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The Hitchhiker's
Guide to the Galaxy

The cover of the booklet included with
the Collector's Edition CD set release of
the first two Hitchhiker's radio series.
Genre Comic science fiction
Running time 30 minutes
Country United Kingdom United Kingdom
Languages English language
Home station BBC Radio 4
Syndicates NPR, CBC Radio
Starring Simon Jones
Geoffrey McGivern
Mark Wing-Davey
Susan Sheridan
Stephen Moore
Creators Douglas Adams
Writers Douglas Adams (first two series)
Dirk Maggs (final three series)
Producers Simon Brett (pilot)
Geoffrey Perkins (first two series)
Dirk Maggs (Co-Producer: final three series)
Bruce Hyman and Helen Chattwell (final three series)
Narrated by Peter Jones (first two series)
William Franklyn (final three series)
Air dates 8 March 1978 to
21 June 2005
No. of episodes 26
Audio format Stereo, surround
Opening theme Journey of the Sorcerer

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a science fiction comedy radio series written by Douglas Adams (with some material in the first series provided by John Lloyd).[1] It was originally broadcast in the United Kingdom by the BBC, and was soon afterwards broadcast on global short wave radio on the BBC World Service, in 1978. Broadcasting by National Public Radio (one of their first to occur in stereo) in the United States followed in March, 1981, with a repeat broadcast in September.[2] The following year, 1982, the BBC series was carried by CBC Radio (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation).

A pilot programme was commissioned in March 1977, and was recorded by the end of the following June. A second series was commissioned in 1979, and this was transmitted in 1980. Episodes of the first series were specially re-recorded for release on LP records and audio cassettes. After the 1980 transmissions of the second radio series, the first series was adapted for television; it included some material originally written by Adams for stage adaptations and the aforementioned LP adaptation. This in turn was followed by five novels, a computer game, and adaptations into three series of comic books.

Adams considered writing a third radio series, to be based on his novel Life, the Universe and Everything, in 1993 but the project did not begin for another ten years, after Adams' death. Dirk Maggs, with whom Adams had discussed the new series in 1993, 1997 and 2000, eventually directed and co-produced radio series adaptations of that novel, as well as So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish and Mostly Harmless.[3] These became the third, fourth and fifth radio series. The third series was recorded in 2003 and transmitted in September and October 2004, and the fourth and fifth series were recorded in late 2004 and early 2005 and transmitted in May and June 2005. Recordings of all five series have been released on audio cassette and compact disc, and the third series was released on DVD in 2006, after being "delayed" more than once.[4][5]


Early development

Douglas Adams had contributed comedy sketches for BBC radio programmes produced by Simon Brett (including The Burkiss Way and Week Ending). The two of them came up with an idea for a radio science fiction comedy series in early 1977. Originally to be called The Ends of the Earth, each episode would have ended with the planet Earth meeting its demise in a different way.[6]

While writing the first episode, Adams said that he needed a character who knew what was going to happen. He decided to make this character an alien, and, remembering an idea he supposedly had had while lying drunk in a field in Innsbruck, Austria in 1971, decided that this character would be a "roving reporter" for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Later recollections by his friends at the time indicate that Adams first spoke openly of the idea of "hitch-hiking around the galaxy" while on holiday in Greece, in 1973.[7]

The cover of the cassette release of the radio documentary Douglas Adams's Guide to the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Adams wrote his first outlines in February 1977. Copies of these have been republished.[8] A pilot episode was commissioned on 1 March 1977, and the recording was completed on 28 June 1977.[9] Brett and Adams both later recounted different parts of the pilot episode's genesis, including convincing the BBC that such a programme could not be recorded with a studio audience, and insisting that the programme be recorded in stereo sound. To win this latter argument, Hitchhiker's was briefly classified as a Drama instead of a Comedy, as Drama programmes were allowed to be recorded in stereo, and Comedy programmes were not, in 1977.

A full series of six episodes (five new episodes, plus the pilot) was commissioned on 31 August 1977.[9] However, Adams had in the meantime sent a copy of the Hitchhiker's pilot episode to the BBC's Doctor Who production office, and was thus commissioned to write a four part Doctor Who serial (The Pirate Planet) a few weeks later. In addition, Simon Brett had left the BBC, and the final five episodes in the first series were produced by Geoffrey Perkins.

With conflicting writing commitments, Adams engaged his friend John Lloyd to assist in writing what became known as "Fit the Fifth" and "Fit the Sixth." Aside from the later Infocom computer game (and, arguably, the movie screenplay), this is the only co-writer credit in any form of the Hitchhiker's Guide. The second episode was produced in November, 1977. The script of the last episode of the first series (which was later retitled "The Primary Phase") was completed in February 1978, and production (including sound mixing and effects) was completed on 3 March 1978.

