The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (TV Series 1981) Poster

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9/10
hugely enjoyable mini-series
didi-55 July 2004
'What does it say now?' 'Mostly harmless.'

So says the Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy's definition of the recently exterminated Planet Earth, as Arthur Dent goes on a fabulous and very silly journey through space and time without even having time to change out of his pyjamas and dressing gown. He's accompanied by his friend Ford Prefect (so called because he chose the name as the one most likely to blend in), a field reporter for the Guide.

The Guide itself of course is a huge best-seller mainly because it has 'Don't Panic' on the front in big letters ...

I'm watching it again as I write, now knowing every line and enjoying it immensely. It looks inept despite the cost (but the animation to create the computer sequences was good). It gives a few visual pointers to the (superior) radio series of the late 1970s, which had many of the same cast (specifically Peter 'voice of the book' Jones, Simon 'Arthur Dent' Jones, and the totally wonderful Mark 'Zaphod Beeblebrox' Wing-Davey - the sexiest two-headed guy you'll see in deep space).

Added to this version is Sandra Dickinson as Trillian, excellent in her bubble bimbo blonde astrophysicist way; and David Dixon as a charming Ford Prefect. There are other good actors in the cast - Colin Jeavons, Dave Prowse, David Rowlands, Richard Vernon, and Peter Davison. And who can forget Marvin 'I'm feeling very depressed' the Paranoid Android, voiced by Stephen Moore?

Can this BBC class act be topped by the upcoming movie? I doubt it. The good news is that many of the cast from this version will be back on the radio continuing the story very soon. That's something to look forward to.

In the meantime, those of you who are waiting for the film and haven't seen this, please seek the original out. So many highlights and so hilarious, not to mention 'What a Wonderful World'. 'Resistance is useless...'.
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8/10
There is a need to set the record straight!
jfwhelan23 February 2005
I have read through the reviews and find that many people are questioning whether this series is faithful to the books. It pre-dated most of them! I remember listening to the original radio shows on the BBC – I loved them: the humour, the wit, the sheer mind-boggling grandeur of the concept. Later when Adams rewrote his early radio scripts as a book I read it, but was disappointed: for me, it lacked the immediacy and the warmth of the radio scripts – I personally think the later books that were not radio script rewrites were better, or maybe it's just that I wasn't finding fault with differences between the books and the loved original.

Yes this was first a radio show, then a book (later books) and during the process of writing the books was transcribed from radio to a TV comedy in 6 half hour episodes closely matching the equivalent radio episodes from the first (radio) series. Don't assume you are watching a film or a mini-series – you are not! This was produced, because the Radio series was absolutely cult for many baby-boomers who had listened to it during their University years and the BBC recognised the demand and catered for it. Yes it was low budget, yes of course there were many things wrong with it, but Adams, himself, was involved in the TV scripts and the story changes were his or at least approved by him.

For those of us who had loved the radio series, this was good stuff; the right jokes were there and more importantly the late great Peter Jones was still the voice of the book. In fact we had the same Arthur Dent, Zaphod and Marvin as well. I, personally, was reasonably happy with the new Ford Prefect, but oh so disappointed by Sandra Dickenson as Trillian; for me, as for so many, this character had to have Susan Sheridan's voice and I will never be able to imagine her as blond.

It wasn't the radio series, but it was still very good, so please see this show in context as something between the original radio series and the books: it was never an adaptation of a book it was an adaptation of a radio script as were at least half of the books (I say at least half, since Adams wrote more radio scripts than were ever made and I think some of the later books were first conceived as radio scripts). Finally please remember you are criticising what was designed to be a sort of six episode sitcom it was never a mini-series. And for those of you who are only familiar with the books go back to source, if you can, and revel in the original radio series (12 half hour episodes in two series) and please remember these are not an adaptation of the books: these are the original and were made and broadcast before the first book was ever written.
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9/10
Don't Panic, it's really quite good
movieman_kev15 May 2005
In this 6-part Mini based on the Douglas Adam's radio scripts, Ford Perfect (David Dixon) saves his friend Arthur Dent (Simon Jones, whom made not one, but two of the best mini's of the '80's, this and Brideshead Revisted, both in 1981 mind you. I'm inclined to think that Simon got a hold of the Infinite Improbability Drive) from the annihilation of Earth to pave the way for an intergalactic hyperspatial express route . Ford, unbeknowst to Arthur is an alien and whisks him away on a comical adventure that includes, but not limited to, everything. The humor is delightfully British,most of the characters dead-on (a given, since a lot of the cast were holdover's from the radio play). The effects may be a tad dated (an understatement if I ever heard one), however I feel that it adds to the charm of the show rather than detracts. All in all a marvelous adaption.

