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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was first and foremost a radio comedy series written by Douglas Adams. This was followed by a series of novels, a television series and a computer game. As of 2004 a film version is also in the works. Although the various versions followed the same basic plot, they are in many places mutually contradictory, as Adams heavily rewrote the story for each "adaptation".

Table of contents
1 Introduction
2 Basic Plot of the Series
3 History of the radio series and novels
4 New radio series
5 Books in the trilogy
6 Characters
7 See also
8 External links


The books are described as "a trilogy in five parts", after having been described as a trilogy on the release of the third book, and then a "trilogy in four parts" on the release of the fourth book. They have a wide following around the world, thanks to their outlandish situations and characters (Babel fish, Vogon poetry, Slartibartfast, The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything), their anarchic, ironic humour, and their subtle social commentary.

Warning: Plot details follow.

The title The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is often abbreviated as "HHG", "HHGG", "HHGTTG" or "H2G2". In addition to the several incarnations of the story, of which the books are the most popular, this can also refer to:

Note: Unfortunately, the different editions of the Hitchhiker's Guide spell it differently -- thus "Hitch-Hiker's Guide", "Hitch Hiker's Guide" and "Hitchhiker's Guide" are used in different editions (US or UK), versions (audio or text) and compilations of the book. For the sake of coherence, Wikipedia spells it Hitchhiker, which is reportedly the way Adams himself preferred it. [1]

Basic Plot of the Series

There are roughly four plots in the series. The first two books The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe deal with the question of the universe (the answer to which is 42), and who is controlling the universe. The answer to the question of the universe is never resolved, although the being controlling the universe turns out to be a man living in a wooden shed with his cat. The third plot line (arguably the most contained and resolved) was that of Life, the Universe, and Everything, in which the characters must fend of a galactic war with the people of Krikkit. In So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, the planet Earth reappears in the universe, thanks to the campaign of the dolphins to Save the Humans. Finally, in Mostly Harmless, the world is once and for all destroyed by the child of Arthur Dent and Trillian, Random Dent. It wasn't truly clear that the series was over (since it was a trilogy with five books) until Adams died of a heart attack at age 49 in 2001. However, Adams' unfinished work, The Salmon of Doubt (a Dirk Gently novel) leaves open the possibility that there would have been a crossover between the series, as Douglas Adams has said that he was never completely happy with the ending of the Hitchhikers' Trilogy as he left it. Since there was an unnamed character resembling Ford Prefect in this last of novels, it seems that while the possibility was there, we will never know.

History of the radio series and novels

The first radio series was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1978. It was split into episodes, known as "Fits" (from Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark). The original series comprised Fits the First through Sixth, and Fit the Seventh was broadcast separately on December 24 (though billed as a Christmas special it made no reference to the occasion). Fits the Fifth and Sixth were co-written by John Lloyd; subsequent versions of the story omit most of Lloyd's material.

The success of the series encouraged Adams to adapt it into a novel, which was based on the first four Fits and released in 1979. A slightly contracted double LP re-recording of the first four Fits was released in the same year, followed by a single LP featuring a revised version of Fits the Fifth and Sixth. A second radio series, comprising Fits the Eighth through Twelfth, was produced and broadcast in 1980, originally on five consecutive days; and the original novel produced a sequel based on Fits the Fifth through Twelfth (but not entirely in that order). Thereafter the radio series ended and the books developed independently.

The radio series (and the subsequent vinyl LP recordings and television spin-off) greatly benefited from the voice-over commentary provided by the noted radio comedy actor Peter Jones, playing The Book. His sonorous, avuncular tones undoubtedly gave the series a tremendous boost and firmly established the tenor of the piece.

The popularity of the first two books gave rise to a six-episode television series, which aired in 1981. It employed most of the actors from the radio series, and was based on the novel versions of Fits the First through Sixth. The complexities of adapting the material for television meant that each episode was 35 minutes in length, and some of the best jokes from the radio series had to be cut. There have been several different edits of the series: PBS recut the series into seven 30-minute episodes, while the videotape release added some previously unseen material and remixed the soundtrack into stereo. The DVD edition claims to be the final and definitive version. The TV series was followed in 1984 by a best-selling interactive fiction - effectively a text adventure game - distributed by Infocom and designed by Adams and Infocom regular Steve Meretzky (see: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (computer game)). Other articles of early 1980s "Hitch-Hikeriana" included a beach towel which incorporated a large part of the text which ends "... any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy and still know where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with".

The theme tune used for the radio and television series and the LPs comes from an instrumental by The Eagles entitled "Journey of the Sorcerer", though the version used on the LP and TV series is a new recording which was not performed by the Eagles.

In the original radio series, Fit the Third originally included a scene in which Marvin the Paranoid Android "sang" snatches of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" by Pink Floyd, "Rock and Roll Music" by The Beatles and "Also sprach Zarathustra" (the theme from ). For copyright reasons these were cut from the tape and CD editions, causing a slight lapse in continuity. There have been other minor changes - for example, the name originally given for the worst poet in the universe was that of a real person, Paul Neil Milne Johnstone, who didn't appreciate the joke.

Marvin himself (played and sung by actor Stephen Moore; the character was originally named 'Marshall' after comedy writer Andrew Marshall, a friend who Adams regarded as being a very depressed person, then changed to Marvin so as not to cause offence) released two novelty singles, "Marvin" and "Marvin, I Love You". There was also an EP featuring the re-recorded "Journey of the Sorcerer" together with "Reg Nullify In Concert" by Reg Nullify, and "Only the End of the World Again" by Disaster Area. These discs have since become collector's items.

The fifth book was written to bring the "increasingly inaccurately named trilogy" to a supposedly conclusive ending. However, it was known that Adams was working on another book (tentatively entitled The Salmon of Doubt) when he died. This book was originally supposed to be the third novel of the Dirk Gently series, but Adams had expressed the desire to recast it as a Hitchhiker book. An existing draft was published posthumously in 2002 in a collection of Adams' miscellaneous writings entitled The Salmon of Doubt, with Dirk as the main character.

New radio series

A third radio series, based on Life, the Universe and Everything is due to be broadcast on BBC Radio 4, starting September 21, 2004. It was adapted by Dirk Maggs, following instructions left by Adams. All of the original radio series cast are set to return, except for the late Peter Jones, who will be replaced by William Franklyn. There will even be a cameo role for Adams, edited from his BBC audiobook recording of the novel.

A fourth series will follow; both are being produced by Above The Title Productions Ltd.

Books in the trilogy

The books in the trilogy are named:

A short story was also written, Young Zaphod Plays it Safe. It appears in some of the omnibus editions of the trilogy, and in The Salmon of Doubt. It is almost entirely unrelated to the rest of the trilogy.

Neil Gaiman has written . The original edition was published in 1984. The book is now in its third edition.

A novel, Douglas Adams's Starship Titanic, based on Adams's computer game and written by Terry Jones, is also set in the HHGG universe. While the story is entirely unrelated to the trilogy, Starship Titanic was briefly mentioned in Life, the Universe and Everything.

Two collaborative Internet projects were inspired by The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The original is Project Galactic Guide, which has no official affiliation. There is also h2g2, a project started by Douglas Adams' company The Digital Village and currently hosted by the BBC.


See also

External links