Written by: Douglas Adams
Starring the Voices of: Simon Jones, Geoffrey McGiven, Mark Wing-Davey, Peter Jones
Published by: BBC Audio
Before it was the cult TV hit, before it became the five-book trilogy, before it became the all-encompassing meme that immersed itself into sci-fi fandom (Everybody knows what 42 is, right?), it was a radio series that aired on BBC Radio 4. Now the BBC has released a special collector’s edition with all twelve episodes of the series, an audio documentary on the creation and production of the series, and a special interview with that hoopy frood himself, Douglas Adams.
First, we’ll look at the series itself. Many of the classics are here: the Babel fish, Vogon poetry, Milliways: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, and others. But what makes this show interesting is the material that differs from the radio version to the written one everyone’s more familiar with. For example, it is Arthur Dent (Simon Jones), not Ford Prefect (McGiven), who convinces the bulldozer supervisor not to knock his house down for a few minutes. We are introduced to the Haggunenons, hyper-evolutionary beings that take their frustrations of being genetically inconsistent out on the galaxy in a military fashion. And we meet the ladies Lintilla and their investigations into the Shoe Event Horizon.
[ad#longpost]While there are rough spots in this incarnation of the Guide, Adams’ brilliant and clever writing is very much in force. And it is matched by the voices of all the actors. It takes a special talent to give substance to a character with just a voice. And they all have it. And while the sound effects and music may be a little dated and synthesizer heavy, it doesn’t distract from your enjoyment. Anyone who enjoyed the books or the television show will enjoy listening to this.
Also included is an audio documentary called Douglas Adams’s Guide to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It tells the story of how the Guide came about– from Douglas Adams’s first musings to engaging the BBC Radiophonic Workshop to develop sound effects for the end of the world, the self-satisfied doors, and other non-traditional noises. It also describes how the show was recorded…or nearly wasn’t because of Adams’s perfectionism and missing deadlines. This documentary is very informative, but the narrator constantly using taglines from the Guide itself in the documentary gets a little old.
The last disc has an interview of Douglas Adams himself. He tells of how he came up with 42 as the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything by working out the most normal number possible. It’s bittersweet to listen to him talking about his young daughter and constantly looking for new things in life since we only have so much of it. With all of this material, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Collector’s Edition is worth the price; so if you’re a fan, pick it up.