My Grade: A
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Sophisticated Scifi Humor for Intelligent People
koconnor-17 April 2004
Imagine, if you will, Doctor Who, Babylon 5, Galactica and Star Trek compacted into a compost heap and recycled by the hands of the Monty Python troupe. Now you're getting the idea.

Douglas Adams (a co-writer for "Monty Python and the Holy Grail", among other things) takes us on a hilarious romp through the universe and the space-time continuum with wimpy nebbish Arthur Dent, intergalactic field researcher Ford Prefect, a beautiful (hyper-intelligent) earth girl, a two headed drunken ex-galactic-president, and a paranoid android.

With clever asides and witty dialog, the mismatched team discovers the origins of the universe, witnesses the end of same (over cocktails and the dish of the day), and scours the universe for a decent cup of tea. Particularly funny are Adams' (through the voice of the narrator) wry observations on humanity and the oddball track that we supposedly-intelligent lifeforms have taken in the grand scheme of things.

All in all, a most satisfying bit of comedy for people who love to think.
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My most favorite mini-series!
andy-2274 June 1999
I absolutely love "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"! This is one of the funniest, most satirical, and most memorable mini-series I've ever seen! I've listened to the BBC radio broadcast, read all of the books, and now I've seen the TV series! It's awesome, and a very involving story with realistic and believable characters! The satire lies in how the aliens in the Universe perceive the planet Earth, which was destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass. It reflects our bureaucracy, and how the people of our world live in it. People wonder what there role in existence really is. "The Hitchhiker's Guide" doesn't give the answer, but it does show people who are searching for it. This could've been made into a theatrical production, although it probably would have been far too long. I love the characters, because their presence just makes fun of everything in their pathway. Much of the purpose of the character's existence, I think, is to make fun of the other characters they will meet later in the story. I love the talking electronic book, which narrates the story and gives a sort of "average person's" answer to everything. Simon Jones, who played Arthur Dent in the BBC audio broadcast, reprises his role with the same confused, yet humanistic personification. Mark Wing-Davey also reprises his role as the conceited Zaphod Beeblebrox. Peter Jones is back too, as the electronic book, as is David Tate as the annoying, overly eccentric computer. What effect will this have on someone's life? Only that it reflects the insecurity of much of our population, and how insignificant it all is compared to the rest of the universe. We already know this, but we never take it into mind. This also satirizes our modern world, without making any direct references to the people it's poking fun at. This is a great story which should be read, listened to, and likewise, seen with this miniseries. This isn't just pure entertainment, satire, and comedy. This is something that will make you think about the world you live in, and what your existence in life means to the universe itself!
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8/10
A suitable adaption for fans of the novels and British humor in general
clurge-21 October 2000
I've been into Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker's Guide" series since grade school where it was introduced to me. So when I learned that I could have it presented to me in visual form, I was interested...just how could they adapt this novel, which strays every which way from the central story, into a mini-series of epic proportions?

Easy. As long as the Brits do it.

Get yourself a heard of young but experienced talent, who are no stranger to the airwaves in the UK, and stick close to the story. You're assured a winner. The book tells amazingly well on the screen, and the characters are pretty close to what your mind would imagine from descriptions in the text. Important points in the story occur when Adams strays from the main plot, and jumps into a description of the history of a certain object, person or event as described by the "Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy", a futuristic electronic know-all dictionary. The mini takes this to heart so it seems, and sticks with it, showing viewers animated sequences to what the Guide would be showing it's user. This is where the film turns in it's most brilliant sequences.

