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Radio / The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978)

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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 series (or "Phases") in 1978-1980. It was later mixed-and-matched into the first two novels. It was later revived in 2003 and spawned three more Phases based on the last three books by Douglas Adams. Another revival in 2018, the Hexagonal Phase, adapted Eoin Colfer's entry in the series, And Another Thing....

The cast was fairly consistent across the board, with only Peter Jones and Richard Vernon being replaced between the second and third series due to their deaths in the interim. Even death didn't stop Douglas Adams from putting in an appearance in the Tertiary and Quintessential Phases, despite the fact that he wasn't reprising a previous character.

The original two seasons contain examples of:

  • Androids Are People, Too: Marvin the Paranoid Android was a prototype for robots fitted with Genuine People Personalities. He's never forgiven the Marketing Division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation (which defines a robot as "Your plastic pal who's fun to be with") for it.
  • Bad Boss: A Vogon. Any Vogon. But Jeltz goes into a fit of mania and violence provoked by a crewman responding to him, which snowballs into him ordering half his crew to wipe one another out.
  • Broken Record: The auto-pilot of the Brontital space-liner insists Zaphod and Ford return to their seats, even though they're not passengers, and more importantly, civilization on the planet has been and gone. It gets increasingly pushy and loud, until it's screaming it at them.
  • Burp of Finality: What the Haggunennon lets out after eating Zaphod, Trillian and Marvin.
  • Canon Discontinuity: The third series adapts Life, the Universe and Everything and ignores season 2.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: The Frogstar Prisoner Relations office takes a malicious glee in being one of the most evil beings in the galaxy.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Arthur Dent discovers that his house is about to be demolished to make way for a road bypass, on the same day that he (and everyone else on the planet) discovers that the Earth is about to be demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Arthur and Marvin punish Hig Hurtenflurst by making him listen to Marvin's autobiography. Damn.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Hig Hurtenflurst only happens to be one for a shoe company, who try zapping people with rays to make them buy more and more uncomfortable shoes. Which, as it turns out, is pointless, since people do this anyway. The giant ray guns and jobs are just there to make the executives feel important.
  • Cosmic Flaw: Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent find themselves two million years in the past of Planet Earth - which is a massive supercomputer devised, at mind-boggling-cost, to figure out the Question to the Answer of the existence of lifekind. Arthur realises they are at that point on the program where discovering The Answer is imminent. The Answer is of course Forty-Two. By a feat of lateral thinking, they discover the Question.
    What do you get if you multiply six by nine?
    Six by nine. Forty two?
    That's it. That's all there is.
    I always thought something was fundamentally wrong with the universe.
  • Credits Gag: Frequent. The first episode of the second series mentions where a person could buy a copy of Playbeing, for example, and Hig Hurtenflurst's actor only happens to borrow his verbal tic.
  • 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.
  • A Degree in Useless: Trillian explains that she decided to go into space with Zaphod because, with her degrees in Mathematics and Astrophysics, it was either that or back to the dole line. (These may have been hard sciences, but highly specialised and, at the time the series was written, would not have given entry into the general jobs market — the time when a Mathematics degree could get you a highly paid banking job was yet to come.)
  • Derelict Graveyard: Ford and Zaphod come across come across an abandoned spaceport on the planet Brontitall where most of the craft are so old they can literally fall apart by someone looking at them. There is one notable exception, where the AI crew has kept passengers in a centuries-long state of suspended animation... because their programming won't let them take off without the required consignment of lemon-soaked paper napkins.
  • Don't Ask, Just Run: The Guide's advice on what to do if you ever find yourself near a Haggunennon.
  • Downer Ending: Both series.
    • The first ends with Zaphod, Trillian and Marvin getting eaten by a Haggunennon, while Arthur and Ford wind up stuck on prehistoric Earth with the Golgafrinchians, who despite being a load of useless idiots are going to inherit the Earth, and gum up the attempt to solve The Question.
    • The second has Arthur learn Zaphod signed off on the destruction of Earth, and storms off in The Heart of Gold with Marvin, leaving Zaphod and Ford stuck with the Ruler of the Universe.
      • Only the first was entirely intentional. Adams finished writing the first series believing that there wouldn't be a second one, but then a second one got commissioned, so he had to scramble to get the characters back together. He finished writing the second series fully expecting a third one to be commissioned, but it didn't happen.
