Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – The Radio Series

A look at this earth-changing Radio Series, from the pen of Douglas Adams

Back in April 2005, The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie opened in screens around the world, introducing the H2G2 phenomenon to a whole new generation (and incidentally taking £4.2 million in it’s first weekend at the box office).

Many may not realise that, far back in the mists of time and space, the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy first appeared as a BBC radio series, with the first episode being broadcast in March of 1978.

This page pays homage to the original radio series, and the newer series, that picks up (almost) where the first two series left off.

Ford & Arthur - The Tertiary Phase
Ford & Arthur – Back for the Tertiary Phase on Radio 4
Thanks to Above the Title for the picture

2012 Hitchhikers Guide Live Radio Tour

The original radio show was out on tour in 2012. For more details, go to www.hitchhikerslive.com. Take a look at this short video clip to get a feel for what the 2012 had to offer!

H2G2 Box setThe ultimate collector’s set!This cube contains all of the dramatised, original radio cast episodes from Series 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. This contains 14 CDs (including a bonus disk), and the discs of the later series contain material not heard in the radio versions.

The bonus disc contains two programmes from the BBC’s archives: Kaleidoscope from 1980 (behind the scenes of series 2) and Six Characters in Search of an Answer: Arthur Dent, from 2002

Available from Amazon and the BBC Shop now

Hitchhiker’s Guide Radio Series:

Five series exist in total. Here’s our guide to the Hitchhiker’s Guide Radio Series:

Series 1 – The Primary PhasePrimary PhaseThe definitive version, and where it all started. The original six episodes were first broadcast on the 8th March 1978. You’ll find versions of this available on cassette and CD from Amazon and the BBC Shop . Here’s what’s available:

  • Series 1 (6 episodes) on CD
  • Series 1 and 2 (12 episodes) on CD
  • Available for download from Audible.co.uk
  • The original radio scripts Book
Series 2- The Secondary PhaseSecondary PhaseThe first episode, with Ford and Arthur struggling to escape from Earth, and Zaphod on a quest for Zarniwhoop, was a one-off Christmas special broadcast in November 1978. This episode then formed the start of Series 2, which started its run on the 21st January 1980.

Available on CD from Amazon and the BBC Shop.

  • Series 2 (6 episodes) on CD
  • Series 1 and 2 (12 episodes) on CD
  • Available for download from Audible.co.uk
  • The original radio scripts Book
Series 3 – The Tertiary PhaseTertiary Radio SeriesTwenty-four years after the original series, there’s more. Series 3 (the Tertiary Phase) reunites many of the original series cast, and is based on Douglas’ third book, “The Restaurant at the end of the Universe” – Based on the Krikket wars.Sadly, Peter Jones (the Guide) and Richard Vernon (Slartifartfast) are no longer with us, so their parts are played by William Franklyn and Richard Griffiths.

The series is an ‘Above the Title’ production – produced by Bruce Hyman & Helen Chattwell for BBC Radio 4 – It was adapted, directed and co-produced by Dirk Maggs. For more, see Radio 4’s Hitch-hikers page.

The Tertiary phase was broadcast in Sept/Oct 2004 and is now available on CD from Amazon or the BBC Online Shop – the CD contains the unedited versions, with an extra 20 minutes of material.

Some notes:

  • Being based on book 3 presented the team with a challenge – Book 3 starts with Ford and Arthur stranded on prehistoric earth, but that problem was solved back at the start of the second radio series. The second radio series sees Arthur leaving the Ruler of the Universe’s shack, stranding Ford and Zaphod… A tough one, and possibly a cop-out?
  • The people of Krikket, are played by Michael Fenton Stevens and Philip Pope (both from the BBC radio comedy show, Radio Active). Geoffrey Perkins, producer of Series 1 and 2 was also a member of the Radio Active team.
  • The character of Agrajag is played by the late Douglas Adams, who reportedly always wanted to play the part. His narration from an earlier talking book was used.
  • Series producer Bruce Hymen plays the part of the dying Arthur Philip Deodat

Here’s where to get episodes 13 to 18:

Series 4 – The Quandary PhaseQuandary Radio SeriesBased on Book 4… “So Long and Thanks for all the Fish” – Arthur’s home, and in love with Fenchurch, a girl famous for her lunchtime experience in a café in Rickmansworth.
Started transmission at 6:30pm May 3rd 2005 on BBC Radio 4. More on the BBC site.Some notes on this series:

  • Episode 1: Arthur’s left Krikket, and an update to the guide sets him on his way to a familiar planet.
    Noticed that the music in the Handold bar is the same as the track playing at the flying party. Chris Emmett plays the Bar Bird
  • Episode 2: In which Arthur returns home, Ford’s in transit, and June Whitfield sells Arthur a ticket with mixed fortunes.
    This episode features the voice of Geoffrey Perkins as Arthur’s old boss (a BBC radio producer) – Geoffrey Perkins was the original BBC radio producer for the series in the late 70’s. Also, Rob McKenna is played by Bill Paterson, who played the Assistant Arcturan Pilot in Episode 7 back in 1981. Also noted that the dead kitten reference has been edited from the radio series
  • Episode 3: Arthur and Fenny in love, and flying bodies over Islington…
    Features Stephen Fry as Murray the reporter (Stephen is the Film’s Guide voice). Also features Christian Slater as Wonko the Sane. I was sad to hear that Arthur’s biscuit story was missing – an especially memorable bit from the book – but now having got the CD, find that this episode has an extra 10 minutes, including the biscuit story and the bit about the fire-breathing dragons. Is the track played at the end, the Dire Straits track to which Douglas refers?
  • Episode 4: The last in this short series sees a UFO land on Harrods and a trek to see God’s final message.
    Favourite moments – the Share and Enjoy ringtone (wonder how long before someone’s made that available for download. Above the Title Productions… any chance of a copy?). I see someone’s snapped up Rob McKenna’s .com address – 50 hits as of the day of transmission, and 1250 24 hours later! Also, the earthbound Tricia McMillian is played by the TV series Trillian – Sandra Dickinson

Here’s where to get this series:

  • Series 4, the Quandary Phase, is available on double CD. Both feature extended versions of the transmitted episodes, but you’re best off going for the CD version, which runs at 2 hours 25 minutes, adding an extra 30 minutes! Also, the Hitchhiker’s theme has undergone a rather smooth remix for the CD release (arranged by Philip Pope, featuring The Illegal Eagles tribute band)- nicely done boys!
    You can order these online directly from the BBC Shop or from Play.com.
  • Available for download from Audible.co.uk
  • The radio scripts Book 2
Series 5 – The Quintessential PhaseThe Quintessential PhaseBased on the last Hitchhiker’s book, “Mostly Harmless” – Sees Arthur meeting an unexpected relative, occupants of the planet Rupert, and catches up with Trillian’s TV career. Ford makes a visit to the Guide’s offices and meets the Guide Mark II. Abridged into just four episodes.First episode transmitted on 31st May 2005 on BBC Radio 4.

Some notes:

  • Episode 1: Arthur’s left Krikket, and an update to the guide sets him on his way to a familiar planet.
    Harsh – my favourite part of the book is missing – “Click… hum”. Mostly Harmless is a longish book, and some heavy trimming has gone on, that having been said, there’s some new content here too – Zarniwhoop as the Guide Editor? Good to see a few extras such as the body debit transporter SFX, Rula Lenska as The Bird Guide (she was Lentila in Series 2), and Michael Fenton Stevens (former Person of Krikket), now as a nameless Grebulon.
  • Episode 2: Arthur meets a polesitting soothsayer, Zaphod’s been hiding in a computer, one of the Trillians is abducted, and Zarniwhoop’s secret is revealed.
  • Episode 3: Griff Rhys-Jones… great choice as Old Thrashbarg. Nice little nod to Accurist with Brian Cobby as the voice of the Speaking Clock. Some heavy editing from the book, but as the action on Lamuella is pretty slow, this is no bad thing. Shame the stuff about the Telephone Riots didn’t make it into the series or the extended CD material though.
  • Episode 4: OK – my feelings are still mixed on this one. The is the last episode, and the book’s ending is pretty damn final… this last radio episode is pretty close to the ending of the book, and ties up a whole lot of loose ends… but the ending wasn’t quite what I was expecting… my first reaction was annoyance that the ending wasn’t true to the book, however, it was just so well done, that I’m happy to let them off – since hearing the episode again (the extended CD version), actually, I’m now happy – a good end to the series, and I’d recommend that anyone gets the CD version to hear an extended end, and 10 minutes of extended material (plus a great version of the Journey of the Sorcerer theme). Other highlights – the post-destruction guide reprise, “closing brackets and endifs”,Trillian meeting Trillian and The King’s song (incidentally, this isn’t the first time that Philip Pope’s been the voice of the King – he’s done it before in an early Radio Active). If you’re reading guys – clever use of an old effect to create a new planet for Jeltz to destroy – “I have eyes!
    Well done to all concerned – a great end to an excellent remake. Off now to read the book of the scripts, to find out a little more about the new series. So long, and thanks…

