The first radio episode of comic science fiction series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, was transmitted on BBC Radio 4 on 8th March 1978. The title is the name of a fictional, eccentric, electronic travel guide, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, prominently featured in the series. The story was later adapted to other formats, and gradually became an international multi-media phenomenon. Adaptations have included stage shows, a “trilogy” of five books published between 1979 and 1992, a sixth novel penned by Eoin Colfer in 2009, a 1981 TV series and three series of three-part comic book adaptations of the first three novels published by DC Comics between 1993 and 1996. A Hollywood-funded film version, produced and filmed in the UK, was released in April 2005, and radio adaptations of the third, fourth, and fifth novels were broadcast from 2004 to 2005. Adams himself did many of these adaptations, including the novels, the TV series, the computer game, and the earliest drafts of the Hollywood film’s screenplay, and some of the stage shows introduced new material written by Adams.
The book begins when contractors arrive at Arthur Dent’s house, in order to demolish it to make way for a bypass. His friend, Ford Prefect, arrives while Arthur is lying in front of the bulldozers, to keep them from demolishing it. He tries to explain to Arthur that the Earth is about to be demolished by The Vogons, an alien race who intend to destroy Earth to make way for a hyperspace bypass.The two escape by stowing away on one of the Vogon demolition ships. Unfortunately they are discovered and are tortured with Vogon poetry, (Feetled gruntbuggly …..ARRGGGHH!) the third worst in the known Universe, and then thrown into space. They are, very improbably, picked up by the Heart of Gold, a ship powered by an infinite improbability drive, which has been stolen by Ford’s semi-cousin and President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox. Zaphod, accompanied by Trillian and the chronically depressed robot Marvin, is searching for the legendary planet of Magrathea, which is rumoured to have manufactured luxury planets.
There, Arthur, after being separated from the rest of the group, is taken into the interior of the planet by a native, Slartibartfast. The others are kidnapped. Slartibartfast explains to Arthur that the Earth was actually a supercomputer commissioned and paid for by a race of ”hyper-intelligent,” “pan-dimensional” beings. These creatures had earlier built a supercomputer called Deep Thought to calculate the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. This computer, after seven and a half million years of calculation, had announced that the Answer is in fact 42. Being unsatisfied with the Answer, they set about finding the Question which would give the Answer meaning, whereupon Deep Thought designed the Earth, to calculate it. However, ten million years later, and just five minutes before the answer is announced, the Earth is demolished by the Vogons. Two of these beings, Frankie Mouse and Benjy Mouse, had arrived on Magrathea on the Heart of Gold, in the form of Trillian’s pet mice.The mice realize that a latent version of the question, or something very like it, must exist in Arthur’s brain since he is a late-generation organic product of the computer, and offer to buy his brain from him, unsurprisingly Arthur declines, and a fight ensues which is interrupted when The galactic police arrive on the planet to arrest Zaphod…