  • Early Instalment Weirdness: In Fit the First, it's Arthur, not Ford, who persuades Mr Prosser to lie down in the mud instead of him. In all future iterations of the story, Ford was given this bit as it's more in keeping with his alien psychology.
  • Emergency Temporal Shift: The heroes end up getting cornered on Magrathea by the galactic police and trapped behind a computer bank that's about to explode due to sustained gunfire. However, the explosion ends up saving their lives by unexpectedly flinging them forward several million years to Milliways, the Restaurant At The End Of The Universe.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Subverted with Prostechnic Vogon Jeltz. The first time we hear him, as he addresses mankind, his voice is clear and authoritative. Then, when Ford and Arthur are on his ship, it turns out to be much more nasal and high-strung, befitting a member of a race that is "not actually evil, but bad-tempered, bureaucratic, officious, and callous".
  • Face Death with Dignity: As Zaphod, Trillian and Marvin are being eaten by the ravenous Bugblatter Beast Of Traal:
    Trillian: Aaarrgghh, it's got us! If I ever survive this, I'll get a job as Moby Dick's dentist!
    Zaphod: Can it Trillian, I'm trying to die with dignity.
    Marvin: I'm just trying to die.
  • Fantastic Racism: The shape-shifting Haggunenons hate all the "filthy rotten stinking samelings".
  • Flowery Insults: Deep Thought's elaborate and immensely condescending insults of all the other supercomputers in the galaxy.
    Deep Thought: Molest me not with this pocket calculator stuff.
  • 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.
  • Funny Background Event: Zarniwoop's attempts to explain what's going on to Zaphod are spoiled by Ford getting merrily pissed in the background, and his subsequent drunken singing over Zarniwoop.
  • 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.
  • God Is Inept: At the very start, we are told that the Guide is more controversial than Oolon Colluphid's philosophical trilogy "Where God Went Wrong," "Some More Of God's Greatest Mistakes," and "Who Is This God Person, Anyway?" Colluphid would go on to write "Well, That About Wraps It Up For God" after He disappears upon learning that the Babel Fish's existence cancelled Him out.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: Arthur Dent mentions that his plans for the afternoon, before his house and then planet were destroyed, included brushing the dog.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: The adaptation of the fifth book gave Vann Harl the first name "Zarniwoop" and made him a Vogon. In the books they were two different characters whose race wasn't specified.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Fit the First, Fit the Second, etc. This is a reference to Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark.
  • Imposed Handicap Training: Lintilla has a pseudofracture (all the pain, discomfort, and swelling of a broken arm without the trouble of it actually being broken) and a 'crisis inducer' which place her under extreme pressure and thus push her to work harder/faster.
  • 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.
    • At the beginning of series 2, we see what Arthur and Ford have been up to since getting stranded on pre-historic Earth: Stuck with the Golgafrinchians for the last two years, they're getting drunk.
    • In the opening fit, Arthur talks Mr Prosser into not destroying his house so he and Ford can go to the Red Lion Pub:
    Arthur: But can we trust him?
    Ford: Myself, I'd trust him to the end of the Earth.
    Arthur: Yes, but how far is that?
    Ford: About twenty minutes from now. Come on, I need a drink.
  • In-Universe Nickname: Marvin is first dubbed "The Paranoid Android" in Fit the Third, where the Heart Of Gold lands on Magrathea.
  • 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:
  • 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.)
  • Meta Casting: The producers searched for a “Peter Jonesy kind of voice” for the narrator, and were pleasantly surprised to find that Jones was available.
  • Mind Screw: The last episode of series 2 reveals that everything's been taking place inside Zarniwoop's office, including the events on Brontital. Working out how that works is anyone's guess, but apparently Lintilla is real.
  • Mistaken for Transformed: The heroes make the mistake of stealing the flagship of a Haggunenon war fleet, eventually being led right to the head of the armada by automated systems and hailed for orders. As luck would have it, the Haggunenons are so Perpetually Protean that when Zaphod answers the call, the Haggunenon officer on the other end just assumes that he's the admiral of the fleet in a new form; when Trillian answers the next call, the officer believes that she's also the admiral in another form and thinks nothing of it. Unfortunately, the admiral is already aboard, disguised as the pilot's chair.
  • Morton's Fork: A profoundly irritated Jeltz tells his crew that if anyone speaks up again, they'll all get it in the neck. The understandably terrified Vogons don't respond, and he demands they answer...
  • 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.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Marvin is referred to as "the Paranoid Android" but he's mechanically depressed, not paranoid.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • The narrator/Guide mentions in passing that Arthur's only brother was somehow nibbled to death by an Okapi.
    • Marvin survives being eaten by a Haggunennon and makes his way to the publishers of the Guide via means he apparently was never able to satisfactorily explain, but which he almost assuredly finds depressing.