Granted, some of the effects are cheesy, but for the time of the film (1981) and the budget of a mini, I say they did well. So Zaphod's second head is a motionless blob of plastic, with a moving mouth for about three sequences. The look, and attitude of Marvin the depressed robot is just fantastic and should be ranked up there with C-3P0 and Data as one of the greatest androids to appear on a screen.

The final word on this one is that once again, the BBC has put together another gem. It may scare you, being on two tapes and all, but it's worth a look. A genuine quality piece.
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Classic British satire mixed with absurdist humour
bob the moo16 July 2002
In the early eighties Arthur Dent awakes to find the council is preparing to bulldoze his home to make way for a by-pass. Arthur is determined to sop them but is distracted by his friend Ford Prefect who is sure the world is about to be destroyed by the Vogons. Arthur is shocked to find that Ford is not from Gilford but really from another planet and that he is correct in his assertions. The two escape by hitching a ride on the Vogon ship and thus begins an adventure that will see them meet old friends and see places in new ways thanks to the guidance of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Based on the radio show, this was what made Douglas Adams. The plot is pretty thin but is matched by the observations from the aforementioned book itself. The is allows one half of each show to be moving things forward and making the show actually go somewhere and for the other half to be absurdly funny. The story is good enough to be amusing by itself but with the sly wit of the guide taking swipes at things in a sideways fashion it becomes even better.

It is rarely laugh out loud funny, and I've yet to meet an American who gets the satire/wit of the thing (although there are some!). Simply because this is a witty thing rather than a silly, hilarious thing. The plot does require some leaps of faith as our characters escape death in several unlikely ways – but this is sci-fi and more importantly we always have the book to put it all in focus. The guide's comments show that the galaxy, like earth, is an insecure place that is really quite meaningless at the end of the day.

Jones is perfect as the book – he always sound slightly unbelieving of what he was saying, as if he was taken aback by the sheer amazement he was feeling! Simon Jones is likable as Arthur but I always found Dixon a little too cocky for Ford. Likewise I was never a real fan of Wing Davey but I must admit the two heads were good for the time. The rest of the cast are very good – but really the two Jones's are carrying the two separate elements of the show.

Overall those who know the books and the radio show will feel some material is missing, but really these 6 episodes cover the basic material very well and are very true to the source. The wit may go over the head of some people but this is absurd British wit of the finest sort.
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9/10
A great adaptation of Douglas Adams' Novels.
Joseph P. Ulibas11 May 2005
The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1981) was a mini-series adaptation of Douglas Adams' first three novels. I saw this B.B.C. mini-series on videotape about ten years ago. I was pleased with the show. Despite a small budget, the actors and the writing was enough to make this one a winner. It was cheesy enough to please me and the film makers captured the atmosphere of the novels. Too bad they never made a follow up to the series like the novels in the series. I was a little leery about watching this but after seeing the first episode I was fairly impressed.

If you enjoyed the books then by all means watch this near perfect adaptation of Douglas Adams' Hitch Hiker's Guide series. The creator has a cameo appearance in the beginning. David Prowse (Darth Vader) has a guest spot as an enormous bar bouncer. Shot on video and 16 mm film. The ending is unforgettable.

Highly recommended.
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8/10
Well executed, bears up well to repeat viewing
Canvoodoo4 July 2006
Unlike the recent Movie, this mini-series is mostly good, and does an excellent job of capturing the quirky spirit of the radio original.

Probably the biggest reason why this adaptation works well is that the marvelous dialogue of the radio version has not been messed up. There are changes (as there have been in every medium the guide has been adapted into), but unlike the film version, the best and most memorable parts haven't been tampered with – See the memorable quotes section for examples of this. The biggest difference between this version and the film may be that Douglas Adams was directly involved with the production of the Television version, but sadly was not around to oversee the film version, for which the loss is evident.

