Review of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Tertiary Phase

Science Fiction Audio Drama - The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Tertiary PhaseThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Tertiary Phase
By Douglas Adams, adapted by Dirk Maggs, performed by a Full Cast
3 CD’s, 3 hours [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: BBC Audiobooks
Published: 2005
ISBN: 0792735919
Themes: / Science Fiction / Comedy / Time travel / Space travel /

A review by Steven H Silver

When The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy originally appeared on the BBC from 1978-1980, it consisted of twelve episodes (called “fits”). The first six of these fits were later refashioned to form the novels The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Turning his back on the medium of radio for several years, Douglas Adams continued the story with the novels Life, the Universe and Everything, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, and Mostly Harmless. This caused continuity problems when the decision was made to return the series to its original medium.

Following in the footsteps of Arthur C. Clarke, who decided to write a sequel to the more widely known film 2001 rather than his book of the same title, the BBC produced a radio sequel to the books Adams wrote rather than to the radio series. The result is the complete disregard for fits 7 through 12 of the radio broadcasts as the beginning of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: The Tertiary Phase picks up where the now retitled The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: The Primary Phase left off. There is a slight attempt to explain Zaphod’s adventures in those missing fits, but not Arthur nor that of Ford.

The BBC has successfully put together the surviving cast from the first series, which was more than they did for the second series. Simon Jones, Stephen Moore, and Mark Wing-Davey, who played Arthur Dent, Marvin, and Zaphod Beeblebrox on both radio and television, and Geoffrey McGivern (Ford Prefect) return for their third series. Susan Sheridan, who portrayed Trillian in the first series has returned to the role for the third series. The replacement of Peter Jones (the Book) by William Franklyn and Richard Vernon (Slartibartfast) by Richard Griffiths works well.

The inclusion of Adams’s own voice for the character Agrajag is a nice touch. Since Adams died before the series could begin production, a recording of him reading Agrajag’s lines from the audio version of Life, the Universe and Everything was used with some resampling which allowed it to fit in quite well with the general flow and sound of the broadcast.

Unfortunately, one of the problems with the Tertiary Phase is the same as one of the problems with the novel upon which it is based. Notably, although it contains the characters Adams created for the Hitchhiker’s Guide series, the story itself is a plot originally created by Adams for the television series Doctor Who. Another difficulty with the Third Phase is that because it is based on the novel, Life, the Universe and Everything, it lacks the sense of originality of the first two series, which formed the basis of everything that came after.

The Tertiary Phase strives to recreate the feel of the original series broadcast twenty-five years ago, and manages to achieve that goal. However, both the dialogue and the plot lack the originality of wit which caused those first two series to be so successful and launch Adams’s career. Fans of the Guide will enjoy listening to the broadcast, and will eagerly await the final phase, but it won’t recreate the feeling of listening to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in the late seventies.

This review is copyright 2005 by Steven H Silver, and first appeared on SFSite in January, 2005.

Review of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy By Douglas Adams

Science Fiction Audio Drama - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyThe Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
By Douglas Adams, performed by a Full Cast
6 Cassettes, 6 hours [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: The Mind’s Eye
Published: 1988
ISBN: 0881425671
Themes: / Science Fiction / Audio Drama / Humor / Aliens / Space travel / Time travel /

I have to cringe whenever an important milestone in Dr. Seuss’s surprisingly robust afterlife comes around, because it is inevitably greeted with a hundred grating “Seuss-like” paeans from every journalist, columnist and otherwise admittedly illiterate citizen who makes the amazing discovery that the English language is crammed to bursting with words that rhyme. More, even, if you make up a few of the words yourself. Douglas Adams can be similarly “inspirational”. Much of what is written about him is filled with disorientingly obscure citations and facile imitations. I appreciate why: He and Seuss made it look so easy, we can scarcely resist attempting to recreate their magic ourselves. But I will admit right now that if I could write like Adams, I wouldn’t be sitting here bashing out brief audio book reviews for an utter lack of pay. I will also admit that I have incorporated much of Adams’ prose into my own genome, and hope to transfer it genetically to my offspring (an aspiration my wife does not seem to regard with the same urgency). I will not, however, take a crack at trying to impress you with my abilities to mimic and quote. I don’t want to embarrass myself.