  • One-Liner, Name... One-Liner: Majikthise and Vroomfondel, two philosophers, threaten to go on strike if Deep Thought proceeds with his program on finding the answer to the ultimate question of Life, the Universe and Everything. When Deep Thought asks who a strike of philosophers would inconvenience, Majikthise counters "It'll hurt, buster. It'll hurt!"
  • Pardon My Klingon: Discussed in the second series, with an explanation that a lot of phrases formerly banned in polite society (with reactions ranging from being shunned to being shot) are now seen as the sign of a healthy, non-[bleep]ed up mind, except the most heinous of all phrases, only one planet of which uses in cold blood: "Belgium"
    • Arthur's casual comment "I seem to be having tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle," having been accidentally sent through a wormhole, was the instigator of multi-thousand year war between the Vl'hurgs and the G'Gugvants, until they found it was a terrible mistake.
  • Perpetually Protean: The Haggunenons, an alien race whose bodies are in a state of constant and barely-controlled evolutionary flux as a result of having "The most impatient chromosomes of any lifeform in the galaxy". This instability has rendered them extremely resentful of all non-shapeshifter lifeforms and not above launching unprovoked military strikes on the "filthy rotten stinking samelings".
  • Planning with Props: At the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Ford attempts to explain to Arthur how the restaurant will still exist when the universe ends, but keeps getting derailed by people complaining about him stealing their cutlery as props.
    Ford: Now imagine this napkin as the temporal universe, right, and this spoon as a transductional mode in the matter curve.
    Arthur: That's the spoon I was eating with.
  • Profound by Pop Song: Ford Prefect suggested that the mice consider a lucrative career of making up plausible-sounding Questions and debating them in exchange for vast sums of cash in their Home Dimension. He suggests the following as a possibility:
  • Puff of Logic: The Trope Namer. God vanishes like this, thanks to the Babel Fish's creation.
    "I refuse to prove I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith and without faith I am nothing."
    "But," says Man, "The Babel Fish is a dead giveaway, isn't it. It proves you exist. Therefore, you don't. Q.E.D."
    "Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.
  • 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.)
  • Ripple Effect Indicator: While trapped on prehistoric Earth, Ford and Arthur encounter a hovering spacecraft that keeps appearing and disappearing as they discuss how to react to its presence. They eventually figure out that it has traveled back in time, and that whatever they do next will determine whether the future will be one in which the spacecraft exists and makes the journey; as long as they can see it, they're on the right track, but if it disappears, that's a sign that whatever they're planning to do will result in a future where the spacecraft never visited them in the past.
  • Robot Buddy: The Sirius Cybernetics Corporation says a robot is "your plastic pal who's fun to be with." Marvin, a Sirius product who was the prototype for their "genuine people personality" program, subverts this as he is barely tolerated by the others.
  • 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."
    • When a computer explosion sends Arthur, Ford, Zaphod and Trillian to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe:
    Arthur: It's not so much an afterlife...more like an apres vie.
  • 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 biting parody of Starsky & Hutch.
    • The most hideous word in the galaxy, used only by the most loose-tongued people in times of extreme stress, is... Belgium.
    • When Max Quordlepleen welcomes the party of "Young Conservatives from Sirius B", they're represented as a pack of dogs.
  • Time-Travel Tense Trouble: Episode 2 of the first series, "...will be repeated through a time-warp on the Home Service in 1951."
  • 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 "anti-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.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Lady Cynthia Fitzmelton, who is glimpsed in Fit the First opening the bypass to a crowd of boos. She isn't in other versions of the story.
  • 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.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: The Haggunenons.
  • 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?: When Arthur and Ford are on the Heart of Gold.
    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."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Or in this case, to the dog - Arthur tells Ford that his plans for the afternoon, before his house and planet were destroyed, included brushing the dog. When his house is knocked down, there is no mention of the dog being inside or not. (Granted, the question becomes irrelevant a few minutes later when the rest of the planet, presumably including the dog if it survived, are destroyed…)
  • You Didn't Ask: Twice in the same sequence. The foursome are aboard a stolen spacecraft when Marvin reveals that the Question to the Ultimate Answer is imprinted in Arthur's brainwaves. Trillian asks why Marvin didn't tell them before and Marvin replies "You didn't ask." Moments later Marvin tells them they stole the ship of the space fleet Admiral and gives the same response when Zaphod asks why he didn't tell them prior.

