The answer to the Great Question Of Life, the Universe, and Everything... is Forty-two.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1981) was a fairly straight translation of the radio series/book series by Douglas Adams into miniseries form, keeping much of the original cast, including Simon Jones as Arthur Dent, Peter Jones (no relation) as The Book, Mark Wing-Davey as Zaphod Beeblebrox and Stephen Moore as Marvin. David Dixon replaced Geoffrey McGivern as Ford Prefect, and Sandra Dickinson replaced Susan Sheridan as Trillian. As with its earlier incarnations, it followed the exploits of a hapless Englishman who is rescued from Earth by an interstellar journalist, seconds before the planet is demolished to make way for a bypass.
Its cult following admires it for its characters, dialogue and ingenuity, whilst admitting it is one of the more technically inept creations ever put on television; it was notorious even in its day for Zaphod Beeblebrox's animatronic second head, which looked like a lump of putty with a wig on. Far more effective are the amusing illustrated excerpts from The Book, which used traditional animation techniques to imitate complex computer readouts.
This series also cemented a number of the visual aspects of the Series Franchise
which had not, at the time, been canonized in the books: most notably, it was not until writing the television series that Douglas Adams realized that Arthur Dent had spent the entire adventure in his pyjamas.
For all versions of the story, see The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
This show provides examples of:
- Alien Lunch: Ford tries to tempt Arthur with some extremely weird-looking alien food on the Vogons' ship.
- Except of course it backfires: Dentrassi (the cooks) really don't like Vogons, you see.
- BBC Quarry: Magrathea.
- The Cameo: Doctor-designate Peter Davison appears in heavy makeup as the Dish of the Day.
- Creator Cameo: Douglas Adams appears behind Arthur and Ford at the bar in the first episode, and again (much more obviously) as the depressed businessman who strips off and wades into the sea. His face is also one of the Sirius Cybernetics "mindless jerks who were the first against the wall when the revolution came", and his likeness appears in drag as the Guide illustration for the worst poetry-writer in the universe, Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings.
- The Day The Music Lied: "No, wait! What's this switch?"
- Deadpan Snarker: Most of the characters, but Ford Prefect, Arthur Dent and the Guide most of all.
- Dissimile: "They hung in the air exactly the way that bricks don't."
- Early-Bird Cameo: most of the venues mentioned by Ford when talking to Hotblack are named in the first episode during the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster entry from the Guide.
- And one of the Sirius Cybernetics employees is animated with a "Disaster Area" T-shirt before the band is introduced.
- Eleventy Zillion: The TV series extends a line of dialogue from the book and puts in a new number:
Ford Prefect: I think this ship is brand-new, Arthur.
Arthur Dent: Why, have you got some exotic device for measuring the age of metal?
Ford Prefect: No. I just found this sales brochure on the floor. It says, "The Universe can be yours for a mere five quilliard Altairian dollars."
Arthur Dent: Cheap?
A quilliard is a whole page full of noughts
] with a one at the beginning.
- Funny Background Event: A man grins over the beer Ford has bought, then looks dejected as he takes it away.
- When Arthur mentions the workman who charged him a five to wipe his windows, the workman behind Prosser suddenly looks away as Prosser glances at him.
- After Arthur angrily denounces Zaphod as Phil and Ford tries to reason with him, Zaphod can be seen in the background getting a new babelfish, convinced that his incomprehension is language based.
- Fun with Subtitles: THIS NEVER HAPPENS
- Green-Skinned Space Babe: With her Green Skinned Space Dude paramour, in the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster entry from the Guide sequence.
- Hilarious Outtakes on the DVD. Lampshaded at one point by Simon Jones: "That'll make the Christmas edition."
- This could be a reference to the infamous "Christmas Tape" the VT department used to make for entertainment at BBC staff Christmas parties. These frequently included examples of this trope.
- Human Aliens: In addition to Ford, several decidedly non-human races from the other versions are presented as looking exactly like humans. This gets weird in a few cases where these characters remark on what a weird monkey-man Arthur is.
- Locked Out of the Loop: A rare viewer example can occur. One DVD release of the series for some reason omits all narration during certain Guide segments. Fortnately, they're all segments that include subtitles, except for the origin of the Infinite Improbability Drive, which leaves the viewer watching a bunch of random clips that make no sense unless they've read the book.
- Narrator (The Book)
- Purple Eyes: 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.
- Recycled Set: The Vogon spaceship interiors were from Alien.
- Shout-Out: The Guide animations contain several shout-outs to the other versions of "Hitchhiker's" such as the Frogstar scout in the "robot" entry.
- Sound to Screen Adaptation
- Sudden Video-Game Moment: When the Vl'hurg and G'gugvunts battle.
- This Just In
- Time Passage Beard: In the final episode, there's a time skip during which Ford and Arthur go off to explore the planet they've been marooned on, and grow beards.
- Translator Microbes: The Babel fish.
- Video Inside, Film Outside
- What Could Have Been: At one point a second series was planned which would've been based on the Doctor Who story which later formed the basis of Life, the Universe and Everything.