First and second radio series

Front cover of the BBC Radio Collection release of the "Second Series" (Fits 7–12) of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

The first radio series (first six episodes) was broadcast in March and April, 1978. A seventh episode was broadcast on 24 December 1978. This seventh episode was commonly known as the Christmas Episode. This had nothing to do with Christmas except in an early draft (which would have had Marvin the Paranoid Android as the "star" that was followed by the Three Wise Men);[10] it was called the Christmas Episode because it was first broadcast on Christmas Eve. The final five episodes, completing the second radio series, were broadcast in January 1980.

Production on the second series was delayed several times. While Adams was meant to be working on scripts for a stage adaptation of Hitchhiker's in April 1979, he was also employed as the Script Editor for Doctor Who and turned down an offer from John Lloyd to submit material for Not the Nine O'Clock News. The recording on the first day scheduled for the second radio series, 19 May 1979, was left incomplete because Adams had not finished the script. Further scheduled recordings on 11 July and 1 August of that year were also cancelled, this time due in part to Adams trying to work on the LP re-recordings of the first series, as well as its novelisation. Further recording attempts were made on 23 October and 3 December.[11] The recording of the final episode in the second series was completed on 13 January 1980: the audio mixing of the episode was not finished until 25 January, the day it was transmitted. The tape "arrived just a few minutes before transmission."[12]

All of the episodes, including those completed after Adams's death, are referred to as 'Fits,' after Lewis Carroll's "The Hunting of the Snark: an Agony, in Eight Fits". In 1981, upon a rebroadcast of the twelve episodes of the first two series, it was decided that the Christmas episode, which previously had no episode number, would be called "Fit the Seventh" and the episodes in the second series, which had first been billed as Fit the First through Fit the Fifth (representing five parts of the second series) would become Fit the Eighth through Fit the Twelfth.[13]

The two series were first released on audio cassette and CD in 1988, marking the tenth anniversary of the first broadcast of the first episode. The two radio series were known simply as "the first series" and "the second series" until 1992 when the BBC made its first re-release in separate boxes as "The Primary Phase" and "The Secondary Phase." The episodes were released with those titles in 1993, and again in 1998, for the series' twentieth anniversary.

There were many other staff members of the BBC who worked on the first two radio series. Sound and effects for the BBC Radiophonic Workshop were by Paddy Kingsland, Dick Mills and Harry Parker. The Chief Sound Engineer was Alick Hale-Munro, and Anne Ling was the production secretary. The "Technical Team" is given as: Paul Hawdon, Lisa Braun (studio manager), Colin Duff (studio manager), Eric Young, Martha Knight, Max Alcock and John Whitehall.[14] Several of the sound effects recorded by Dick Mills for the first series were released on the album BBC Sound Effects No. 26 - Sci-Fi Sound Effects.

The twelve original radio episodes have been translated and transmitted in Finland, France, The Netherlands and Sweden. A German radio version of the first six radio episodes was transmitted in 1981. For full details, see The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as international phenomenon.

Radio series three, four and five

In November 2003, two years after Adams's death and 23 years after the production on the Secondary Phase had ceased, a new radio adaptation of Life, the Universe and Everything was announced. This would become the third series of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on radio. At the time of the announcement, it was stated that the original goal was to transmit the six part adaptation of the third novel starting in February 2004, with the remaining eight episodes comprising the final two novels to be transmitted in September 2004.[15] However, after the six episodes comprising the third series had been recorded by Above the Title Productions, a minor legal dispute erupted between the production company and The Walt Disney Company, which had started production on the Hitchhiker's movie, also in 2003. This led to a delay in transmitting the third series, which was reported in May 2004. The same report mentioned that the dispute also caused an immediate cessation in the production of series four and five.[16] Much later, it was revealed that the dispute centered over the online availability of the Tertiary Phase and its sequels.[17] Eventually a deal was worked out, and the Tertiary Phase began broadcasting on BBC Radio 4 on 21 September 2004.

These new episodes reunited most of the living original cast. The parts of The Book, Eddie the Computer and Slartibartfast were recast to replace actors now deceased, with William Franklyn, Roger Gregg and Richard Griffiths taking over these three roles, respectively. Peter Jones, the original narrator, had died in 2000; Richard Vernon, the original Slartibartfast, had died in 1997; and David Tate, who had voiced Eddie the Computer (among many other roles), had died in 1996.[18] Bill Wallis, who played Mr. Prosser and Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz in the original series, was unavailable, and Toby Longworth took the role of Jeltz in the new series. John Marsh, who had been the continuity announcer for Fits Two through Twelve, was rehired to reprise this role.[19] In another continuity nod, the term 'Fit' is still used in place of 'episode.'

