The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a twelve episode radio science fiction comedy series written and produced by Douglas Adams (1952-2001) and first broadcast on BBC radio 1978-1980. After Earth is demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass in the first episode, Arthur Dent, a hapless Englishman, and Ford Perfect, an alien who writes for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a pan-galactic encyclopedia and travel guide, travel aboard a stolen spaceship with a motley crew, including Zaphod Beeblebrox (Ford's semi-cousin and Galactic President), Marvin (a depressed android), and Trillian (the only other human survivor of Earth's destruction).
BBC first broadcast 8 March 1978-12 April 1978
The following "fits" are from the National Public Radio rebroadcast, 7 June-23 August 1981
AKA Earth's Destruction
BBC first broadcast 8 March 1978; NPR rebroadcast 7 June 1981
Arthur Dent learns his house must be demolished to make way for a bypass. Ford Prefect, a friend who turns out to be an alien from outer space, convinces him to join him at the local pub for a pint where he tells Dent the most important news he will ever hear: the end of the world has arrived. Earth and its inhabitants are to be disintegrated by the Vogons to make way for a hyperspace bypass, but Dent and Ford hitch a ride aboard one of the Vogon construction ships, thus saving themselves. Unfortunately, they are quickly discovered, and the Vogon captain threatens to throw them out into space after reading them one of his horrible poems.
AKA The Poem
Produced 23 November 1977
BBC first broadcast 15 March 1978; NPR rebroadcast 14 July 1981
Ford and Arthur are thrown into space, even after the poetry reading. They are miraculously rescued by the Infinite Improbability Drive spacecraft the Heart of Gold, stolen and piloted by Zaphod Beeblebbrox who is part-time ex-president of the universe and semi-cousin of Ford. Also aboard the ship are Trillian Macmillan the sexy scientist whom Arthur already met during a party in Islington (London), Marvin the manic-depressive and paranoid android, Eddie the ship board computer who is extremely cool and just as annoying, as well as an incalculable number of cheerful doors.
AKA The Planet Builders
Recorded 13 December 1977
BBC first broadcast 22 March 1978; NPR rebroadcast 21 June 1981
While orbiting the legendary planet of Magrathea, noted for the construction of luxury planets, the Heart Of Gold is targeted by an archaic, automatic defense system. The results of the attack are mixed: only one light injury, but the sudden apparition of a pot of petunias and a sperm whale. After landing on Magrathea. Ford, Zaphod and Trillian go out to explore the planet's underground installations and come under heavy attack. Arthur, who stayed behind to guard the spacecraft, meets Slartibartfast, the venrable Magrathean planet coast line designer who specialises in Fjords. He is currently working on the second version of Earth.
AKA Computer Troubles
Recorded 20 December 1977
BBC first broadcast 29 March 1978; NPR rebroadcast 28 June 1981
Arthur discovers that Earth was an organic computer conceived by white mice and programmed by the supercomputer Deep Thought to find the Question to the Ulitmate Answer of Life, the Universe and Eveything (the answer being "42"). Unfortunately, Earth was destroyed only five short minutes before the program was to finish. As last survivors of the Earth, Arthur and Trillian are charged with finding the Question to the Ultimate Answer which must be hidden somewhere in the matrix of their minds. The financial and media consequences could indeed be very attractive. Shooty and Bang Bang, two humanist and enlightened cops who are chasing Zaphod for his theft of the Heart of Gold, interrupt the meeting with the mice. The cops blow up a computer behind which Ford and Arthur are hiding. Is this the end?
AKA The End of the Universe
Recorded 21 February 1978
BBC first broadcast 5 April 1978; NPR rebroadcast 5 July 1981
Ford and Arthur are not blasted into the afterworld, but to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. They were in fact hiding behind a hyperspace field generator which projected them into the future. While enjoying a few drinks, Marvin telephones them from the restaurant's parking lot where he has been waiting for a few million years. Ford and Arthur interrupt their meal to join him. Together, they steal a spaceship which later reveals itself to be a combat fleet admiral's flag ship, and find themselves at the forefront of a major intergalactic battle.
