on 2 February 2002
This DVD double pack is a Great buy for all hitch hiker fans. I was impressed with the transfer and happy that the episodes are complete and not joined together like the last Video release some years back. All the episodes are on disc one and on disc two you have all the extras.
There are some extra scenes included that were left out to fit the time slot on TV so the length of each episode will differ.
The extras include over 9 minutes of out-takes plus a documentary or two and even a clip
about the famous Zaphod Beeblebrox's second head.
The menus on both discs are wonderful and well thought out and praise to the BBC for getting this title on the shelves.
on 17 January 2010
The TV series of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has had a mixed press over the years. It has its diehard fans, most of whom are people for whom it was their first contact with the world (or rather the universe) of Douglas Adams. My own first contact was with the second H2G2 book, Restaurant at the End of the Universe; I didn't know any of the backstory, but at the age of 10 I just knew that this was something that spoke to me on some very profound level.
I later acquired the LP records, then watched the TV show, then heard the radio series, and finally - like so many other people - watched the movie, by which time I was in my late 30s. I actually believe that the radio series is the sharpest, freshest, funniest, most brilliantly imaginative version of Hitchhiker. Adams had the knack of making up great radio gags, like Zaphod's second head, that just don't translate into visual terms. The TV series famously solved it by perching a not very good robot head on Mark Wing-Davey's right shoulder; the film had a different solution, and not necessarily a very convincing one. (I like Sam Rockwell as an actor and enjoyed his take on the character, but it wasn't much more than a clever Bill Clinton impersonation; for me Wing-Davey will always be the definitive Zaphod.)
The TV show had two great disadvantages from the start. One was that it was a BBC show, and was therefore low-budget by default. It would have taken a producer of genius to oversee a totally satisfying adaptation of the original radio series into a TV format within the very narrow budget that early 80s BBC shows were given. Unfortunately, Hitchhiker on TV didn't get a producer of genius. It got Alan J.W. Bell.
Bell was a perfectly competent producer, but he wasn't very sympathetic either to the material or its creator. He doggedly ploughed his way through the script and delivered the best he could do, but there's no denying that Hitchhiker on TV is relatively pedestrian compared to the original radio version (or even the LP re-recording issued by Original Records.) Some performances are not as lively as they might be, and given the fact that quite a lot of the cast were carried over from the original show (including Simon Jones, Stephen Moore, David Tate, Mark Wing-Davey and Richard Vernon) the only reason for this can be that Bell just wasn't very good.
Having said all that, the TV series has some lovely things. David Dixon is, for me, the best Ford Prefect there has ever been. There's something eerily inhuman about him that entirely conforms to Ford in the early books - the later Ford, as written, is an uncomplicated party animal, but the original conception of Ford was of a much more complex and unnerving character, and Dixon does a wonderful job of communicating that. Geoffrey McGivern, the audio Ford, was very funny but somewhat workmanlike. Mos Def, in the movie, was just strange. Dixon hits a pitch of easygoing weirdness that no other actor in the role has ever approached. (He is also the only actor ever to have delivered the line 'Drink up, the world's about to end' with anything resembling sadness.)
For all the low budget, some of the effects are truly memorable, such as the glorious sunrise at the beginning of episode 1 and the remarkable effects of the Magrathean factory floor. The best thing besides Dixon's lovely performance is, of course, the wonderfully witty 'computer graphics' of the Book, which were in fact animated the old-school way and had nothing to do with a computer at all. The blink-and-you'll-miss-it visual and verbal gags in the Book sections have inspired a host of shows since.
In the end, H2G2 fans pick the medium they prefer. I love the books the most only because they were the first medium through which I encountered Adams's universe. I admire the radio who more than the books because it's so perfect; I am very fond of the TV show because it's a bit of a miracle that it got made at all, and I like the movie for very much the same reason, although it has to be said that the movie is the least successful version of the story, because the story in the movie isn't really there.
