The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The TV Series:
I must sadly confess that the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy TV series is not my favourite thing in the canon. I started off on the books, and then listened to the radio series (which probably is my favourite thing!) and only saw the TV version for the first time when I got this DVD. So, having been spoiled by modern special effects, I will apologise for the fact that I can't help but look at those in the series with the kind of amused affection I had previously reserved for Aslan from the BBC's Chronicles of Narnia.
That minor quibble aside, the TV series is still very good, and as you would expect very funny. It follows the order of events in the Radio Series, with minor alterations in lines (yes, I know them that well...), and things therefore take place in a different order to that of the books.
There is also - for devotees of the radio show - a slight change of cast. I confess I still find it slightly odd to have Ford, Trillian and the Captain of the B Ark speaking with the 'wrong' voice, however David Dixon and Sandra Dickinson are very good in their parts (I still miss David Jason as the captain) - and even if I don't plan to join the David Dixon fan club I like him more in the part each time I watch. The other actors are also great - of course! Simon Jones is very endearing - and I believe my father plans to riot if a movie is ever made that doesn't cast him as Arthur.
Some of the effects are better than others. Zaphod's head is essential, but fairly static, so I have a tendency to actually forget that it's there. The Vogon ships I love, the Vogon Captain I don't. The Book is amazing - your TV set effectively turns into the computer screen as the data flashes across it.
The sets are also great - the spaceship hulls, and in particular The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, with it's wonderful addition 'The Dish of the Day'. And for the locations - well Magrethea is a Cornish Clay Pit; in fact, it is now the Eden Project - which was visited during the South-West Meet 2002!
Now I may have sounded carping, but still, I do really enjoy the TV series - how could I not, it's Hitchhiker's after all, wonderfully written and very very funny. My favourite moment has to be the very end of the series as Ford and Arthur take a stroll on prehistoric Earth to the strains of What a Wonderful World - it can't be bettered.
Well, it has to be said, that whatever my reservations may be about the virtues of the television series, the DVD is fantastic. It is very obviously a package put together with the utmost care, and with a wonderful mixture of science and technology detail, as well as its very own brand of humour, it is, frankly, one of the best TV series sets out there.
The menu is divided into two sections: the 'Inner Planets' and the 'Outer Planets'. The 'Inner Planets' has the bigger featurettes, and the 'Outer' has the smaller bits and pieces. Just a quick warning - the theme tune plays over and over on the menus, so if you have it going for a while it could get stuck in your head, badly.
The place to begin is 1993's 'Making Of...' which is wonderful. It has interviews with everyone (well, all the really important people - writer, director, cast and graphics/effects people). The most interesting bits are on the castings that were different to the radio series - David Dixon, apparently cast because he 'looked slightly odd and had weird eyes. You want to follow this up with 'Don’t Panic', an extra 25 minutes of the 'Making Of...' from the excess footage and put together especially for the DVD. It starts with footage of Simon Jones, Mark Wing-Davey and David Dixon at Slartibartday in 1981, with Simon discussing his height and the famous dressing down. Then it moves on the Wing-Davey talking about Zaphod having a second penis... It is in fact a great addition - and understandably doesn't cross over with the first 'Making of...' at all. Oh, and it has an advert for us at the end of it!
In 'Communicate' there's a section from a BBC Education programme, which is effectively a 'Behind the scenes on the radio series'. It's very lovely - everyone looks so young - and features the recording of the scene between Arthur and the Nutrimatic Drinks Machine, and the recording 2 million robots singing. Finally there's a 'Behind the Scenes' section from the TV series - featuring plenty of amusing gaffes, as the crew struggled to finish recording Episode 2. You can watch the clock speed forward to 22:15, as confusion and frustration appear to reign.
In the 'Outer Planets' are the smaller featurettes: the very short Tomorrow's World look at Zaphod Beeblebrox's head - at the time, apparently it was cutting edge. Unfortunately the fact that it's as old as me means I didn't see it in its time, and now I can't quite get my head round it. Then there is the appearance on Pebble Mill at One by Rod Lord and Alan Bell. It's six minutes, in which Alan Bell talks about the problems of getting the radio's visual pictures to work on TV, and you get a glimpse of Rod Lord's storyboards for the graphics. All of which just goes to show how very cool Hitchhiker's was, and how cutting edge.
For amusement value there is the introduction by Peter Jones that was shown with the first episode to a selected audience at the National Film Theatre, and the main trailer for the series, which is suitably surreal. The introduction is very bizarre and features a pair of headphones.
There are little bits from the filming of the series: A deleted scene from Episode 2, in which Trillian and Zaphod discuss the improbability of picking up Ford and Arthur, and Zaphod tries to work it out, using a piece of paper - the computer's voice was never put in. There are also some outtakes, many of which feature actors not quite able to master their lines, and one with Arthur Dent in sunglasses.
Finally, there is a fairly sizeable photo gallery, including two shots from the recording of the radio series, and an Easter egg, which has the full opening title sequence. You'll have to find it yourself though... (Because obviously I did - actually there's a forum somewhere that holds the details.) There's another Easter egg on Disk One, equally as fun, which again, I'm going to leave you to find... Disk One also features some fantastic subtitles with production details that tells you some very interesting, and howlingly funny stuff, and which I plan to have on next time I watch the series.
So there you go. It's a fantastic DVD set, so find a friend and 'Share and Enjoy'!