Each episode was broadcast on a Tuesday afternoon, repeated on a Thursday evening, and audio streams in RealPlayer and Windows Media formats (including versions in a 5.1 surround mix) were made available on Radio 4's website until the following Thursday. A 3-CD set of the Tertiary Phase was released in mid-October 2004, before the final episodes were broadcast. These CDs contain extended material, previously cut to make 27-minute episodes for radio.

This production, as well as adaptations for books four and five, were adapted, directed, and co-produced by Dirk Maggs. Maggs had previously consulted with Adams on potential radio adaptations for the final three books in 1993 and 1997. The project was re-started in September 2001 by Maggs, Helen Chattwell and Bruce Hyman, with help from Jane Belson and Ed Victor.

The six-part "Tertiary Phase" was broadcast in September and October 2004. The four-part "Quandary Phase" was broadcast in May 2005, and the four-part "Quintessential Phase" was broadcast immediately following, in May and June 2005.[20] A 2-CD set of the Quandary Phase was released at the end of May 2005, and a 2-CD set of the Quintessential Phase was released at the end of June 2005. Both sets again include material that was originally cut for reasons of timing.[21]

Maggs stated in the new script book that he felt bound by his promise to Douglas Adams to allow the scripts of the Tertiary Phase to closely follow the plot of the third book. He further said, "I myself was willing to give the Tertiary Phase 7 out of 10 on the grounds that I was a little too reverential to the text and the pace suffered as a result."[22] But in adapting the final two novels, the only instructions Maggs got from Adams was "They don't need more than four episodes each."[22] Thus Maggs was able to use many of the major plot elements of the final two books (though not necessarily in the same order), and attempt to reconnect plot threads from all five radio series.

After the fifth series

A script book for the final fourteen episodes was released in July 2005. The book is entitled The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Radio Scripts: The Tertiary, Quandary and Quintessential Phases. Dirk Maggs writes in his introduction that the "book is a companion volume to The Original Radio Scripts...."[23]

A box set entitled The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The Complete Radio Series was released on 3 October 2005.[24] It contains fifteen CDs, subdivided per radio series, and bonus material exclusive to the box set. BBC Audio released a DVD version of the Tertiary Phase, featuring that series in 5.1 surround sound, in October 2006.[25] Contrary to previous announcements, this was merely a DVD-Video disc with Dolby Digital sound and other features, rather than a DVD-Audio disc. While it had been stated that BBC Audio plans on also releasing the fourth and fifth radio series on DVD, no dates have been set.

Special editions of the Primary and Secondary Phases have been announced by the BBC for release in November 2008. These have, according to the BBC, been given "a thorough clean-up and remaster" by Dirk Maggs. This includes using the new Philip Pope signature tune, so the material can be released worldwide, which has required John Marsh to re-record his announcements so they could be mixed in. Cleaning up the recordings aims to reduce the hiss produced by the overdubbing in the original and also re-levelling the episodes to produce a greater clarity in the sound.[26]

Music used in the series

One of Adams's stated goals was to be experimental in the use of sound,[27] thus the use of stereo sound (which he later said that before Hitchhiker's it was deemed impossible and after Hitchhiker's it was made compulsory in radio comedy). Being a fan of Pink Floyd and the Beatles (and especially the experimental albums both bands produced in the late 1960s and early 1970s) Adams also wanted to incorporate other bits of music from a variety of artists. This was only achieved during the first series. There were, naturally, some problems with copyrights (see "Musical copyrights" below, for more). During the second series, Paddy Kingsland was commissioned to provide background music, and in the third through fifth series, that role was given to Paul 'Wix' Wickens.

For the CD and cassette releases of the Tertiary Phase in the United States, and all CD and cassette releases of the Quandary and Quintessential Phases, the instrumental title theme, "Journey of the Sorcerer," composed by Bernie Leadon and originally recorded by US country-rock band The Eagles, was re-interpreted by The Illegal Eagles, a tribute band, using an arrangement by Philip Pope. This was done due to licensing reasons (though the original track was used for the original radio transmissions and the on-demand downloads).[28] In a 2005 interview with Simon Jones the use of this song was discussed, and it was mentioned as a major cause for the delay in releasing recordings of the new series in the United States.[29][30]

In the book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The Original Radio Scripts, excerpts from these other musical pieces are acknowledged (in order of use):


