Starting from 8 March 2018 BBC Radio 4 is marking the 40th anniversary of The humorous science fiction novel Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams by broadcasting a new series featuring The original cast. The New series of the intergalactic comedy also stars Lenny Henry, as a Mephistophelian character called The Consultant, alongside Simon Jones and Geoffrey McGivern, the original Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect. The befuddled, pyjama-wearing Dent is, the quintessentially English hero of the series, is one of the few survivors when Earth is destroyed by the Vogons, who are constructing a hyperspace bypass. Dent is rescued by Ford Prefect, a know-all alien who works as a researcher for the Hitchhiker’s Guide, an electronic encyclopedia which full of useful (and sometimes bizarre) information. Mark Wing-Davies also reprises his role as Zaphod Beeblebrox [the narcissistic two-headed galactic president]. The new series also features Marvin the Paranoid Android, the depressed super-robot with a brain the size of a planet, voiced by Jim Broadbent and Dirk Maggs, one of the producers on the original Hitch hikers guide, is also in charge of production for he new series.
The new series combines previously written but unpublished material, dug out of Adams’ notebooks by archivist and superfan Kevin Jon Davies, and newer plotlines drawn from And Another Thing, Eoin Colfer’s book continuing the saga. In The new series Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect visit the tiny planet of Nano, where they find an Irish community run by a chancer called Hillman Hunter (played by the comedian Ed Byrne). The colony is getting unruly, so Hunter wants a God to supply a few rules – however the lack of one proves a problem so he begins conducting interviews for the role. Meanwhile, the Vogons have also discovered the existence of this unlikely Irish colony and are naturally sending a force to eradicate it.
The entrepreneur Elon Musk is also a huge fan of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. When Musk shot one of his Tesla Roadsters into space recently attached to a Falcon rocket in order to test the payload capabilities, it had the words “Don’t Panic” emblazoned on the dashboard – echoing the cover of the original Guide – and there was a copy of the book in the glove compartment. Musk also included a towel, which the guide states can be very useful in defeating the Fearsome bugblatter beast of Traal, which is permanently ravenous but mind bogglingly stupid (Hitchhiker fans also celebrate Towel Day on 25 May each year). The guide and Adams’ farsightedness anticipated many innovations including ipads and the idea of the Babel fish – a yellow creature that, when placed in the ear, provides an instant translation service (allowing Arthur to understand Vogons when he hitches a lift from the disintegrating Earth on their spaceship). There is now a translation site called babelfish.com.