These tapes are of the very first incarnation of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Ur-myth that inspired a trilogy of four novels, a diabolical computer game, a television show, and an upcoming movie. More than just a recording of a funny radio play, these tapes represent the annunciation of Douglas Adams as the major talent in science fiction humor: a veritable shot heard round the world. The story itself is an ambling monstrosity of interplanetary adventure, time travel, and hidden questions about the meaning of the universe and the origin and fate of the planet earth. Of course, with all successful humor, what it is really about are the characters (in this case, chiefly Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Trillian, and Marvin the android) and the way they interact and bicker as wave after wave of crazy crap happens to them. The prose is exquisite (“They hung in the air exactly the way bricks don’t.” Oop! That was a quote, wasn’t it?), the settings range from imaginative (Magrathea) to bizarre (Milliways), and the information provided by the Guide itself is always tangential and hilarious.

But for fans of the books or the television show, what is truly remarkable about the first and second half of the tapes (the primary and secondary phases of the radio play) is not their utter perfection, but Adams’s uncanny ability to tweak them to even greater heights. The escape from Milliways is an excellent example. In these tapes, the use of an alien navy commander’s space ship is a little weak, but in the latter versions, the material Adams adds about the band “Disaster Area” and their cataclysmic concerts not only makes a better doomed escape, but contains some of the most memorable lines and images in the whole series. And the way he combines the primary and secondary phases of the radio show to produce an interweaving of the Dent/Prefect and Beeblebrox/Zarniwoop story lines in the novels not only increases the dramatic tension more organically, but also fills many of the logic holes that perforate the second half of these tapes. It’s like a graduate-level class in editing, only funny.

Of course, this radio play is not simply a virtuoso performance by the author, but a monumental ensemble production, as well. Mark Wing-Davey’s spacey portrayal of Zaphod Beeblebrox makes even Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman look pretty well plugged in, and Stephen Moore’s Marvin the android is a walking mechanical disaster of painfully amusing dimensions. Those are my two favorite performances, but the others are similarly tight: Simon Jones captures the bewilderment and hysteria of Arthur Dent perfectly; Geoffrey McGivern delivers a Ford Prefect who is helpful, roguish, and enigmatic; Peter Jones gives the voice of the book a zany, reassuring sound like a kindly but mad uncle; and Susan Sheridan provides a smart yet seductive Trillian Add in the myriad voices of mice, computers, doors, and smug waiters; the wonderful special effects of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop; and the loopy grandeur of the Eagles’ “Journey of the Sorcerer” as the main theme and you have a work of audio magic that will tickle your brain and delight your ears.

But don’t believe for a minute that we all walk around quoting this radio play in our daily speech simply because it provides hours of silly hijinx.. Adams ventures beyond situational and linguistic surprise to grapple with the humiliating vastness of the universe and the mind-boggling possibilities of infinity, and it is this theme that anchors the series so firmly in the subconscious. Philosophy, religion, and calculation are shown to be helpless before the unrelenting immensity of everything, and the only response we are left with is either suicidal hopelessness or laughter. We are forever indebted to Douglas Adams and the BBC cast for saving us with laughter. So I urge you to buy, rent, or steal these tapes as soon as you can and begin stuffing as much of the prose into your memory as it will hold. What else are you saving all that underpowered gray matter for?

