of Vicissitus Three have the most impatient chromosomes of any life form in the Galaxy. Whereas most races are content to evolve slowly and carefully over thousands of generations, discarding a prehensile toe here, nervously hazarding another nostril there, the Haggunenons would do for Charles Darwin what a squadron of Arcturan stunt apples would have done for Sir Isaac Newton. Their genetic structure, based on the quadruple sterated octohelix, is so chronically unstable that, far from passing their basic shape onto their children, they will quite frequently evolve several times over lunch.
- Vengeful Vending Machine: Arthur Dent, sick of getting a drink which is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea from the Nutri-Matic machine, gives it a lengthy lecture on the nature and history of real tea. The machine hijacks the starship's entire computing power to work on the problem of why on earth someone wants dried leaves in boiling water, leaving the ship defenceless against a missile attack. Arthur gets his tea in the end, though.
- Weird Trade Union: The Amalgamated Union of Philosophers, Sages, Luminaries and Other Professional Thinking Persons, which opposed using the computer Deep Thought to find the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything because, under law, the quest for Ultimate Truth was under their prerogative, and not the computer's. They even threatened to go out on strike, though they dodged the question of who, exactly, that would inconvenience.
- What Does This Button Do?: Lampshaded.
Arthur Dent: What happens if I press this button?
Ford Prefect: I wouldn't—
Arthur Dent: Oh.
Ford Prefect: What happened?
Arthur Dent: A sign lit up, saying "Please do not press this button again."
The three revived seasons contain examples of:
- And There Was Much Rejoicing: The final fate of Wowbagger.
- Back for the Finale: The ending sequence of the final episode of the Quintessential Phase (and the final episode of the radio series altogether) has the return of Fenchurch and Marvin, as well as Max Quordlepleen, the Great Prophet Zarquon, Wowbagger, Lintilla, Prosser, and a few other bit players.
- Comic-Book Time: The original two series, broadcast from 1978 - 1980, were intended as a contemporary piece. While the narrative quickly left Earth and there is not much to date it, it can still be a bit jarring when the later three series have scenes on or in reference to Earth that make more modern cultural references, or include as common technology things that would not yet have been common or even have existed. Of course, when dealing with possibilities such as different versions of Earth existing across multiple planes of reality, one supposes that such things may be relative.
- Content Warnings:
- One episode of the Tertiary Phase finishes with the warning: "The preceding program contains scenes of extreme violence which may be disturbing to some viewers. Time travellers of a nervous disposition may wish to consider listening to something else for the previous half-hour."
- Played straight when the episode featuring the destruction of the Guide offices was broadcast on Radio 4 shortly after 9/11.
- Everybody Lives: All the core cast manages to survive at the very end of the series, including Trillian and her alternate self (who merge into a single being), Marvin (who was still under warranty when he expired), and Fenchurch (who had been waiting at Milliway's since she seemingly ceased to exist). And the Vogons fail to eradicate every Earth.
- Oddly Named Sequel: The original two series and the later adaptation of "Life, the Universe and Everything" were released as the Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Phases. The adaptations of the last two books became the Quandary and Quintessential Phases.
- Retcon: The entire Secondary Phase is All Just a Dream Zaphod had, to cover for the Tertiary Phase opening with Ford and Arthur still being stranded on prehistoric Earth. Subverted when Zaphod discoverss it did all happen. Inside Zarniwoop's office. Meaning the time in the Secondary Phase spent in Zarniwoop's office was inside Zarniwoop's office.
- Sound Defect: In the Tertiary Phase, the insertion of the key into the Slo-time lock is interrupted by the Guide, which digresses on the subject of sound effects and why that one didn't "cut the mustard" before substituting a second sound effect.
- Sound Effect Bleep: Fit the Sixteenth from the Tertiary Phase. The book Life, The Universe And Everything on which the Phase was based featured an award for "The Most Gratuitous Use of the Word Fuck in a Serious Screenplay"; since it was scheduled to be broadcast at 6.30 pm the word was still uttered by the actor but completely masked by the sound of a starship engine.