For those of you unfamiliar with Oolon Colluphid, he/she/they/it is/was the author of the "trilogy of philosophical blockbusters" entitled “Where God Went Wrong,” “Some More of God's Greatest Mistakes,” and “Who is This God Person Anyway?” Well, he/she/they/it would be or is (depending on how you want to look at it) in the world of the sadly-missed genius, Douglas Adams.
And for those of you unfamiliar with the genius that was Douglas Noel Adams (hereafter occasionally referred to as DNA), let me explain.
DNA created a radio series called The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. This is a straightforward tale of planetary destruction, intergalactic hitch-hiking and very bad poetry. It first aired on BBC Radio 4 back in 1978. As blockbusters go, it was a doozy.
The story begins with our hero, Arthur Dent (or rather our everyday mister average), waking up to find that his house is about to be demolished to make way for a motorway by-pass; soon, he’ll discover that his planet is about to suffer a similar fate. His friend, Ford Prefect (he picked the name because he thought it would make him blend in easier with the inhabitants of the planet he accidentally became stranded on), visits him and suggest they go to the pub, wherein several pints of beer will make the matter transporting onto one of the alien space ships currently orbiting earth and hanging the air in the way that bricks don’t easier.
There are packets of nuts involved as well, but it’s pretty much alcohol, matter transportation, and green bug-eyed monsters after that. Oh and Arthur discovers that his friend is not from Guildford in Surrey after all but from a planet in the vicinity of the star Betelgeuse. (Let’s face it, that’s an easy mistake to make.) He’ll also encounter Vogon poetry (the worst kind in this or any other solar system), the two-headed former president of the galaxy (Zaphod Beeblebrox), the infinite improbability drive, and the most depressed and depressing paranoid android (who goes by the name of Marvin) that was ever his misfortune to encounter.
After “The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy,” there was “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe” where our heroes (Arthur, Ford, Zaphod, and Marvin) arrive at Milliways to see the end of the universe. After that, the story continues with “Life the Universe and Everything,” “So Long and Thanks for All the Fish,” and finally “Mostly Harmless”.
I had the privilege to see THHGTTG performed live at the Playhouse Theatre in Edinburgh with the original radio actors playing Arthur (Simon Jones) and Ford (Geoffrey McGivern). Filling the boots of two-headed former president of the galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox (once described as the best bang since the big one by Eccentrica Gallumbits, the triple-breasted whore of Eroticon Six), was musical/comedy performer and major Doctor Who fan boy, Mitch Benn. Providing vocals for Marvin the paranoid android was Stephen Moore who also performed the same task on the original radio broadcasts.
It was a lot of fun. Some people even turned up in their dressing gowns. (I haven’t explained that Arthur spends the entire story -- all five books -- in his night clothes and dressing gown, have I? Well he does.)
However, DNA didn’t stop there. There was “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency,” and the follow up to that -- “The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul” -- and then the non-Hitchhiker/Dirk Gently “Starship Titanic.”
Also, Adams was also responsible in one way or another for some of the best story lines in the Tom Baker years of Doctor Who. Writing and script editing on the following stories:
- The Destiny of the Daleks by Terry Nation (Script Editor Douglas Adams);
- Shada by Douglas Adams (Script Editor Douglas Adams, although un-broadcast on TV it did appear as a Big Finish audio adaptation starring Paul McGann);
- The Pirate Planet; and
- The City of Death (co-written with Graham Williams based on a story by David Fisher)
If you haven’t read any of Douglas Adams’ books or books based on his work, I would heartily recommend them. Just as a reminder I’ll list the books and dates of publication.
The Arthur Dent Trilogy (in Five Parts)
- The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy (1979)
- The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980)
- Life the Universe and Everything (1982)
- So Long and Thanks for all the Fish (1984)
- Young Zaphod Plays it Safe (short story – 1986)
- Mostly Harmless (1992)
- Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (1987)
- The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul (1988)
- The Meaning of Liff with John Lloyd (1983)
- The Deeper Meaning of Liff with John Lloyd (1990)
- Last Chance to See with Mark Carwardine (1990)
- Douglas Adams’s Starship Titanic by Terry Jones based on an idea by Douglas Adams (1997)
There is so much more, but those are the diamonds in the crown.
Sadly, DNA died of a heart attack at the young age of 49. His remains are buried in Highgate Cemetery in London. Adams was such an influence in the lives of many so much so that the Minor Planet Centre named an asteroid 18610 Arthurdent in his honour.