The special effects aren't great (think Doctor Who, circa 1980), but the performances are enough fun that it doesn't matter all that much. Many of the cast members are the originals from the radio series, and even those that aren't originals mostly do a good job with their characters. The one exception is Sandra Dickinson, who just isn't convincing as Trillian – She's supposed to a very bright astrophysicist, but comes across as a bimbo/airhead. Still, the rest of the casting is excellent, so this one lapse can be forgiven.

The best part of the whole series is the visuals for the actual Guide. These are extraordinarily detailed animations, buttressing Peter Jones' voice-over from the radio original with lots of extra visual jokes and humor. One of the best parts about being able to watch this on DVD is the ability to freeze-frame some of the more interesting bits to be able to better appreciate all of the funny stuff contained within. These visuals were actually accomplished using a painstaking manual animation technique to simulate the computer displays, as 1980-era computers just weren't up to the job of doing things like this. Ironically, the simulated computer animations are a lot funnier than the actual computer animations (with 25 years worth of improved technology) in the film version.

In sum, given the choice between this and the film version, I would take this any time. The DVD version also includes lots of extra material – production notes, making-of documentaries, and a tribute to the late Douglas Adams.
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7/10
Very close to the original radio show
awa-913 April 2005
The BBC TV version of Hitch hikers' is very much in the spirit of the radio show's style and production, as well as having quite a few radio cast members in the "movie".

Typically cheesy BBC video effects, (some seemingly straight off of the Dr. Who production set) are the mainstay of this show's visuals, although there are some surprisingly good animated/still graphics of "the book"'s content, and the costumes, makeup, and sets are better than many BBC sci-fi productions.

If you don't mind the typical BBC TV look of the video it is well worth watching, and probably easier to find these days than a copy of the radio shows...
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8/10
A Radio Series in Six Visual Parts
Muldwych7 December 2009
'The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy' is the most remarkable television series ever to come out of the BBC between January and February of the year 1981. More authoritative on the inner workings of the Vogon Constructor Fleet than 'The Fall And Rise Of Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz', more comprehensive on the early planning stages of the Norwegian coastlines than 'Changing Fjords', and more informative about the culinary offerings to be found at the Restaurant At The End Of The Universe than 'Can't Cook, Won't Cook, Because The Universe Is Collapsing'.

In addition to this, due to internal wranglings by BBC planners preventing the commissioning of a second series, it is slightly smaller than other programmes of the genre and requires an attention span of only three hours, which for the convenience of the attention-deficit-plagued Artemisterons of Colferbelson VI can be broken up into six segments of half an hour (Artemisterons with especially short attention spans may wish to avoid the DVD release, which contains a bonus disc of behind-the-scenes material, the total running time of which will only cause unnecessary aggravation).

By a not-entirely-strange coincidence, 'unnecessary aggravation' is precisely what Earth descendant Arthur Dent feels after his home planet is destroyed in order to make way for a hyperspatial bypass, and finds himself perpetually distracted in his quest for a decent cup of tea by the need to answer the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything. Aided in his task by Ford Prefect, a man he is unprepared to discover is actually from a planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse, Zaphod Beeblebrox, another man who once ruined his attempts to pick up an attractive blonde woman at a party in Islington, Trillian, an attractive blonde woman whom he failed to pick up at a party in Islington, and Marvin, very possibly the most intelligent robot in the universe and very likely the most depressed, Arthur attempts to come to terms with the reality of his situation. In the interests of providing an accurate summation of the plot, it is important to clarify at this time that 'aided' is the Calufraxian word for 'hindered', while 'come to terms with' is the Jagaroth expression for 'become increasingly bewildered by'.

