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Audio Comedy Review


The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Primary Phase (Special Edition)


Starring: Peter Jones, Simon Jones, Geoffrey McGivern, Mark Wing-Davey, Susan Sheridan and Stephen Moore
BBC Audio
RRP: £17.99
ISBN: 978 1 40840 976 3
Available 13 November 2008

Just in case you’re from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse and you’ve been spending your time stranded on prehistoric Earth with an ape-descended life-form - The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy tells the story of Arthur Dent, whose planet is destroyed to make way for an interstellar bypass. Along with mysterious friend Ford Prefect, the two-headed, three-armed ex-galactic president Zaphod Beeblebrox, and the trusty (or is that rusty?) Marvin the Paranoid Android, they visit the planet-manufacturing Magrathea, dine at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, and learn the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything...

HHGG is quite simply an enduring (not to mention endearing) masterpiece. Since its original 1978 radio broadcast it's hardly aged at all, and its subsequent success has spawned books, records, a TV series, a feature film, four more radio serials, and no doubt a towel or two somewhere along the line. The first book was voted high in the nation's 100 favourite reads, and the audio book has won numerous awards.

Listening to this 4-CD set, newly remastered by audio movie maestro Dirk Maggs (who adapted books 3 to 5 of the series) is a good example of memory cheats. I was mildly disappointed by the main plot points (not because they're not fantastic - which they are - but because I know them too well) and pleasantly surprised by the myriad little asides, most of which I'd forgotten - such as the alien attack fleet which is swallowed by a small dog.

To say that HHGG is mad would be a monumental understatement. It's jam-packed with philosophical ideas and off-kilter but often true observations on life... an existentialist's dream. Personally speaking, the highlight of the original HHGG is the character of Marvin the Paranoid Android - the ultimate 'Grumpy Old Man'. The idea of a manic depressive robot in inspired. I've modelled myself on Marvin ("Life, don't talk to me about life." / "Do you want me to sit in the corner and rust, or just fall apart where I'm standing?")

Disc 4 of this set contains the 55-minute Douglas Adams' Guide to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The comments from Adams are always worth listening to, but the long-winded linking pieces spoken by The Book begin to grate after a while. If you want to hear the quotes listen to the audio - this is just labouring a point. However, this is just a minor quibble for an otherwise outstanding release.


Ty Power

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