Pay your money and take your choice.
on 17 August 2005
I have never understood the reasons for producing updated versions of classic films. Here we have the definitive version of the Hitchhikers Guide. Ok the special effects are not up to current standards, the actors were for the most part not well known and many still are not, but it has a script. It is funny, although in a thinking person's kind of way. Marvin still has the capacity to make me grin even after 25 years. Go on watch it!
on 28 January 2002
The two discs in the DVD set are one for the six parts of the show, three of which have been extended. There is a choice of English sub-titles or, more interestingly, on screen production notes which carry lots of interesting information, on locations etc, including the recipe for "Hagra Biscuits".
The second has all the other bits, such as "The Making of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" and other documentaries, and appearances on shows like "Pebble Mill at One" & "Tomorrow's World", there's even a deleted scene as well as the ubiquitous out-takes.
Yes the effects aren't up to modern standards, but we are talking of 1980, very much pre modern day computer graphics. Remember the "computer" graphics in H2G2 are actually dam good back lit amimations.
So sit back grab your towel (I've get one of the special towels) and enjoy.
There's no doubt that Hitch Hikers Guide is one of the smartest, funniest, most original and massively influencial sitcoms ever. But few people can agree on which is the best version. The Dr Who formula seems to apply to this ultimate question; the one you like best is probably the one you first came across (Tom Baker if you really must know). For me nothing beats the radio series, a friend is fanatical abot the novels. But the massive early 80's TV audience mean this is the version that first introduced Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect to millions of fans in the UK. Personally I think the TV series starts very well but gets a little sticky towards the end and doesn't quite finish with the same flourish that the other versions do. Some of the TV performances are a little bit wooden, most likely due to the crazy constrates put on the studios of the time by the trade unions meaning retakes were often not possible (something that is covered in the DVD extras).
The often praised animated elements of the show work well and make you feel walmly nostalgic for a era when BBC micro computers ruled the world (a time that never actually existed).
I would personally recommend the radio series over this version to fans who are new to the Hitch Hikers world as it tells the story better & the second series is a truely incredible piece of story telling and narrative subterfuge. The real reason to buy this DVD is the army of extra features. This is the Rolls Royce of DVD extras, including entertaining 'making of' documentaries & commentaries as well as some amazing original archive programs of the time.
It is however a little expensive considering you only get two discs. But fans new and old will be very happy with the overall package.
on 13 May 2005
After reading the Hitchhiker's guide to the galazy I couldn't wait to see if the Tv series was any good, and it is. I laughed so much! and even though the special effects are a bit out dated, the costumes are great (especially Marvin!) This dvd comes with some really good extras as well which I also throughly enjoyed watching. If you the like the books watch this.
P.s. Watch this before going to see the film!
It was this video adaptation of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy which introduced me to the comic genius of Douglas Adams. I saw the series before I ever read the books, so it is rather special to me (though by no means does it succeed as well as the actual written word). You have to love the campy, cheap feel to the whole production because it really seems to fit Douglas Adams so well. Some of the special effects are almost absurd, and Zaphod’s second head is just horrible and completely unreal. The sound quality is unfortunately rather poor at times, especially in the scenes involving the super computer Deep Thought. The presentation of the restaurant at the end of the galaxy, though, was well-done and quite memorable. Trillian, whom I thought was gorgeous in my younger days, is rather different than she is described in the books. Marvin the paranoid android is rather unimpressive in appearance but constantly steals the show for me with his incredibly depressed and often amazingly witty statements. David Dixon is terrific as Ford Prefect, but the true standout performance here is that of Douglas Adams’ old friend Simon Jones as Arthur Dent. I cannot imagine anyone ever picturing Arthur differently than he appears in this series; Simon Jones is Arthur Dent.