Here’s where to get the final series:

 

Anything to add? Please drop us a mail

 

Hitchhikers Guide Radio Series Cast:

  • Arthur Dent – Simon Jones
  • Ford Prefect – Geoffrey McGivern
  • Trillian – Susan Sheridan
  • Zaphod Beeblebrox – Mark Wing-Davey
  • Marvin The Paranoid Android – Stephen Moore
  • The Book – Peter Jones (Series 1 & 2) / William Franklyn (Series 3 onwards)

Other H2G2 Radio Series resources:

Radio Scripts Book
Series 1 & 2 Radio ScriptsWonderful to see this back in print, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – The Original Radio Scripts is a must for any fan on the radio series, the first incarnation of the series. This nearly-A4 publication of 260 pages commemorates the 25th anniversary of HHGG and has been updated with new material since the first publication back in 1985. New material includes a lost Hitchhiker’s script and a who’s who.

The book is dedicated to all BBC Studio Managers, and includes a great insight into the series recording, including how Marvin’s effect loop kept getting lost and trodden on, how they made the choir of robots, and how the last episode nearly didn’t make it air at all. Each episode is listed with original direction notes and effects, plus notes on the recording techniques and problems they encountered during the making of the series. A must-have, and only £8 from Amazon.

New Radio Scripts BookSeries 3, 4 & 5 Radio ScriptsThe scripts of the radio dramatisation of the last three books, Life, The Universe And Everything; So Long And Thanks For All The Fish and Mostly Harmless, features Douglas Adams himself, thanks to the wonders of digital technology, and includes new material written by him specially for the radio sequels.

Publication of the scriptbook ties-in with the radio series climax and became available from Amazon on 1st July 2005.

Making OfDiscovery of the year. Found this gem in a disused lavatory at the back of my local MVC store – I thought I’d discovered all of the sources of Hitch-Hiker’s “Making of” material, but this two-hour audio cassette had slipped through the sub-ether net. This BBC twin-cassette box, for about £8, contains interviews with Douglas, Simon Jones, radio producer Geoffrey Perkins, Stephen Moore (Marvin) and a host of others. It explains how the radio series was put together (and nearly didn’t make it to air!).Narrated by Peter Jones, this is a must-have! Presumably this is the extra material that’s now packaged with the MP3 CD (see below). It’s available by mail order from Amazon: Douglas Adams’s Guide to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”
Radio Series CDComplete Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (MP3-CD). This is a single CD containing 7 and a half hours of Hitchhikers – this includes 6 hours of the original radio series (all 12 episodes), but also included is Douglas Adams’s Guide to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a behind-the-scenes look at the show, a fascinating compilation of anecdotes and interviews. It also features a previously unbroadcast full-length interview with author Douglas Adams.Last seen available for under £20 from the BBC Online Shop
DVD
The TV Series
OK, so slightly out-of-place for our radio page, but the TV series gives you the option to visualise many of the original radio series cast.The reason for inclusion in this section, is that the DVD bonus disc has an extract from the making of the radio series at the BBC Paris Studio in London’s Lower Regent Street – this includes a very young looking Geoffrey Perkins (Mike Flex from Radio Active), trying to convince Douglas that 2 million robots singing the Share and Enjoy song just may not be do-able.

The TV series is available on DVD.

 

Some other handy links:

Free Audiobook Downloads at Audible.co.uk

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