THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY
released OUT NOW! 1981 | 15 | BLU-RAY/DVD Director alan JW Bell Cast simon Jones, david dixon, Mark Wing-davey, sandra dickinson
There is a consensus that Douglas Adams’s blend of absurdism, parody and philosophical wit remains peerless in the sphere of SF comedy, but the BBC TV adaptation gets little love from certain quarters. This seems a tad unfair.
Sure, the animatronic solution to the problem of Zaphod Beeblebrox’s second head is off-puttingly crude, Sandra Dickinson is oddly counterintuitive casting as Trillian, and the conception of “paranoid android” Marvin as a clunky ’50s-style robot is questionable – though arguably, it’s fittingly frustrating for his genius to be trapped in such a lumbering shell. But Simon Jones, reviving his radio role as Arthur Dent, the hapless everyman hitchhiking across the universe after the demolition of Earth, remains endearingly bewildered. Incoming Ford Prefect David Dixon is on a par with predecessor Geoffrey McGivern. And the hand-drawn animations visualising the Guide are a triumph; adding extra layers of chuckle-inducing detail, they still look stunning 37 years later.
At the very least, it’s a TV version as good as it could have been at the time, given the gulf between Adams’s soaring ambition and the possibilities of a BBC budget. And it remains light years ahead of the 2005 movie.
Extras The old DVD was pretty well-served, with the likes of an hour-long Making Of. Those have been carried over for this HD debut, bolstered by rare clips from the archives. With 18 additions in all, there’s too much to list.
At times, the nerdery level required is pretty hardcore: you may struggle to stay awake through a BBC training film about the dubbing suite used on the radio series (14 minutes). But there are some real treats: Marvin appearing on Blue Peter to gloomily promote his pop single; Adams interviewed on Nationwide; a book discussion show where the author soldiers on gamely despite the host slating his latest book! “Writing Hitchhiker’s” (15 minutes) draws on old interviews with Adams’s brother James and Pan editor Nick Webb to look at his struggles with the creative process. The chief delight, however, is 25 minutes of studio footage, full of fascinating fly-on-the-wall insights: the Vogon captain being supplied with a cushion; Adams reading in lines for ship’s computer Eddie; Jones complaining about a Kirby wire’s deleterious effects on his “goolies”. Priceless stuff. A similar piece on the location footage turns up clapper-boards aplenty and a cut model sequence. A Collector’s Edition Blu-ray adds an art card and 24-page booklet. Ian Berriman
The bridge set for the Heart Of Gold spaceship used a revolving stage borrowed from quiz show Blankety Blank.
This is how their first date ended.