Posted by Kurt Dietz

Review of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Live in Concert by Douglas Adams

Science Fiction Audio - Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Live in ConcertHitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Live in Concert
By Douglas Adams; Performed live by Douglas Adams
Publisher: Dove Audio
Published: 1996
ISBN: 0787108960
Themes: / Science Fiction / Humor / Time Travel / Robots / Artificial Intelligence / Alien Invasion /

In 1995, at the Alameida Theatre in London, Douglas Adams gave a live performance, reading several sections from the first three novels of the inaccurately named Hitchhiker’s Trilogy. The performance was recorded, and the result is one of the most oft-played in my collection. His reading is absolutely hilarious. His energy is high throughout the performance, and his comic timing impeccable.

Amongst the episode segments Adams reads are “Marvin and the Frogstar Battle Robot”, “Arthur and the Irrational Sofa”, and “Agrajag and the Cathedral of Hate.”

Hitchhiker’s Guide remains the best science fiction comedy out there. How to describe it? Well, this fellow named Arthur Dent wakes up one day to discover that someone is trying to knock down his home to make room for a bypass. While dealing with that, he discovers that his good friend Ford Prefect is not actually from Earth, but from somewhere in the vicinity of Betelguese. Further, the Earth itself is about to be destroyed by the Vogon Destructor Fleet to make room for an interstellar bypass. They get off-planet and the adventures commence aboard the Heart of Gold, which is run by an Infinite Improbability Drive, which… well, you just have to experience it.

Unabridged audio versions exist of all the Hitchhiker’s novels, but my favorite ways to enjoy this story is the original BBC Radio dramas and this live performance. A person who enjoys Hitchhiker’s already should very much enjoy this, and it would also offer a good introduction to someone who is unfamiliar with the story.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Big news for Hitchhiker fans! (Yes, I am one…) …

SFFaudio News

Big news for Hitchhiker fans! (Yes, I am one…) In February, 2004, on BBC 4 Radio, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio series will continue! From the Crazy Dog Audio Theatre website (go there for the full story):








Twenty-five years after the original radio series of DOUGLAS ADAMS’ HITCH HIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY exploded into the public consciousness, the further exploits of its bewildered hero ARTHUR DENT are being brought to life in their original medium.

Drawn from Douglas Adams’ later Hitch Hiker novels, the adventures continue in LIFE, THE UNIVERSE AND EVERYTHING, which will be dramatised in six half hour episodes, SO LONG AND THANKS FOR ALL THE FISH and MOSTLY HARMLESS, which will comprise four episodes each.

As the original two series were dubbed the PRIMARY and SECONDARY phases by Douglas Adams, these new series form the TERTIARY, QUADRENARY and QUINTESSENTIAL phases, and will at last finish the ‘trilogy in five parts’.

The original Hitch Hikers radio cast is returning; SIMON JONES as Arthur Dent, GEOFFREY McGIVERN as Ford Prefect, SUSAN SHERIDAN as Trillian, MARK WING-DAVEY as Zaphod Beeblebrox and STEPHEN MOORE as the much loved Marvin The Paranoid Android.

Again, more of the story on the Crazy Dog Audio Theatre website.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Another from my list of all-time favorites….The …

SFFaudio Commentary

Another from my list of all-time favorites….

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, starring Simon Jones, Peter Jones, and Geoffrey McGivern, BBC Radio, 1978

This BBC audio drama is the original version of the insanely popular science fiction comedy, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s been through many forms since then, including novels and a BBC television series. But this radio series is not only the original version, it’s the best version. The actors are crisp and hilarious, the scripts brilliant, the sound and music first-rate. If you don’t know what Vogon poetry is, this is the place to start.

The original run, called “Fit the First”, was six half-hour shows. Later, six more shows (“Fit the Second”) were done for a total of 12 shows. The Collector’s Edition (available from UK) includes all of those along with two CD’s filled with Douglas Adams interviews.

Another note – Douglas Adams recorded a live reading of some sections of the novels. The tape runs about 90 minutes, and is extremely funny. It’s called Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Live in Concert. It appears to be out of print, but is available on

Posted by Scott D. Danielson