The Comedy Vault – The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy film.

The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (2005)

A while ago I reviewed the TV version of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. I haven’t got around to reviewing the original radio version yet, but I plan to, as it was one of the most acclaimed comedy shows of its era. The show was created and written by Douglas Adams, who invented a science-fiction world that had remarkable flights of fancy, and hugely memorable characters and situations.

The TV version tried to do justice to the book and radio series, but technology had only come so far, and as they say, the pictures are better on the radio. For many years though there had been rumours of a film version, and about 25 years on from the TV version, this finally happened. How would this adapt to the big screen? Firstly, the film starred Martin Freeman, whose career was on the up following the success of The Office. vlcsnap-00004

Freeman played Arthur Dent, a rather ordinary Englishman. One day, his friend Ford Prefect arrives and tells him that Earth is going to be destroyed by the Vogons. Arthur has a somewhat curiously British attitude to this, being mildly disappointed by hearing about the end of the world, rather than completely horrified. Now in space, he is given the Guide, which tells him everything he needs to know about the galaxy, and informs him “don’t panic”, which is easier said than done. vlcsnap-00003

The voice of the Guide is important as this needs to be informative and reassuring, and Stephen Fry delivered in this area. Unlike the TV version, the animated sequences were computer-generated. Arthur also encounters Zaphod Beeblebrox, who is the president of the galaxy, Marvin the Paranoid Android, Slartibartfast, and his old friend Trillian (Zooey Deschanel), and having enjoyed her films, it was good seeing her here. vlcsnap-00002

There was also a brief appearance from Simon Jones, who played Arthur in the original radio and TV series. Realising that he’s going around on a spaceship makes Arthur ponder the meaning of everything, if only he had a spare 7½ million years to think about it, he might get close to an answer. The DVD has two discs as there as so many extras, including a lengthy making of, and some deleted scenes. vlcsnap-00005

Of course, there has been plenty of debate from fans as to whether this is a worthy addition to the series, and that you had to be familiar with the characters to be able to grasp most of what was happening, but at least they had a go, and you won’t find a more mixed response to a film from critics than this one. This was clearly an ambitious film though. The only conclusion to take from all this is so long, and thanks for all the towels.

The Comedy Vault – The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (BBC2, 1981) hitch0001The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy which was created by Douglas Adams is widely regarded to be one of the greatest radio comedies of its era. There had been plans for a while to transfer the show to TV, and it finally came to the screen at the start of 1981. This is a little before my time, but I remember watching the show during one of its many TV repeat runs in more recent years which was how I got into it, and I also have the DVD.

The idea of the show is bizarre to say the least, and it featured some of the strangest science-fiction situations and characters that there have been. Arthur Dent gets something of a shock one morning when he is told that the Earth is about to be destroyed because it is going to be replaced by a bypass. Isn’t it annoying when that happens? vlcsnap-01483

Thankfully his friend and alien-type thing Ford Prefect is at hand to rescue him before the big explosion. Arthur needn’t worry about how to cope in space though because Ford has written a book all about that. The cover is inscribed with “DON’T PANIC” and it features some other comforting advice about how to deal with these peculiar aliens, and its contents are voiced by Peter Jones. vlcsnap-01484

Arthur also meets many other wonderfully odd characters including Zaphod Beeblebrox and his two heads, Trillian, and Marvin The Paranoid Android who isn’t very happy about all of this, or anything else. They then all go on to try and discover what the meaning of life, the universe and everything is, and are surprised by what they discover. There are also lots of other brilliantly creative ideas such as the Babel Fish and a PanGalactic GargleBlaster. vlcsnap-01485

When the TV version was shown, it seemed to get a mixed response from viewers, mostly because the imagery that was created in the minds of listeners to the radio version was so lavish that it was always going to be difficult to replicate, especially with the technology that was available at the time, and a planned second series never happened, meaning that only six TV episodes were ever made. vlcsnap-01486

People felt that justice could finally be done to Adams’s work when a film version was released a few years after his death which was to be on a much bigger scale, and for this Martin Freeman donned the old dressing gown to play the lead role for this. Again, the response was rather mixed from fans. vlcsnap-01487

The DVD release of the TV series contains an impressive amount of extras. Among my favourites were some BBC2 continuity clips going into the first episode when it was first shown in 1981, and the production notes which revealed a lot more about how the TV version was put together. One of the things that I found most interesting was that the production team were often used what computers they used to create the animated sequences from the book, and they said that none were used at all. The show was put together before computer technology was advanced enough so all the text and pictures had to be animated frame-by-frame. The show also won some awards for its pioneering work in prosthetics and graphics. No wonder it’s considered to be a cult classic.