Less clear, however, is the information concerning the actors consigned to inhabit the characters of the story. But while little is known of their identities, a magazine clipping from the year 2005 claimed to offer insight with the names 'Martin Freeman' and 'Mos Def' printed in impressively large silver font. This has been summarily dismissed, however, as most right-thinking people are aware that the year 2005 never happened. Further clues later surfaced when the discovery of a torn sheet of notepaper taped to the back of a filing cabinet in the rodent-infested basement of a small publishing company in Islington listed the names 'Simon Jones', 'David Dixon', 'Mark Wing-Davey', 'Sandra Dickinson' and 'Stephen Moore', under the sentence 'Beware of the mice'. This information was also dismissed, given that the publishing company burned down in 1952, some 29 years before the programme was produced, because it also lists the name 'Peter Jones' as the book, which is unlikely since Jones. a household name in places as far away as Shropshire, would have been too in-demand to make time for such fiddling small parts, and because it claims the music for the series was provided by 'sorcerer Paddy Kingsland and a flock of eagles'. Recent attempts to contact series creator Douglas Adams with a view to shedding light on these and many other baffling conundrums proved unsuccessful upon the discovery that Adams had himself left the Earth in 2001 intent on making several highly improbable discoveries about the universe which he promises to share with humanity at some point in the future, preferably before teatime.

This lack of understanding however should not perturb any newcomers to 'The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy', since the only thing you really need to know while watching it is the present location of your nearest towel and to avoid purchasing anything that costs 42p on Thursdays. Please note that both the BBC and Megadodo Publications may not be held responsible for the loss of any digital watches during the viewing of this programme.
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7/10
Interesting for a 1981 audience
caspian197811 November 2004
If you didn't see this when it was a mini series on the BBC back in 1981, you may have rented it at the video store where you get to watch the entire 3 hour plus series all together. I recommend you don't take it all in at once. Don't Panic!....but you're better off watching it in segments. At times, it can be too much of a good thing, then again, it could be too much of a bad thing as well. For 1981, the 16mm and video story was well done for its time. The acting and story are pure British humor in the late Python style. For a present day audience, it's hard to consider funny. As we speak, a remake is in the works to make the story more modern and entertaining. Still, the original is good for what it was. At the time, no one else had tried to do a movie like it. For that, the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy will always have its place on video shelves around the country.
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10/10
brilliant! but the original radio version was better
artistgirl15 August 2005
the hitchikers guide to the galaxy is the ultimate British comedy. I am obsessed with it,the most interesting thing about it (aside from Douglas Adams genius) is that through all the different media, a slightly different story is told, so you can listen to the original audio recordings, and then read the book, recognising the bits that you love, but still getting new laughs. The TV series was another opportunity to evolve the story, though i would say it was the least changed overall. Arthur dent is exactly the way he should be, and i thought that nobody else would suitably replace him in the new film, but actually hes good in that too. I found ford to be slightly less... something than i expected, though i didn't like him in the film either, and i can't really put my finger o why in either case, but it did not interrupt my enjoyment, and distract me the whole time, like it does in other things.

the special effects, and costumes etc. are primitive, and obviously done on a budget, but i find this great fun, the restaurant at the end of the universe set was carried off perfectly.

overall, basically i love the hitchikers guide to the galaxy, and am thankful for any opportunity to get a new light on the story, anyone who hasn't known ANY of the versions is sorely missing out.
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9/10
Zany, Crazy, (slightly) Over-long, but Brilliant
adam198116 July 2003
I'll start by letting you know where I stand on the "trilogy" (there's actually six) of books: I think that Douglas Adams is possibly one of the most perceptive minds of our time, and his command of English, the way he turns metaphor on it's ear and such, amazes and delights me each time I read his work. Example: "The giant yellow constructor fleet ship, the size of many city blocks, hung in the air precisely the way bricks don't." Love that line...

