I remember looking forward to watching The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy when
I was very young. After Star Wars, anything science fiction quickly caught my
interest. When the local PBS station began broadcasting the Tom Baker Dr. Who
episodes I was immediately hooked. Later, I caught Guide and was likewise entranced
by the sci-fi aspects. Only later would I truly appreciate its intelligent blend
of humor and wit. My older cousin introduced me to Douglas Adams years later and
after that I eagerly read all the library had of his work.
Guide was a decidedly British adaptation of Douglas' most well known work and
still serves as an entertaining and intelligently humorous viewing. For those
unfamiliar (shame on you) with the plot, it's can be explained simply as a fish-out-of-water
story. Arthur Dent is amicable chap who simply doesn't want his house demolished
in order for a freeway to be built. While lying in front of the bulldozer he's
approached by interstellar author and field-guide explorer Ford Prefect. He
informs Arthur that the Earth is about to be demolished in order to make way
for a hyperspace bypass.
Ford decides to save his friend by hitching a ride on the Vogon destroyer fleet
that demolishes the Earth. He reveals to Dent that he's a field researcher for
the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy updated edition that got stuck on Earth.
The pair hitchhikes their way across the galaxy with their latest ride, the
two-headed, three-armed Zaphod Beeblebrox and Trillian. Together, the group
scours the galaxy looking for Pan Galactic Gargleblasters, Babelfish, and the
answer to the question for the meaning of life.
Dated by today's standards, the special effects are crude. If you've seen an
episode of Dr. Who, then you know what to expect. Budget restraints and technology
at the time allowed for very little and thankfully most was spent animating
the various bits that are supposedly from the Hitchhiker's Guide. The hand-drawn
animation was done in a computerized style the eerily echoes the World Wide
Web of today.
Don't pass this disc up because of dated technology or effects. The real draw
here is the interpretations that have been given to Douglas' work. Always witty
and sharp, few could match his written conversation style. For younger readers,
it would compare to a sci-fi geek version of Kevin Smith's dialog aimed at an
educated audience. Visually dated but still as fun as Monty Python, Black Adder,
or any of the best the British humor has to offer.
Video: This has to be the most disappointing transfer I've
seen on a DVD in quite some time. Similar to other BBC releases (Lord Peter
Wimsey) this transfers looks to have come straight from an EP VHS recording.
There is no definition to the image is blurred. Considering the time this was
produced-1981-this is likely the reason, but some restoration would have been
Audio: A digital stereo mix sounds good enough, but again
suffers from its age. The audio often times is isolated to a single left or
right channel. All the audio associated with the actual Hitchhiker's Guide is
presented sole on the right channel. It's perfectly audible, but annoying at
Extras: This is where this set really shines and puts its
best foot forward. A second disc is devoted to tons of extras. An animated galaxy
represents the menu and individual planets represent the features. First up
is Kevin Davies Making of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Originally broadcast
in 1993, it offers an exhaustive look at the people that made the original broadcast
possible. Everything from the making of the animation to the advance (at the
time) prosthetic that was Zaphod's extra head is shown in detail. Watch closely
and you'll learn what other body part Zaphod had more than one of. Don't Panic
adds another 20 minutes of footage from the documentary. Like deleted scenes,
it's not the best of the material, but interesting nonetheless.
The Douglas Adams Omnibus is a short that features clips and comments from
his many admirers. Made shortly after his death, it's a great look at his career.
An Introduction by Peter Jones is a short introduction by the voice of the book
that was screened originally before the first episode at the National Film Theater.
Communicate is another BBC short that documents the rehearsal of the radio play.
It's an interesting look at the talent that goes into the production of an audio
only version of the story.
Also included on the disc are the original trailer for the series, a deleted
scene from episode 2, Behind-the-Scenes in another look at the radio recording
as the groups studio time starts to run out, out-takes are bloopers that are
occasionally funny, and a photo gallery. Tomorrow's World is an episode of the
BBC science program that details the workings of Zaphod's second head. Pebble
at the Mill is footage of animator Peter Lord and producer Alan J. W. Bell on
that program of the same name. Hidden on the first menu screen is also the full
30-second opening credit sequence.
Overall: A great program plagued by a less than stellar transfer
is still amazingly entertaining. Definitely a disc for all Hitchhiker lovers
to pick up and spend some time with. Until a better film version comes along,
this remains a classic, twangy banjo synthesizer theme and all.