The story basically takes you through the experiences related in the first two books of the Hitchhiker’s Trilogy. The video is really amazingly faithful to the books, particularly in terms of the dialogue of the characters. Naturally, there are a few differences between the books and the video, but by and large the two go together hand in hand. It is unfortunate that the series ends where it does; the ending is something of a let-down and feels woefully incomplete, largely because it is woefully incomplete. Arthur Dent’s story is really just beginning by the time the video comes to an end. As a young teenager accidentally discovering this series on PBS, its effect on me was significant, opening up a whole new world of science fiction and comedy before my very eyes. I doubt that the series can have such a profound effect on anyone in today’s more modern world, and I fear that many will see the cheap special effects and dismiss the show out of hand. The genius of Douglas Adams is timeless and rests in the characters and amazingly witty dialogue; the special effects are basically unimportant. Adams will live forever, and this video is just one of his many delightful guises; may many watch it, delight in the foibles of the human race Douglas satirizes so well, and discover the magic of true comedy in its purest form.
on 23 February 2002
Now we know that the Hitchhiker's Guide will never get turned into a movie, this is the best visual memento we have of what might have been.
Unfortunately the six-episode BBC series has many flaws, not least of which was the casting of Sandra Dickinson as Trillian. Adams' finest moment was the first BBC radio series, broadcast in 1978, and his life after that regrettably was a series of missed deadlines and lesser works which never achieved the same standard of inventiveness.
Perhaps Adams recognised that fact himself in his later years, which was why he devoted much of his last months trying to persuade Disney to make that movie.
One of the eclectic features of the first radio series, which was missing in both the second and this TV adaptation, was the choice of original music extracts from the period. Gone are the nuggets from Patrick Moraz, Stomu Yamashta and Terry Riley, and in their place we get filler music from Paddy Kingsland, Tim Souster and the radiophonic workshop. OK, so the BBC is spared the problem of royalty payments, but their omission cuts a lot of atmosphere from the backing track.
This double-DVD set is instructive in the extras it contains: an hour-long documentary of the making of the TV Hitchhiker recorded in about 1993. It seemed impossible for any actor to fluff their lines without saying "Oh f*?!" -- that's what makes the DVD a '15' rating. The out-takes aren't particularly funny, and there's only one deleted scene. What we really wanted to hear about was how the idea for the Hitchhiker came about, but that is essentially the stuff of the project that came before the TV series, namely the radio programmes. Mention of them seems largely verboten in this package. We do get to see an early Douglas Adams sketch featuring Monty Python's Graham Chapman ...but the sketch isn't that funny.
We also get to hear a sample of the laughter track recorded for the first episode -- it's generated by a group of science fiction fans sitting far too close to a microphone. The BBC wisely decided to broadcast without the canned laughter.
The main problem with the extras is that there's not enough of Douglas, and too much of Alan Bell, the TV series producer who, many feel, wasn't quite the right choice to catch the atmosphere of Hitchhiker.
Anyway, try it for yourself. I've no regrets about buying the DVD. I already had the series on VHS video (and audio CD, and audio cassette, and book, and ...). Alongside 'Fawlty Towers' and 'Ripping Yarns', Hitchhiker was the best thing to emerge from British comedy in the 1970s.
The most telling aspect of the TV Hitchhiker is that very little of it is funny, after hearing the radio series. The radio Hitchhiker opened up endless possibilities. It was radio at its best, opening up our minds and imagination. Putting it down on video somehow seemed to confine everything. The jokes were nearly all the same as per the radio scripts, and yet they now rang hollow.
on 5 February 2002
The episodes themselves are great although I haven't been able to get the production notes displaying on a PC. However, the real greatness lies in the 2nd DVD. There is a load of good stuff about the Hitch-Hikers Guide, including a 1 hour documentary and the original BBC2 trailer. It also has an easter egg (see if you can find it) that shows the entire opening titles without and of the cast etc.. A must-buy and an excuse to invest in DVD if you already haven't.
on 31 May 2014
This BBC series managed to capture the essence of the laid-back writing style of the late Douglas Adams. How can understated and overt go hand in hand? This aspect of the author's writing is magically transferred to the screen to produce a thoroughly enjoyable feast for any Adams fan.
Okay, so the special effects are more 'Micky Mouse' than Spielberg, but that's part of the fun in this parabolic tale that will make you laugh and make you think about the parallels it draws. Highlighted by an excellent cast and the superb narration by Peter Jones this BBC version has absolutely everything that the more recent 'Big Screen' version sadly lacked.