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The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy

I spotted the two-disc English language DVD version of this going cheap in the local FNAC and bought it about a month ago. I'm one of the diehard fans of the original 1978-80 radio series, and will accept no substitutes, but there are some good bits in this televised 1981 version.

In particular, David Dixon is actually a better Ford Prefect than Geoffrey McGivern was. He confidently conveys a sense of alienness, and he makes the most of the rather boring scenes in the Vogon freighter at the end of the first episode. (Compare Fit the First of the radio series, where even his fans must admit that McGivern starts off sounding shrill and unsure.)

The other thing that works really well is, of course, the Book - the superb animations of the entries in the Hitch-Hiker's Guide, backed up by Peter Jones' narration - the one point where televising simply could not mean pointing a camera at actors reciting the lines in a stage setting. The combination of graphics and cameos - Douglas Adams himself stripping off and disappearing into the sea, the two unspeaking drinkers of the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster - are almost without exception brilliant.

There are some tremendously naff bits as well. Rather surprisingly, Simon Jones as Arthur Dent seems to spend a lot of time standing around as if he is waiting to be told what to do. Zaphod's extra head is simply embarrassing. The departures in script from the radio series (with perhaps the exceptions of the Dish of the Day, and the Disaster Area graphics, both of which had already featured in the novels) are not usually improvements.

One particularly weird bit of interaction is the chemistry between Trillian and Zaphod. In their first scene, when they hear the radio annoucner quote Eccentrica Gallumbits' description of Zaphod as "the best bang since the Big One", he and Trillian exchange what looks to me like a knowing smile. But then at the end of the fourth episode, when it looks like they are all going to be killed by the Magrathean computer banks exploding, Zaphod and Ford shake hands and sing a song, leaving Arthur and Trillian to look aghast and, in her case, very much alone. More could and should have been made of her character; she seems just a clothes-horse for skimpy red costumes. No big criticism of Sandra Dickinson intended - like Susan Sheridan in the radio series, she just isn't given much to work with.

Still, this was worth the (low) price I paid for it - especially the documentary clips on the second disc, which do add quite a lot.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 28th, 2006 01:16 pm (UTC)
I really like the "Making of" documentary. Ford there seems to me to have some of Radio Ford's more friendly personality, as well as TV Ford's sense of bastardry. (And Mark Wing-Davey on Zaphod's genitalia was very, very funny).
Oct. 28th, 2006 01:34 pm (UTC)
Yes, that was a good bit!
Oct. 28th, 2006 02:27 pm (UTC)
Zooey Deschanel was far more like the radio and book Trillian than Sandra Dickinson ever was. She was not exactly uneasy on the eye, either.

Two things I'm sad didn't make it to the film were the superb soundtrack to the radio series (full of strange Krautrock, prog, and minimalism) and the gorgeous vector graphics of the Book - the bland music and "skip intro" Flash-like graphics of the film were All Wrong.

Martin Freeman was arguably a more believable Arthur than Simon Jones, in that he was boring enough to work in local radio ;)
Nov. 1st, 2006 08:29 pm (UTC)
Part of the fun with TEH HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO TEH GALAXY is the whole question of which bit of it is the most canonical, or at least which for the viewer/reader/listener/player has the most resonance. The TV series for me is the real deal with THGTTG. One thing I like about it over the books is the way it has a reasonably coherent narrative structure and does not come across like the story stopped because they were way over time and had to broadcast whatever they had. That said, I do not think I have ever properly listened to the radio or record things (I gather they are slightly different).

I'm reasonably fond of Zaphod's second head... it's like half of him is permanently stoned while the rest of him gets on with things. Also, it makes the one moment when the second head says anything rather chortlesome.

Trillian's character is very slight in the TV series, and the actress playing her has an annoying voice. I was rather impressed with the way Zooey Deschannel made her seem somewhat interesting in the film (which I saw on a flight back from the states once on a screen that people kept standing in front of, god bless them.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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