Anyway, the mini is a mixed bag of sorts. I agree with the comment many here have made that the only thing that really, truly bugs me about it is that they got Trillian all wrong, (don't get me wrong, she's not played as a complete moron, just a little ditzier than I imagined her, and the hair is, as has been pointed out, entirely the wrong shade of black; [it's blonde]). But I find it laughable that people see fit to completely trash the entire movie based on one bad bit of casting, and a low effects budget. Don't give me wrong, I would have loved to see a more modern, high-budget feature film made, but I don't see that happening now that Douglas Adams is dead.But the story never has been about technology (at least not much), it's strength lies in the dialogue and plot, which are just as strong in the movie as they are in the book. (Perhaps I should say books, because the series covers the first two and a bit of the third.) People giving the actors hell is also completely unfair in my opinion, because they are playing very verbose characters whose lines are taken almost directly out of the books. As any actor knows, becoming a literary character is difficult. I think that both Simon Jones and David Dixon were wonderful as the two main characters, Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, and Mark Wing-Davey (Zaphod) acts as well as anyone with a rubber head glued to his shoulder and a silly prosthetic third arm could hope to. The voice of the book, while not what I imagined, is also very nice, and the way that the passages from the book are presented (with silly and colorful graphics illustrating the points of each entry) is quite effective.

I have seen this probably more times than I've read the books, and I still enjoy it each time. (Actually, I think I wore my old tape out. Good thing it's available on DVD now...) :)

/ah
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10/10
Original & the Best
reeley31 October 2006
Considering the budget, actually ignoring the budget, this is far better than the sorry 21st century makeover movie. It just seems to sum up perfectly the HHGttG Universe. Simon Jones does make an absolutely memorable Arthur, and Peter Jones as the narrator captures the spirit of the book, although to be fair Stephen Fry doesn't do that bad a job in the film. This is one of those very few occaisons when the episodic format does not detract from the enjoyment and pleasure of watching the whole entity. I remember watching a TV programme on making HHGttG, (QED I think it was), and being amazed at how simply the special effects were done. Nowadays the quality could easily be surpassed on the average home computer. That shows how much technology has progressed, but also reinforces my sentiment contained within the first 42 words. Watch & Enjoy
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8/10
Funnier interpretation of books than the 2005 film...
brando64716 January 2006
Sure, the special effects are a little dated, but this six-part BBC series from 1981 stays true to the books and is even funnier than the feature film released in 2005. The only disappointment I came across when watching the show was that Douglas Adams had not gotten around to writing the last three novels and the series ended after the events of the second book, "The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe". I would have loved to see the show continue on for another 6 or 10 episodes and finished out the books.

The show stars a bunch of actors you wouldn't recognize unless you were familiar with British television. Of course, after watching the series, I can picture no one else in the roles. Simon Jones IS Arthur Dent. While I originally thought Mos Def was a good choice as the character of Ford Prefect, I realized how wrong I was after seeing David Dixon's portrayal. The cast is brilliant.

One of the most fun aspects of the television series was Rod Lord's animated Guide sequences, narrated by Peter Jones. Each segment was meticulously drawn and animated by hand, but one could never tell from watching it.

Anyone who has seen and enjoyed the movie should take the time to watch the series and do your own comparisons. Personally, I think the television series surpasses it. Of course, some people may watch it and find it too obsolete. If you can get past the cheesy special effects (especially Zaphod's robotic second head and a very clunky-looking Marvin), I think you will find this show extremely entertaining.
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10/10
The fillet mignon of HHGG versions.
dapplez6 May 2011
The essence of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is that it is a stiletto sharp political and social satire. If you read the original "Gulliver's Travels," by Jonathan Swift, you will see a remarkably similar approach.

This TV series retains the essence of that satire found in the original radio series and subsequent book. While I enjoyed the original radio series immensely, when I listened to it again more recently, I found it a bit rushed, and liked the pacing in the television version better.

The extras disk with the DVD version provides an explanation of how the "computer graphics" were done in that 1981 pre-CGI age: by artists. What they accomplished was amazing and highly aesthetic.

The preceding review by In descending order... makes some good points about the order of the Douglas Adams opuses. I assume, being British, he has more first hand knowledge than I. But I think he may be a bit off. I think what he considers a subsequent radio series was, to my understanding, a dramatized audio book, and one with additional material beyond any of the books, from what I can recall. But perhaps it was broadcast in Britain.

And I think the original three books were revised when they were printed together as an anthology.

