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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.
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.
'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...'.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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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