The original BBC radio adventures of Arthur Dent (an ape-descendant whose anger at the apparently inexplicable destruction of his home planet Earth, situated in an obscure corner of the outer spiral arm of the galaxy, is expressed in frequent irritation at friendly automatic doors and vending machines) and his travelling companions, Ford Prefect (an itinerant towel-carrying hitch-hiker originally from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse), Zaphod Beeblebrox (the notorious ex-Galactic President and patron of Eccentrica Galumbits, the triple-breasted whore of Eroticon Six) and Marvin the Paranoid Android (who's still suffering from that terrible pain in all the diodes down his left side) proved to be such a success for the BBC that its transition to TV was (almost) inevitable. In 1981 several key members of the radio cast made the move to the small screen. Simon Jones' bewildered Arthur Dent remains the central character, shambling around in his dressing gown (a fact easy to forget on radio); Mark Wing-Davey's Zaphod Beeblebrox is the same as his boastful radio persona, even if the second head utterly fails to convince. Unfortunately, newcomers David Dixon (as Ford Prefect) and the irritating Sandra Dickinson (as Trillian) are no match for their radio predecessors.
The problem here is not so much the low-budget look as the script itself, which is lovingly faithful to the radio series in a way that Douglas Adams' novels aren't. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was a lucid, satirical, occasionally profound, utterly unique comic invention on radio. As such, it has nothing to gain from TV. The script needs no visual elaboration--that's best left to the listener's own imagination. Only the animated renditions of the Guide itself enhance Peter Jones' wonderfully dry narration; otherwise--paradoxically, perhaps--by supplying images the concept is oddly diminished here.
On the DVD: A suitably eclectic not to say eccentric collection of extra features makes this a wholly satisfying two-disc set, neatly packaged in a fold-out slipcase. On the second disc there's an hour-long "making of" documentary from 1992 featuring contributions from the cast and crew, including Douglas Adams; and then there's even more in a 20-minute section entitled "Don't Panic!". A fascinating behind-the-scenes peek at filming as the clock runs out on studio time and a look at the recording of the original radio series complete the first part. Then navigate to the "Outer Planets" to find outtakes, a deleted scene, Zaphod's animatronic second head on Tomorrow's World and Peter Jones's witty and shambolic introduction to the first episode, plus more besides. The series itself is presented in standard 4:3 ratio and Dolby stereo. --Mark Walker
Peter Jones Intro
Behind The Scenes
Pebble Mill Appearance By Rod Lord And Alan J Bell
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