So it is a bit of a mess to say which is the definitive version. Short of reading the book, I would say this BBC TV production is my favorite. It really holds up well to repeated viewing. But you should still read the trilogy; it is a masterpiece that deserves a place in a college 20th century literature curriculum.

But one thing can be said definitively: The 2005 movie version is an abomination that bears no semblance to the artistic concept of the author.

As Paul Newman used to say, "Why settle for hamburger when you can have steak?"
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The Guide
eilerson28 July 2003
All these comments seem to say the special effects are rubbish but it's dated so it's ok, or it can be overlooked. For me the effects were part of the magic of this series. The low budget forces all the production crew to improvise, and this keeps things interesting. Even the 'it's not as good as the book' croud have an activity, Spot the gaps in the story and changes!
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One of my favorite stories of all time!
Winston Taylor29 August 2013
I first listened to the BBC radio broadcast and loved it. Later I read all the books in the series and became a fan for life.

This series follows the books and radio broadcast almost word for word but as someone pointed out earlier, like most books, your own imagination makes it better, provided you have one. I must say though, being a long time fan, a friend bought me this series on two VHS cassettes which included a paper back copy of the 1st book and have to say, I did enjoy it.

The movie that was made in 2005 was a huge disappointment so if you want to watch it, instead of reading or listening to it. I definitely recommend this series.
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6/10
Mostly harmless.
ProperCharlie12 February 2002
The Hitch-Hiker's TV series what can I say? This is one of those things that can't really be thought of as a separate entity. Which context to put it in though: the BBC 60's-90's sci-fi production line, TV adaptions of BBC Radio(4) series, the sprawling Hitch-Hiker's legacy, British Comedy, and believe it or not, innovative (or at least hyped) special effects...

What I don't think it is, is a 'film' and it seems to me a lot of the comments on here seem to be referring to a roughly 3-hour long movie with no breaks. I think if I'd originally see this series like this I would have to agree with the comments. However I saw it as it was intended as six episodes of a TV series on at roughly the same time as the peak of Blake's 7 viewing (14 million viewers an episode!). In that sense it is good solid subversive entertainment although a bit of a let down to all of us versed in Hitch-Hiker lore.

Somehow the Hitch-Hiker's narrative style doesn't quite feel at home on the TV screen. Maybe it's because that fast info-rich style of the guide (precursorNetwork 7 anyone, MTV) doesn't really sit right with the standard BBC drama template. Maybe it's because the TV production crew didn't really get what Hitch-Hiker's was. Maybe, as Peter Jones once said, they didn't really understand what was going on. Whatever the facts, it feels like someone's trying to fit a whale into a flower-pot with mixed results.

Also, I admit it, the special effects look lame by today's standards. I believe the special effects unit had quite a budget most of which was spent on Zaphod's inactive prosthetic head (I remember there was quite a lot of hype about this at the time). Don't forget that those graphics were done in 1981, all hand-drawn animations (not on a computer) and pre-date the WWW by a decade. Quite visionary in their own way.

This TV series was influential. It's the missing link between Monty Python and Red Dwarf. It's where the budget for the post-Tom Baker Doctor Who's went. How much of Arthur Dent is in Sam Lowry in Brazil?

Although this is moderately good (especially if you're a fan on things like Blake's 7, Doctor Who & Red Dwarf), I advise everyone to get the original radio series on CD. Then read the books. Now watch the third seris of Blake's 7. Now watch the TV series in nice 30 minute chunks.

There, isn't that better.
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9/10
Fantastic version of the classic Douglas Adams novel(s)
grantss2 January 2018
Arthur Dent is your average middle-class Briton. One day, while trying to prevent his house being destroyed to build a highway, his friend Ford Prefect whisks him away to the pub and explains that the Earth is about to be destroyed and they need to escape. Intergalactic, inter-time adventures ensue.

Douglas Adams's The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy and its sequels - The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe, Life The Universe and Everything, So Long And Thanks For All The Fish and Mostly Harmless - are, for me, the most innovative, wildly creative and funny books ever written. The plots and science contained in them are often absurd but are so convincingly written that they seem incredibly plausible. Add in Adams's fantastic sense of humour and ability to describe the simplest thing in a very funny way and you have some of the greatest books ever written.