AKA Back to the Very Beginning
Recorded 28 February 1978
BBC First broadcast 12 April 1978; NPR rebroadcast 12 July 1981
The seat in front of the admiral's control panel turns out to be a Haggunennon of Azizatus 3, a cameleonic race capable of changing form sevral times during a meal. Ford and Arthur flee in an escape pod. The others are devoured by the admiral who turns into the much feared Ravenous Bug-blatter Beast of Traal. Ford and Arthur materialize in the hold of the Golgafrincham's Ark B, occupied by the frozen bodies of telephone sanitizers, hairdressers, TV producers, insurance salesmen, personnel officers, and marketing experts. The spacecraft crash lands on Earth two million years before it is to be destroyed by the Vogons. Ford and Arthur are stuck in these prehistoric times with the defrosted "middle men" who reveal themselves to be the real ancestors of the human race and thereby falsifying the results of Deep Thought's program. Finally, a test with a scrabble game shows that the Question to the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything would be "what do you get if you multiply six by nine?" (This is the episode where we learn that Arthur's brother was nibbled to death by an okapi).
AKA The Christmas Special or The Christmas Episode
Recorded 20 November 1978; commissioned as a one off Christmas holiday special BBC first broadcast 24 December 1978; NPR rebroadcast 19 July 1981
This fit had no original episode number, and was called "The Christmas Special" or "The Christmas Episode" because of its original broadcast on Christmas Eve 1978. In 1981 it was added to the First Series and retitled "Fit the Seventh." Zaphod Beeblebrox is picked up by a cargo ship filled with copies of the infamous magazine Play Being (the Haggunennon admiral having taken the form of an escape pod at the very last moment). Zaphod makes his way to the Hitchhiker's Guide central offices, following his discovery of a self-implanted message in his mind. This message is to find Zarniwoop, the Guide's editor. Zaphod, delayed by a lift's lack of confidence in it's future, tries in vain to find Zarniwoop. Instead he meets Roosta, and soon the whole building is under attack by a swarm of Frogstar robots sent on his trail. And while Marvin is busy saving Roosta and the ex-president of the Galaxy, the whole building is uprooted and taken away to the planet Frogstar. Meanwhile on prehistoric Earth, Ford and Arthur are getting blind drunk and see a space ship
BBC first broadcast 21-25 January 1980
The following "fits" are from the National Public Radio rebroadcast, 7 June-23 August 1981
Recorded over three dates beginning 19 May 1979
BBC first broadcast 21 January 1980; NPR rebroadcast 26 July 1981
Zaphod is put into the Total Perspective Vortex, the absolute worst torture instrument in the Universe, but all that happens is that he eats a piece of wedding cake. Ford and Arthur are saved by the space craft they saw in the previous episode. The space ship is piloted by Zaphod, who managed to find them thanks to Ford's fossilised towel and despite getting completely drunk two times en route.
Recorded 14 and 23 November 1980
BBC first broadcast 22 January 1980; NPR rebroadcast 2 August 1981
Zaphod, Ford, and Arthur find themselves once again aboard the Heart of Gold. Arthur tries to get a cup of tea from a Nutrimatic dispenser, but it churns out a cup of foul liquid instead. The Nutrimatic then taps into Eddie the shipbaord computer to determine why Arthur likes just a cup of dried leaves boiled in water. This enquiry incapacitates the computer and the ship's defense systems. The Heart of Gold is attacked by a fleet of Vogons under the orders of Zaphod's personal analyst, Gag Halfrunt. Zaphod decides, as a last resort attempt, to get help from his family. He improvises a séance to inkoke the spirit of his grand father who unwillingly agrees to help them but only on the condition they go out and find the person who is really running the Universe.
Recorded 3 December 1979
BBC first broadcast 23 January 1980; NPR rebroadcast 9 August 1981
Ford, Arthur, and Marvin are projected out of harm and into what appears to be a cave on the planet Brontitall. Soon, however, they are falling through the air, thirteen kilometers above the ground. Arthur is caught by a giant bird. He discovers that he fell from what appears to be a gigantic cup, part of a monumental statue called "Arthur Dent throwing the Nutrimatic Cup." He is then brought to meet the colony of birds living in the ear of his statue, where he talks with Wise Old Bird. Arthur decides he'd rather explore the surface of Brontitall than talk to birds birds. He discovers that Brontitall is owned by the powerful Dolmansaxlil Galactic Corporation. He is attacked by limping foot soldiers, but is rescued by Lintilla the brilliant and sexy archeologist.