Musical copyrights

A scene from Fit the Third in which the characters step out onto Magrathea was cut from commercially released recordings of the radio series, because it featured copyrighted music. The character of Marvin "hums" like Pink Floyd, using the opening to "Shine on You Crazy Diamond", then "sings" "Rock and Roll Music" by the Beatles, and finally the theme music from 2001: A Space Odyssey, the opening "Sunrise" movement from Richard Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra. It would have been very cost prohibitive in the 1980s to get clearances to release a recording of Fit the Third with this music, though agreements were reached on most of the rest of the copyrighted music used during the first series. As a result, all commercial recordings of Fit the Third are about two minutes shorter than other episodes. Recordings of the original radio broadcasts still contain it.[40]

A variation of this scene was re-recorded for the LP, using music that "sounds" like Pink Floyd without actually being taken from any of their albums. This made Arthur's line "Do you realise that robot can hum like Pink Floyd?" literally true. The next bit, about the Beatles, is left out, but as Zaphod is announcing that he discovered a way into Magrathea, the "Zarathustra" introduction/theme is played again (using a synthesiser).

Sequences inspired by real events

One sequence that occurs only in The Secondary Phase is a plot revolving around shoes and the "Shoe Event Horizon." This is mainly cut down in the second novel, but was based on Adams's own problems in trying to find a pair of shoes.[41]

Another real-life event when Adams was trying to fly from London to Leeds and the plane was delayed because in-flight snacks (first a bar, and then coffee and biscuits) had not been delivered, similarly inspired the story of the space liner delayed for 900 years because it lacked a supply of "lemon soaked paper napkins". Adams stated that he could have taken the train, but had hoped to save some time by flying. As the flight in question arrived half an hour late, he lost that advantage.[42]

Rebroadcasts and recordings

The complete first series was rebroadcast twice in 1978, and once in 1979. The complete second series was rebroadcast once in 1980, and the complete original run of 12 episodes was broadcast twice over a twelve-week period, once from April to June, 1981 and the second time from the end of March to the start of June, 1983.[43]

In 1988, the first two radio series were the first programmes of any kind released on CD by the BBC Radio Collection.[44] In 2001, they became the first programmes of any kind re-released by the BBC Radio Collection in an MP3-CD format.[44]


  • Imperial Tobacco Award (1978)
  • The Sony Award (1979)
  • The Society of Authors/Pye Awards 'Best Programme for Young People' (1980)
  • Mark Time Awards 'Grand Master Award' (Adams) and 'Hall of Fame' (1998)

Also, it was the only radio show ever to be nominated for the Hugo science fiction awards, in 1979, in the 'Best Dramatic Presentation' category.


