The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Further Radio Scripts Read online

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  For Douglas


  Foreword by Simon Jones

  Introduction by Bruce Hyman

  Introduction by Dirk Maggs

  Notes from the Cast




  Complete Cast and Production List

  Transmission Dates

  Foreword by Simon Jones

  Well, Douglas, old bean, I know you’d find it hard to believe this, but we’ve done it. It’s taken nearly a quarter of a century to do it, and it’s an evil injustice that you weren’t here to see it, but the job’s done. The entire saga of Arthur Dent, as I like to think of it, has now been recorded for the world’s auricular pleasure, and here are the scripts to prove it.

  I’d like to say that I always knew we’d make it across the finish line. I’d like to, but it would be a lie. I really had my doubts. In fact, I gave it the same odds as a snowball’s chance in hell.

  I’m not sure you ever knew, but after the second series Peter Jones and I made it a habit to meet for an annual lunch. Needless to say we would soon get around to weighing the latest rumours of a recording reunion, and usually ended up dismissing them as fantasy. In 1994 our rendezvous, at Peter’s suggestion, was at the Explorers’ Club, and we greeted each other in a state of high excitement. You had indicated to me that there just might be a further series, and, more concretely, a radio producer with the suitably science-fiction name of Dirk Maggs had been contacting the cast to check our availability. Peter was feeling particularly available at the time, and, come to think of it, so was I.

  But, alas, it was not to be – at least, not then. You weren’t at all keen on the scripts that a third party had written, and having no time yourself to produce them, the moment passed. I recently found a letter from Peter in a long-neglected desk drawer – he hardly ever wrote letters, so I kept it for its rarity. (Actually, at the time, that wasn’t a consideration; I simply never throw anything away.) It’s dated December 22nd 1994, and says, among other things, ‘I hear from Dirk Maggs that there’s not much chance of a radio series as Douglas is working on a script for a film.’

  Film was the medium you wanted to crack, and the more it remained closed to you, the more you became determined to see it achieved.

  At that time also you were saying that you wanted to move on from Hitchhiker’s, and making a radio series out of what you’d already published seemed too much like a step backwards. After all, the first two books had come as a result of the story’s popularity on radio, hadn’t they? The last three sprang fully-formed straight onto the printed page. (Well, not exactly ‘sprang’; they were cajoled, bullied, you might even say tortured out of you by grimly determined editors, while you listened to the gentle ‘whooshing’ of deadlines passing by.)

  As the years passed, my lunches with Peter became more concerned with talk about other things, including whether your pursuit of ‘the movie’ would ever come to anything and, if it did, whether we’d be too old to appear in it. Time continued to pass. Then the old team started to lose members – David Tate (the voice of Eddie the shipboard computer), Richard Vernon (Slartibartfast) and then Peter himself. I decided it was all over.

  But Dirk stayed with it. He refused to be discouraged, though even he too must have lost hope when we were all hit by the ultimate disaster in May 2001 – your shockingly sudden death. He became, if anything, more determined to complete the work – as a tribute to you.

  Ironic, isn’t it, that the whole idea truly came back to life at your memorial service, the following September, when he had a talk with your friend Bruce Hyman. It turned out that Bruce shared Dirk’s vision for the project, and was eager to proceed as soon as possible, as a tribute to you.

  So it was with mixed emotions that I turned up that November morning in 2003 at the Sound House. I was furious that you weren’t going to be there, saddened by the similar absence of three old chums, anxious to hitch up with the others, and blissfully happy to be putting on the dressing-gown, literally and metaphorically, of good old Arthur Dent.

  Incidentally, for all these years when it’s crossed my mind, it’s been a bit of a puzzler as to whether I could truly be, along with the likes of Christopher Robin Milne, Alice Liddell, and Peter Llewellyn-Davies, the unwitting inspiration for an enduring character of fiction. Just about the same time I found the letter from Peter, I also discovered a poster for the first three paperback novels of Hitchhiker’s. You had, in an even more expansive moment than usual, autographed it with the following dedication: ‘To Arthur, both in origination and realization, you will probably end up wishing I hadn’t signed this but here’s my signature anyway, love, Douglas.’ I have absolutely no memory of when you wrote that, so I can only assume that it was one of those evenings of which nobody present would have much recollection when the sun rose the following morning. However, I did begin to wonder, after speaking at the funeral and the memorial and reading the excellent biographies of you by Mike Simpson and Nick Webb, whether Arthur isn’t in a good part actually you. For example, you were the champion bath-taker, though it is true that I tend to avoid showers even when in America, where hardly anyone takes a bath (if you see what I mean). I hardly ever drink coffee and complain vigorously if my cuppa isn’t up to scratch. But there are other Arthurian characteristics that seem definitely more you than me. Whatever the truth of it, I perpetually thank my lucky stars that I treated you decently that day in Cambridge, when we were both undergraduates and you came to audition for the Footlights. I hardly knew you then but I really did think your sketch was funny – much more so than the pseudo-intellectual claptrap I’d had to endure before you arrived.

  But that’s ancient history.

  What were the recording sessions like? Well, for me they were unalloyed pleasure. I was relieved to find that the years had been kind to those of us who remained. Susan Sheridan, whom I hadn’t seen in an age, looked exactly the same – younger, perhaps. Geoff McGivern and Mark Wing-Davey I’d seen frequently over the years, so if they’ve deteriorated I’ve not noticed. I would, and I’m sure they would, prefer to say they’d matured, like fine old bottles of port. I have to admit, having lost most of my hair, and seen the remnant turn grey, that I felt more battle-scarred than the rest. But regardless of how we look, we sounded exactly the same, and thanks to the miracle of radio we were, and are, the same people we ever were. By the way, Dirk says he applied some arcane electronic test that proves my voice has dropped a semitone in the intervening