The three revived seasons contain examples of:

  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: The Quintessential Phase undoes the Downer Ending of Mostly Harmless by revealing that the Babel Fish has a hitherto unmentioned ability to teleport its user away from certain death. Even setting aside that the characters have faced near certain death before without this coming up, if the Babel Fish did have such an ability then, by the logic of this story, the Guide Mark II would have gone back in time and set things up so they were no longer present.
  • And I Must Scream: In the Quintessential Phase, Zaphod winds up trapped in the Guide office's virtual universe. By the time Ford finds him, he's been stuck with the recreation of the Ruler of the Universe and his cat, and he really wants a drink.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: The final fate of Wowbagger.
  • Arc Welding: The Quintessential Phase ties together the events of the previous two series, with Van Harl somehow being behind the Krikket robots, and tied to the Vogons (since he is a Vogon).
  • 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, and a few other bit players.
  • Book Ends: Played with. One of the alternate Earths features Arthur lying in front of a bulldozer ready to demolish his house, but Fenchurch is with him this time.
  • Bowdlerization: Due to being broadcast on BBC Radio 4, the Quandary Phase eliminates the Precision F-Strike present in So Long, and Thanks For All The Fish. Likewise, Arthur's own in Mostly Harmless, though his following line about "badger sputum" remains.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Right at the beginning of episode five of the Tertiary Phase, someone can be heard munching on crisps. Once the narration on the Silastic Armourfiends ends, it turns out to be Trillian, who's eating while reading the Guide.
    • It is said that God's Final Message to His Creations, when seen, makes those who see it feel good. Sure enough, when Marvin sees the message, which is "we apologise for the inconvenience", his response? "I think I feel good about it."
    • Back in the first series, Arthur mentions on hearing about the Vogons how he wished he had a daughter so he could forbid her to marry one. When he's introduced to Random, he remembers this, and does indeed forbid her to marry a Vogon.
  • The Cameo:
    • Joanna Lumley appears as The Woman with the Sydney Opera House Head in the Tertiary Phase.
    • Miriam Margoyles plays the Smelly Photocopier Woman in the Quintessential Phase.
  • Casting Gag: The Tertiary, Quandary and Quintessential Phases had a lot of cameos by actors who had featured in non-radio versions of the story:
    • Chris Langham, Arthur Dent from the 1979 Institute of Contemporary Arts stage production of Hitchhiker's, pops up as Prak in the finale of the Tertiary Phase.
    • David Dixon, the TV Ford Prefect, had a cameo in the second episode of the Quandary Phase, getting pissed off at Arthur for trying to donate to save the dolphins when he should know they've all vanished. (This case is lampshaded, as Arthur — still played by Simon Jones, who acted alongside Dixon in the TV series — asks if they've met before.)
    • Stephen Fry, the film's Guide, cameos in the third episode of the Quandary Phase as Murray Bost Henson.
    • The Quintessential Phase series had Sandra Dickinson, Trillian in the TV version, voice Tricia McMillan (Trillian's alternate universe counterpart). She reprises her TV role as Trillian herself in the Hexagonal Phase since she and Tricia merged at the end of the Quintessential Phase. Susan Sheridan's death in 2015 probably also factored into things.
    • In a non-remake-related example, Geoffrey Perkins, Douglas Adams's boss at the BBC, plays Arthur Dent's boss at the BBC in the second episode of the Quandary Phase.
  • 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.
  • Cold Ham: Vann Harl gets very worked up talking about his plans, even going as far as drooling, but never rises above a Creepy Monotone.
  • Composite Character: The Quintessential Phase merges Zarniwoop and Vann Harl.
  • 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.
    "Here you are, six pints of beer."
    "Thanks, keep the change."
    "From a fiver? Thank you, sir!" Today, six pints of beer would barely get change from thirty pounds. In the book, which was published the following year, Ford gives the barman a tenner.
  • 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.
  • Deus ex Machina: Done blatantly in order to avert the Sudden Downer Ending of "Mostly Harmless". Turns out that in addition to their translation abilities, the Babel Fish also has the hitherto unmentioned ability to teleport themselves to safety at the last picosecond before certain death, along with anyone who happens to have one in their ear. Arthur, naturally, asks why this has never come up before in all those other instances, but Ford just handwaves it away that he wasn't actually facing death.
  • Disney Owns This Trope: "The sound of a thousand people saying "wop" is used with the permission of the Krikket-Kola Corporation."
  • 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.
  • Foreshadowing: When Zaphod sneaks into the Krikket warship, the annoying announcer voice welcomes him to the Starship Striterax, the name of the planet the previously mentioned Silastic Armourfiends came from. In the next episode, Trillian recognises there's a connection between the two.
  • Handwave: Van Harl is Zarniwoop. Why did Zaphod and Ford not comment on this before? Well, he's had plastic surgery. And he's got a tan. And a suit. Also, it's Zaphod and Ford, who don't generally pay attention anyway.
  • Mythology Gag: The discussion on Time-Travel Tense Trouble, from the book version of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, shows up in the final episode of the Tertiary Phase, albeit greatly abbreviated.
  • 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 — more accurate titles would be the Quaternary and Quinary 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 discovers 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.
  • Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: The Krikkit Robots say "beep" as they move.
  • Scare Chord: There's one right before the Vogon Captain challenges Ford and Arthur to tell him how good they thought his poetry was.
  • Shout-Out: The fifth episode of the Tertiary Phase is brought to you by a series of letters (as to which ones, the continuity announcer isn't sure).
  • Simpleton Voice: The Silastic Armourfiends of Striterax, though they're not exactly stupid, just immensely violent and easily bored.
  • 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 a sound effect, including in places where there shouldn't be sound at all.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: The final episode has a bit where the radio announcer tries to reassure the audience that the Vogon ships they are seeing are only illusions.

