Arthur Dent is stranded on prehistoric Earth with one-time
researcher for the guide Ford Prefect, except Ford has gone
walkabout leaving Arthur with no-one to talk to but the trees.
Just as he's making an executive decision to go mad, Ford
returns blabbering about sub-ether waves and the space/time
continuum. A Chesterfield sofa appears and starts swirling
around. When Ford has them chase it and jump on it deposits
them through time to the middle of Lords cricket field, during
an Ashes match between England and Australia. It turns out
that it's the day before the Earth is due to be demolished
to make way for an interstellar by-pass. Slartibartfast shows
up in a strange new spacecraft, but so does a team of cricket-clad
homicidal robots called Krikkits. As Arthur and Ford make
their escape, Slartibartfast appears overly desperate to obtain
the Ashes. Very soon Arthur finds himself dragged along on
a reluctant journey to save the universe, and he doesn't even
have time for a nice cup of tea and a cucumber sandwich...
anyone who's spent the last 25 years somewhere in the vicinity
of Betelgeuse this is the third in the series of The Hitchhiker's
Guide to the Galaxy BBC radio dramatisations based on
characters and situations created by Douglas Adams. It follows
on from the two highly successful serials of the late seventies
and eighties. In fact, The Tertiary Phase is the first
to be adapted from the book version. I have to say I dislike
the latter day renaming of these to The Primary, Secondary,
and in this case Tertiary Phase; why can't the BBC
just stick with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The
Restaurant at the End of the Universe, and Life, the
Universe and Everything?
Some people, I'm certain, will complain about the apparent
lack of continuity between the last series and this, but the
truth is adapter, director and co-producer Dirk Maggs faced
a difficult problem. The second radio series didn't follow
the precise plotlines of the second book, and they have completely
different endings. Although Dirk undoubtedly possesses the
writing experience and ability to manipulate the story around
to bridge the gap, Douglas Adams is said to have had no worries
about continuity. Therefore, with a limited running time it
was probably the right decision to crack on with this story.
So we have Zaphod Beeblebrox suffering a double-psychotic
episode, running off to Ursa Minor to prove some conspiracy
theory, only to be found days later wandering the corridors
of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy building looking for
Zarniwoop, a free lunch and a stiff drink.
I tend to see all of these since the original to be further
(not necessarily linear) adventures for these imaginative
but easily identifiable characters. Although the main plot
is quirky and fun, it is also a clever manner in which to
link together countless crazy but somewhat logical observations
on... well, life, the universe and everything really. We get
to hear about planets, diverse races, spaceships, wars and
time travel. In the case of The Tertiary Phase: the
Campaign For Real Time, the Somebody Else's Problem Field,
the Principles of Non-absoluteness, and the Bistromatic Drive.
I tend to prefer the surreal conversations between Arthur
Dent and his alien friend Ford Prefect. My favourite kind
of humour is play on words, so you can perhaps understand
why I so enjoyed the following exchange.
"Why is there a sofa in that field?"
"I told you, eddies in the space/time continuum."
Arthur: "Then tell him to come and collect his sofa."
character which is never represented enough for my liking
is Marvin the Paranoid Android. Like a grumpy old man, Marvin
is a perfectly perpetually pessimistic manic-depressive (try
saying that when you've downed a few Pan-Galactic Gargleblasters!).
to reprise their roles is Simon Jones as Arthur Dent, Geoffrey
McGivern as Ford Prefect, Mark Wing-Davey as Zaphod Beeblebrox,
Susan Sheridan as Trillian and Stephen Moore as the marvellous
Marvin the Paranoid Android. Joining the cast is William Franklyn
as The Book and, among others, Richard Griffiths as Slartibartfast,
Joanna Lumley as the Sydney Opera House Woman, and Leslie
Phillips as Hactar.
As everyone with two heads knows, Douglas Adams was a mad
genius, and Dirk Maggs has done a fine job of adapting the
chaos for radio and bringing it to life. My first impression
when hearing this on radio was how the concept sounds modern
and yet not out of place with the first two serials. Further
demonstrating this fact Dirk has managed to incorporate Douglas
Adams' own book-reading portrayal of Agrajag. The sound effects
and atmospherics are well utilised and come across much better
on this 3-CD set than on radio. There's also an extra 20 minutes
of material not originally broadcast.
great return for the gang, but I have a feeling the best is
yet to come.
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