Recorded 6 January 1980
BBC first broadcast 24 January 1980; NPR rebroadcast 16 August 1981
Arthur discovers that the Lintilla he's met is one amongst 578,000,000,000 Lintillas following a cloning machine's malfunction. Hig Hurtenflirst, of the Dolmansaxlil Shoe Corporation, threatens to "revoke" Arthur and one of the Lintillas. He then shows them what happened to Brontitall: a Dolmansaxlil Shoe Shop Intensifier Ray was activated in the general direction of the planet, setting off the teribble destruction of the local economy. Marvin, falling from the giant tea cup, was not saved by a bird. His impact on the surface of Brontitall creates a large, deep crater. He climbs out to rescue Arthur and one of the Lintillas. In the meantime, Zaphod and Ford discover a derelict spaceport and a curious vessel.
Recorded 13 January 1980; final mixing 25 January 1980, twenty minutes before broadcast
BBC First broadcast 25 January 1980; NPR rebroadcast 23 August 1981
Arthur and three Lintillas meet Poodoo, who is accompanied by a priest and three Allitnils. Two Lintillas and two Allitnils fall in love, get married and explode in a puff un un-smoke. Arthur discovers that Poodoo and the priest are employees of the cloning machine company and that their mission is to "revoke" all of the Lintillas. Arthur then kills the third Allitnil, who is in fact an anti-clone, and escapes with Marvin and the remaining Lintilla. Zaphod and Ford learn that the curious vessel is filled with passengers placed in suspended animation whilst their ship awaits an arrival of lemon-soaked paper napkins. Among the passengers they find Zarniwoop, the Hitchhiker's Guide's editor. He explains a complex intrigue while Ford works himself up into a drunken singing frenzy. Zarniwoop reveals that Zaphod and himself are part of a rebel group that wants to find out who really rules the Universe. Their mission is to get Zaphod elected president of the Universe in order to steal the Heart of Gold, the only ship capable of leading them to the true ruler of the Universe. Ford and Arthur, reunited at last, pay a friendly visit to the ruler of the Universe, the Man in the Shack. He reveals that Zaphod was in collusion with the psychiatrists' consortium who ordered the destruction of Earth so as to prevent the succesful solution of the Ultimate Question. Arthur leaves in an angry rage, taking the Heart of Gold with Marvin and Lintilla aboard, leaving Zaphod and Ford behind with the Man in the Shack.
Individual episodes are called "Fits," after Lewis Carroll's "The Hunting of the Snark: an Agony, in Eight Fits." The six fits of the first series were broadcast Wednesday, 8 March-12 April 1978. A seventh fit, often called "The Christmas Special," was broadcast 24 December 1978. The five fits of the second series were broadcast the week of 21-25 January 1980, one episode per night.
Adams, a fan of The Beatles and Pink Floyd and their experimental music albums, consciously experimented with sound, wanting to give his radio series the feel of a "rock album . . . to convey the idea that you actually were on a spaceship or an alien planet—that sense of a huge aural landscape" (Simpson, M. J. Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams. Justin Charles & Co., 2003, pp. 108-109).
The first series was the first BBC radio comedy to use stereophonic sound techniques. Drama was recorded in stereo; comedy was not. Briefly, Adam's program was classified as a "drama" to work around this situation. Sound mixing resources were limited at the BBC studio, and so sound effects were achieved using tape loops and background sound effects. Actors whose voice needed post-production alterations, like Stephen Moore's performance as Marvin, were recorded in isolation. Allegedly, these actors met the others only when all episodes were complete.
BBC rebroadcast starting 23 April 1978; again in 1979
BBC rebroadcast of all 12 fits over 12-week period April-June 1981 and March-June 1983
BBC World Service rebroadcast 1983
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) rebroadcast all 12 fits in 1982*
NPR rebroadcast 7 June-23 August 1981
*Note: Derek Wilkinson writes, "I was a volunteer DJ with the University of Waterloo campus
radio station CKMS in 1980 and 1981 when that campus radio station had the Canadian rights to
Hitchhiker's [Guide to the Galaxy] and (I believe) first played it in North
America. Hitchhiker's went on immediately before my DJ shift, so I was the person
who rolled that tape and then listened to it over the studio monitors while I gathered the music
I intended to play that night. Several other university campus radio stations then also
broadcast Hitchhiker's after hearing about it from/on CKMS, and only after that did
the CBC come to CKMS asking if they to could broadcast it. CKMS also produced a couple of radio
comedies of their own, notably Camp Buy Me Love, and Percy Pulsar, Space
Accountant; both of which were also rebroadcast on other Canadian campus radio
— Derek Wilkinson, 23 June 2020
Adams adapted the first series broadcasts into his best selling novel, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in 1979 (Text available here), and a television series in 1981. The second series was adapted into the novel, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, in 1980. Three more novels followed: Life, the Universe and Everything (1982), So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (1984), and Mostly Harmless (1992), along with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1984, Infocom), an interactive text adventure computer game, three series of three-part comic book adaptations of the first three novels (1993-1996, DC Comics), and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005), a film. Adams considered a third radio series based on Life, The Universe and Everything but his death on 11 May 2001 delayed the start of the project for ten years. Dirk Maggs directed and co-produced the third, fourth, and fifth radio series based on Life, The Universe and Everything, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, and Mostly Harmless in 2004 and 2005.
