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The Earth is doomed, about to be blown away to make space for an
intergalactic expressway bypass. Just good luck for earthling Arthur Dent
(Simon Jones) that his best friend Ford Prefect (David Dixon) just turns
out to be not an earthman at all but an alien researcher for the Hitchhikers
Guide to the Galaxy, & does therefore not only own a copy of that
guide but also possesses the knowledge of how to hitch rides with
So soon the 2 of them hitch a ride with the Vogon destroyer,
exactly the spaceshipt that has just blown up Earth ... but they are
quickly found out, & after the captain of the ship (Martin Benson) has
read them some atrocious poetry, he throws them out through an airlock.
though the most improbable thing happens: they are picked up by a saceship
that was stolen by 2-headed Zaphod Beeblebox (Mark Wing-Davey), a cousin of Ford,
who is travelling the universe with Trillian (Sandra Dickinson),
incidently a woman Arthur tried to pick up at a party in Islington. How
can such an improbable thing happen you might ask ... well, because
Zaphod's stolen ship runs on a newly developed improbability drive that
just feeds on that sort of improbable incidents.
But where does Zaphod
want to take his ship ?
To Magrothea of course, an ancient, fabulously
rich planet that made all its money by being big in the terraforming
business, but went into decline during recession ... & soon the
Magrotheans died out, but legend has it that there is still a vast
treasure hidden somewhere on the planet.
Only the Magrotheans didn't die
out but went int hibernation, with an index linked alarmcall that would awaken
them once recession was over & the universe was rich enough again to afford
their services ... which is pretty much ... now.
It is here that Arthur
learns, from druid-like Magrothen Slartibartfast (Richard Vernon), that
the earth was actually a creation of the Magrotheans too, created as a
supercomputer to find the question to the answer to Life, the Universe
& Everything, which an older supercomputer calculated to be 42.
For that end, Earth was actually comminssioned by pandimensional beings
who did disguise themselves as white mice, to observe the progress on
But Earth, as we know, blew up 5 minutes before the answer was
actually found (after 10 million years of running time), & now Arthur
is the only human being who remained on earth until the very end (Trillian
did leave sooner), so the mice (2 of them) want to have Arthur's brain, to
electronically suck the answer from it ... to which Arthur does object
since that would mean removing his brain. But since his adversaries are 2
mere mice, it is easy for him & his companions to escape them ... but
all too soon they run into 2 cops, who were in pursuit of Zaphod & now
want to blast them to Kingdom Come ... but instead blast them merely to the end
of the universe, more precisely the Restaurant at the End of the
Universe, a temporal anomaly where the guests can, every day, witness
the very end of the universe (announced by Colin Jeavons) as a tourist
attraction & where they
are served food (Peter Davison as Dish of the Day) that actually wants to
But soon our quartet decides to steal a spaceship with the
help of their paranoid android Marvin (David Learner, voice by Stephen
Moore) steal a spaceship ... the spaceship of rockstar Hotblack Desiato
(Barry Frank Warren), which unfortunately is set on autopilot & is
programmed to dive into a sun as one of his shows' highlight ...
Arthur, Fort, Zaphod & Trillian find a teleporter though &
persuade Marvin to manually control it (& thus give his life) to get
them away & save thier lives.
Arthur & Ford are soon stranded on
the so-called B-Ark (commandeered by Aubrey Morris) of an alien race, that
was thought to be doomed for annihilation if they would stay on their
planet (but in fact the ark only contains the worthless third of the
planets population, the middleman between the thinker &
the doer, mainly hairdressers & marketing experts, while the
other 2 thirds of the alien race started to prosper), & which is
heading ... for earth at the beginning of time ... & are thus messing
up the quest for the question of Life, the Universe & Everything
- the answer to which remains 42 - right from the beginning ... as in
theend arthur & Ford have to find out when they probe Arthur's mind
with letters from Scrabble ... & come up with "What do you get
if you multiply Six by Nine ?" (54, in case you wondered.)
course, my synopsis doesn't do the 6 part tv-miniseries too much justice, as most
of its funnier (& indeed more fascinating) bits are hidden away in
cleverly made up, often enough non-linear subplots & a certain
attitude towards its main narration in general that just can't be
recaptured in a simple synopsis.
That said of course, the miniseries
itself doesn't do too much justive to Douglas Adams' radioshow &
books it was based on in the first place ... much of it gets lost in
shoddy effects & sets that make it look more like a Doctor
Who for slightly more adult folks (& indeed Douglas Adams
had been script editor on Doctor
Who in its 17th season - 1979 to the beginning of 1980 - &
did script 3 of that series' episodes himself - The Pirate Planet, City
of Death & the unfinished Shada). Actually though, Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy
did have a relatively decent budget, but most of it was spent on computer
graphics that represent the Hitch Hikers Guide itself & that
were state of the art for its time, but today they seem of course (charmingly)
That is not
to say that Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy would have necessarily
profited from a vastly larger budget or fancy special effects, which could
just as easily distract from the clever humour. The miniseries as such is
not doing bad on that account (& the humour, not the sci-fi-effects,
is the centerpiece of this series after all), you just get the feeling
that a little more effort & care with certain aspects wouldn't have hurt ...