The sixth season contains examples of:

  • Back from the Dead: Though Marvin remained dead in And Another Thing..., he appears outside Arthur's shack in Episode 1 (the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation took his personality and put it in another body). Subverted when it turns out to only exist in the Guide Mark II, then double-subverted in Episode 6 when Arthur finds him in the same place in reality.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The ending of And Another Thing... plays out mostly as it originally does, with nearly everyone getting some sort of happy ending, but Fenchurch is present at the shack (to Arthur's surprise), having filled out the permit that staves off the Vogons. After everything he's been through, Arthur finally gets a happy ending. Oh, and Marvin lives, too.
  • Happy Ending Override: It turns out that the ending of the Quintessential Phase was little more than a virtual reality created by the Guide Mark II, as a means of persuading the cast to return to Earth before its destruction — which, by the by, is still moments away from occuring.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: One stinger explains that the Ameglian Major Cows (the species that the Dish of the Day belongs to) refused to have their scenes overseen by an animal welfare officer.
  • Oddly Named Sequel: Just like the Quandary and Quintessential Phases, this series is the Hexagonal Phase, and not the "Senary Phase".
  • Special Guest: The late Stephen Hawking provides the voice of the Guide Mark II in Episode 1. Random even mentions it sounds like him, but is cut off before she says his name. The Guide Mark II even implies that in other timelines, it was the man himself.

Alternative Title(s): The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy