Exactly forty years ago today Radio 4 unleashed on an unsuspecting audience the first ever episode of that comedy adventure in space and time, The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The Radio Times was of the opinion that "science-fiction fans with a sense of humour will welcome (the) six-part adventure story" but its wide appeal immediately became apparent and, in an unprecedented move, the BBC gave it a repeat just a fortnight after the last episode went out plus a third airing that November.
Tonight Radio 4 starts a new series of what is termed the Hexagonal Phase. Based on some unpublished notes from Douglas Adams's archive and the follow-up novel And Another Thing... by Eoin Colfer it re-unites some of the original cast: Simon Jones, Geoffrey McGivern, Mark Wing-Davey and Sandra Dickinson plus other star names including Lenny Henry, Jim Broadbent, Jane Horrocks, Ed Byrne, Jon Culshaw and Stephen Hawking.
The story (according to The Guardian) follows our heroes, Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, who visit the tiny planet of Nano, where they find an Irish community run by a chancer called Hillman Hunter. The colony is getting unruly, so Hunter wants a God to supply a few rules. Meanwhile, the Vogons have also discovered the existence of this unlikely Irish colony and are naturally sending a force to eradicate it.
|More from Dirk Maggs and John Lloyd on the new series|
in the current issue of the Radio Times
There's more about Douglas Adams and how Hitch-Hikers came to be written and recorded in the recent edition of The Archive Hour: Don't Panic! It's The Douglas Adams Papers with his old mate and co-writer (and voice of The Book in the new series) John Lloyd.
In this article, from the Observer Magazine of 14 October 1979, Robin Lustig talks to the "young creator" Douglas Adams who confesses his difficulty in writing: as "a desperately difficult process fraught with all kinds of mental blocks and worries."
I wrote about Hitch-Hikers back in June 2012 in Share and Enjoy and in April 2014 in The Art of Hitch-Hiking