  1. ^ The spelling of Hitchhiker's Guide has varied in different editions. For consistency this article always spells it this way. See Spelling of Hitchhiker's Guide.
  2. ^ Adams, Douglas. (2004). The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: 25th Anniversary Illustrated Collector's Edition. Introduction by M.J. Simpson. Harmony Books. p. 38. ISBN 1-4000-5293-9. 
  3. ^ Adams, Douglas. (2005). Dirk Maggs, dramatisations and editor.. ed. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Radio Scripts: The Tertiary, Quandary and Quintessential Phases. Pan Books. p. xiv. ISBN 0-330-43510-8. 
  4. ^ Webchat with Dirk Maggs 16 June 2005. Accessed 5 December 2006.
  5. ^ forum discussion on the October 2006 release of the "Tertiary Phase" DVD.
  6. ^ Webb, Nick (2005). Wish You Were Here: The Official Biography of Douglas Adams (First US hardcover ed.). Ballantine Books. p. 100. ISBN 0-345-47650-6. 
  7. ^ Simpson, M. J. (2003). Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams (First U.S. ed.). Justin Charles & Co.. pp. 339–340. ISBN 1-932112-17-0. 
  8. ^ Gaiman, Neil (2003). Don't Panic: Douglas Adams and the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". Titan Books. pp. 208–211. ISBN 1-84023-742-2. 
  9. ^ a b Adams, Douglas. (2003). Geoffrey Perkins (ed.), additional Material by M. J. Simpson.. ed. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The Original Radio Scripts (25th Anniversary ed.). Pan Books. p. 32. ISBN 0-330-41957-9. 
  10. ^ Adams. Perkins (ed.) Additional material by M.J. Simpson. Page 147.
  11. ^ Pixley, Andrew (October 2004). "One Step Beyond". Doctor Who Magazine: Special Edition (#9: The Complete Fourth Doctor Volume Two): Pages 29–34. ISSN 0963-1275. 
  12. ^ Adams. Perkins (ed.) Additional material by M.J. Simpson. Page 246
  13. ^ Adams. Perkins (ed.) Additional material by M.J. Simpson. Page 253
  14. ^ Webb, pages 329–330.
  15. ^ Dominic May, editor (November 2003). "The TV Zone News: The Guide, Part Three". TV Zone (170): Page 10. ISSN 0957-3844. 
  16. ^ Steve O'Brien, editor (May 2004). "Strange Tales: New Hitchhiker's Postponed". SFX (117): Page 16. 
  17. ^ Webb, page 324.
  18. ^ Adams. Maggs, (ed.), pages viii-x.
  19. ^ Ibid. Page 23.
  20. ^ Episode Synopses, including original broadcast dates and times, on the BBC Radio 4 Hitchhiker's Guide page.
  21. ^ Web chat with Dirk Maggs from 22 June 2005, which discussed the material cut for broadcast but included on cassette and CD releases.
  22. ^ a b Adams. Maggs, (ed.), page 149.
  23. ^ Ibid., page xv.
  24. ^ BBC Shop page for "The Complete Radio Series" set, including release date.
  25. ^ BBC Shop page for the Tertiary Phase DVD.
  26. ^ News item in ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha magazine, Mostly Harmless, issue #109, July 2008
  27. ^ Adams. Perkins (ed.) Additional material by M.J. Simpson. Page 12
  28. ^ BBC Radio 4 Hitchhiker's Production Diary entry by Dirk Maggs. Accessed 3 August 2006
  29. ^ Interview with Simon Jones at the Friends of Old Time Radio convention, 21 October 2005. Accessed 9 August 2006.
  30. ^ Hitchhiker's Guide production diary entry for 22nd October (towards the end of the web page). Accessed 13 August 2006.
  31. ^ Adams. Perkins (ed.) Additional material by M.J. Simpson. Page 33.
  32. ^ Adams. Perkins (ed.) Additional material by M.J. Simpson. Page 51.
  33. ^ Adams. Perkins (ed.) Additional material by M.J. Simpson. Page 62.
  34. ^ Adams. Perkins (ed.) Additional material by M.J. Simpson. Page 63.
  35. ^ Adams. Perkins (ed.) Additional material by M.J. Simpson. Page 71.
  36. ^ Adams. Perkins (ed.) Additional material by M.J. Simpson. Page 88.
  37. ^ Adams. Perkins (ed.) Additional material by M.J. Simpson. Page 107.
  38. ^ Adams. Perkins (ed.) Additional material by M.J. Simpson. Page 128.
  39. ^ Adams. Perkins (ed.) Additional material by M.J. Simpson. Page 127.
  40. ^ Website with a digital version of an original, off-air recording of "Fit the Third", which contains the scene deleted from all commercial releases, due to musical copyrights. Accessed 9 August 2006.
  41. ^ Adams. Perkins (ed.) Additional material by M.J. Simpson. Page 227.
  42. ^ Ibid. Page 247.
  43. ^ Ibid. Page 252.
  44. ^ a b Simpson, M. J. (2005). The Pocket Essential Hitchhiker's Guide (Second ed.). Pocket Essentials. p. 83. ISBN 1-904048-46-3. 


  • The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Part One, 2 LP set. Hannibal Records, 1982, HNBL2301.
  • The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy Part Two: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, LP. Hannibal Records, 1982, HNBL 1307.
  • Adams, Douglas (1986). The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (U.S. audiocassette edition of the double LP adaptation ed.). Simon & Schuster Audioworks. ISBN 0-671-62964-6. 
  • Adams, Douglas (1986). The Restaurant at the end of the Universe (U.S. audiocassette edition of the LP adaptation ed.). Simon & Schuster Audioworks. ISBN 0-671-62958-1.  Note: This title is correct - Simon & Schuster did not capitalise the word "End" on the cassette release, though it was capitalised for the U.S. book releases.
  • The Guide to Twenty Years' Hitchhiking Radio 4 programme, broadcast 5 March 1998.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy UK DVD release, featuring a behind-the-scenes look at "Fit the Ninth." BBC Video, catalogue number BBCDVD 1092.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Collector's Edition 8 CD set, containing the original 12 radio episodes from 1978 and 1980, as well as an untransmitted interview with Ian Johnstone and the twentieth anniversary programme. ISBN 0-563-47702-4.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The Tertiary Phase 3 CD set. ISBN 0-563-51043-9.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The Quandary Phase 2 CD set. ISBN 0-563-50496-X.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The Quintessential Phase 2 CD set. ISBN 0-563-50407-2.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The Complete Radio Series ISBN 0-563-50419-6.

External links


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