The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
directed by Alan J.W. Bell
(BBC, 1981)

It was this video adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that introduced me to the comic genius of Douglas Adams. I saw the series before I ever read the books, so it is rather special to me (though by no means does it succeed as well as the actual written word). You have to love the campy, cheap feel to the whole production because it really seems to fit Douglas Adams so well. Some of the special effects are almost absurd, and Zaphod's second head is just horrible and completely unreal. The sound quality is unfortunately rather poor at times, especially in the scenes involving the super computer Deep Thought. The presentation of the restaurant at the end of the universe, though, was well done and quite memorable.

Trillian, whom I thought was gorgeous in my younger days, is rather different than she is described in the books. Marvin the paranoid android is rather unimpressive in appearance but constantly steals the show for me with his incredibly depressed and often amazingly witty statements. David Dixon is terrific as Ford Prefect, but the true standout performance here is that of Douglas Adams' old friend Simon Jones as Arthur Dent. I cannot imagine anyone ever picturing Arthur differently than he appears in this series; Simon Jones is Arthur Dent.

The story takes you through the experiences related in the first two books of the Hitchhiker's trilogy. The video is really amazingly faithful to the books, particularly in terms of the dialogue of the characters. Naturally, there are a few differences between the books and the video, but by and large the two go together hand in hand. It is unfortunate that the series ends where it does; the ending is something of a let-down and feels woefully incomplete, largely because it is woefully incomplete. Arthur Dent's story is really just beginning by the time the video comes to an end.

As a young teenager accidentally discovering this series on PBS, its effect on me was significant, opening up a whole new world of science fiction and comedy before my very eyes. I doubt that the series can have such a profound effect on anyone in today's more modern world, and I fear that many will see the cheap special effects and dismiss the show out of hand. The genius of Douglas Adams is timeless and rests in the characters and amazingly witty dialogue; the special effects are basically unimportant.

Adams will live forever, and this video is just one of his many delightful guises; may many watch it, delight in the foibles of the human race Douglas satirizes so well, and discover the magic of true comedy in its purest form.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 7 May 2005

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