Because of the book's reliance on Adams's wonderful narrative and descriptions, I was sceptical of how this could be turned into something visual. The 2005 movie was fine but not brilliant, due to being unable to capture that sharp writing. (Another comparison is Catch 22 - the book was brilliant due to the wonderfully descriptive writing and the movie didn't do that justice). However, I need not have worried - this 1981 series comes very close to capturing the essence of the book.

The narration is the master-stroke, as this enables the producers to use Adams's own words verbatim, plus add in charts and diagrams to illustrate the science and other items. Even without that the series is great, reminding me strongly of Monty Python - the dry, understated, absurdist English humour. I kept expecting Eric Idle, Graham Chapman or John Cleese to appear.

A fantastic series. Just a pity that there weren't more seasons, as the one and only season (6 episodes of it) covers the first two books. It would have been great if some of the subsequent books were covered too (and I realise that this is only in hindsight, as Adams only wrote So Long three years and Mostly Harmless 11 years after this TV series).
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Phreow!
Jubal2815 September 1999
I read all of the books in my youth, but it took only a few listenings of the radio plays to accept the radio storyline as the "real" story. Each version tells it slightly differently, of course, and in every respect, I believe the radio play to be the best.

However, I enjoyed the video, early '80s BBC visual effects notwithstanding. I have a few points, though.

First, did anyone else notice that the first few lines of the TV series were dubbed straight from the radio recording? I don't mean the same lines were spoken -- I mean the sounds themselves are from the radio tapes. Almost all of of Simon Jones's lines are this way, until the appearance of Ford.

Where did they get that dippy Trillian? Susan Sheridan had about the sexiest voice I've ever heard, and if she looks half as good as her voice, she would have been tons better than the ditzy, unconvincing blonde they used. Perhaps that's way Adams chose to describe Trillian as olive skinned and dark haired in the books.

And on the voices, Geoffrey McGivern played the best Ford I could imagine. I'll admit that this TV Ford looked the part -- I just wish he could have had the same voice.

I wouldn't mind seeing an updated movie, more closely following the radio play.

BTW, the HHG theme is "Journey of the Sorcerer" by The Eagles. You can find it on their "One of These Nights" album.
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Brilliant!
book addict29 June 2003
This was made before I was born so lots of the special effects do look pretty cheesy (Zaphod's head obviously, and the sperm whale) - but I'm a hoopy frood who knows where her towel is, I can overlook this. Abolutely wonderful! This is brilliant! I only have two complaints: Trillian. TRILLIAN IS NOT MEANT TO BE A DUMB BLONDE. She is MEANT to have a degree in maths and another in astrophysics and have, and I quote, 'long waves of black hair'. And: why did they leave out the Nutri-Matic Machine????? I love that machine! But they did show Arthur drinking the substance that was almost, but not entirely unlike tea (and grimacing appropriately). I thought it might have a bad ending, but it was a surprisingly good one, with Arthur and Ford walking off discussing a planet used in a game of snooker that got sucked into a black hole. And the Paranoid Android rocks! Ultimate Question: How many reviews will there be once I post this? Answer: 42.
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7/10
In descending order...
jon-788-14301128 July 2010
OK a lot of posts here, show that the history of H2G2 is poorly understood, it seems mostly by anyone who first encountered the 2005 film. So, to simplify, this was a radio show, then a book, then another radio series, then the TV series, then two more books, then three more radio series and another book, then a film.

So the TV series isn't an adaptation of the books, at most it and the first two radio series are substantially the same material, although it is a bit mixed up and it isn't entirely consistent (though it all was done by the author, so it is legitimate).

The radio shows used most of the same cast (except for Ford Prefect) and are the best version of the story (although it is a very long story, 15 hours or so). The TV series is a good rendering of the first two series and the first two books, inevitably it has some omissions.

The movie is pretty awful, and best avoided.
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