The Lacklustre Guide To The Rest Of The Galaxy

Sequels, eh? They're the Law Of Diminishing Returns made real. (I don't feel the need to elaborate since most have you have seen The Matrix trilogy.) I just discovered three new radio series of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy and, regrettably, the Law held fast and true.

The first two radio series were the original Hitch-Hiker's; the TV show, five books, towel and movie came later. The new radio episodes (or "fits", as they are inexplicably called) are based on the last three books. And there the problems begin: they were written as books not scripts. There's less dialogue, fewer jokes, the characters rarely face immediate danger or any of the other things that live drama thrives on and, unlike the originals, the whole project was clearly not conceived with the medium of sound or the thirty minute format in mind.

A related problem is that the content of the second book, The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe, doesn't match the second radio series at all. It ends with stuff from the first series that didn't make it into the first book because Douglas Adams was past his deadline and over his word quotient after adapting the first four episodes (fits). When the third series starts like the second never happened, a lot of fans are left rubbing their jaws like they've been slapped. Zaphod had just met the man who really ran the universe and Arthur had stolen a spaceship. I was quite interested in finding out what happened next but instead I got a rejected Doctor Who story about robots from the planet Krikkit invading Lords' Cricket Ground to steal The Ashes. That stung.

Finally we have the problem of reverence. Douglas Adams was never happy with his writing and took the opportunity to change and improve upon his initial ideas every time the story found a new medium. The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe shows that he thought radio shows don't make good books so why would the reverse be true? Unfortunately Mr. Adams wasn't around for these new recordings and the task of adapting his work for radio seems to have fallen to someone too in awe of it to want to change anything. So the structure is still all over the place when it badly needed re-shaping and there are long sections of prose telling us about events where dramatisation of those events ought to be.

The original cast are as good as can be expected given the material they have to work with but the guest stars seem as confused as the audience. Stephen Fry and Douglas Adams were the only two performances with any energy and one of those has been dead for years. I laughed out loud once only, when Ford said he'd rather talk about girls' chests than saving the universe and Arthur said, "Alright. What do you want to know?"

I'm not going to throw my toys out of the pram and rename my blog in protest but I am un-recommending a large portion of the Hitch-Hiker ouvre here. So long and thanks for all the fits.


Blogger The Paranoid Mod said...

Agreed. I caught an episode of one of the later ones last year and it sucked, mostly cos the later books are just books and not intended to be made into radio.

The Dirk Gently books are just crying out for a vic&bob adaptation, though.

Blogger DrHeimlich said...

"...but instead I got a rejected Doctor Who story..."

There are stories so bad and boring that even Doctor Who would reject them?!


Blogger Trundling Grunt said...

Evan, keep ducking!

Marcus, I'm with you 100% on the later books. The first two were gems but it went downhill with the 3rd (I liked the somebody else's problem field), the 4th had Wonko the Sane, and I can't remember the 5th for the life of me.

Blogger thisismarcus said...

I forgot to say that Wonko was Christian Slater. He wasn't very funny but still: Christian Slater!!

Blogger Candace said...

I kept waiting for Marvin to show up in #5.

Christian Slater is still on the planet?


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