The cast in order of appearance
The Book (Peter Jones)
Arthur Dent (Simon Jones)
Prosser (Bill Wallis, episode 1)
Ford Prefect (Geoffrey Mc Givern)
Lady Cynthia Fitzmelton (Jo Kendall, episode 1)
The barman (David Gooderson, episode 1)
Prosternic Vogon Jeltz (Bill Wallis, episode 1, 2, 9)
The Vogon Guard (David Tate, episode 2)
Zaphod (Mark Wing-Davey)
Trillian (Susan Sheridan, episode 2-6)
Eddie The Computer (David Tate)
The Whale (Stephen Moore, episode 3)
Slartibartfast (Richard Vernon, episode 3, 4)
Deep Thought (Geoffrey Mc Givern, episode 4)
First computer programmer (Ray Hasset, episode 4)
Second computer programmer (Jeremy Browne, episode 4)
Vroomfondel (Jim Broadbent, episode 4)
Majikthise (Jo Nathan Adams, episode 4)
Benjy Mouse (David Tate, episode 4)
Frankie Mouse (Peter Hawkins, episode 4)
The Cheerleader (Jon Nathan Adams, episode 4)
Shooty (Jim Broadbent, episode 4)
Bang Bang (Ray Hasset, episode 4)
Garkbit the waiter (Anthony Sharp, episode 5)
Zarquon the prophet (Anthony Sharp, episode 5)
Max Quordlepleen (Roy Hudd, episode 5)
Haggunenonn (Audrey Woods, episode 6)
B Ark Number two (Aubrey Woods, episode 6)
Captain (David Jason, episode 6)
B Ark Number One (Johnatan Cecil, episode 6)
Hairdresser (Audrey Woods, episode 6)
Management consultant (Johnatan Cecil, episode 6)
Marketing girl (Beth Porter, episode 6)
Caveman (David Jason, episode 6)
Receptionist (David Tate, episode 7)
Arcturan Number One (Bill Paterson, episode 7)
Air Traffic Controler (Geroffrey Mc Givern, episode 7)
Arcturan Captain (David Tate, episode 7)
Gag Halfrunt (Stephen Moore, episode 7, 9)
Radio Voice (David Tate, episode 7)
Underfleet commander (Audrey Woods, episode 7)
Lift (David Tate, episode 7)
Roosta (Alan Ford, episode 7)
Frogstar Robot (Geoffrey Mc Givern, episode 7)
Frogstar Prison Relation Officer (David Tate, episode 8)
GargraVarr (Valentine Dyall, episode 8)
The Nutrimatic Dispenser (Leueen Willoughby, episode 9)
The Ventillation system (Geoffrey Mc Givern, episode 9)
Zaphod Beeblebrox the Fourth (Richard Goolden, episode 9)
Bird One (Ronald Baddeley, episode 10, 11)
Bird Two (John Baddeley, episode 10)
The Footwarrior (John Baddeley, episode 10, 11, 12 )
The Wise Old Bird (John Le Mesurier, episode 10)
Lintilla (Rula Lenska, episode 10, 11)
Hug Hutenflurst (Mark Smith, episode 11)
The film comentator (David Tate, episode 11)
The computeach (David Tate, episode 11)
The pupil (Stephen Moore, episode 11)
Poodoo (Ken Campbell, epiosde 12)
The Allitnils (Stephen Moore, epiosde 12)
Varntvar the priest (Geoffrey Mc Givern, episode 12)
Airline Stewardess (Rula Lenska, episode 12)
Autopilot (Jonathan Pryce, episode 12)
Zarniwoop (Jonathan Pryce, episode 12)
The Man in the Shack (Stephen Moore, episode 12)