News about Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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19th September 2004 (on this day)
Big changes coming to Magrathea
Tomorrow, if all goes according to plan, Magrathea will look different and be in a different place. It’s about time that the site had a redesign and, most importantly, an easily quotable URL. Check back here tomorrow for a link to the new site.

19th September 2004
Tertiary Phase party report, audio DVD news
Kevin Davies has written a detailed and entertaining report on the Tertiary Phase ‘wrap party’, at which the cast and crew listened to the first episode and extracts from later ones. You’ll find it here on Nicolas Botti’s Hitchhiker’s radio series site. Kevin includes some hopeful news about the proposed audio DVD release in Dolby 5.1 and including his video documentary of the making of the series: “Bruce Hyman, head honcho of Above The Title, welcomed us warmly and revealed some good news regarding the long-mooted Audio DVD of the series and the proposed video extras I’ve been waiting eagerly to begin assembling. It appears he has been negotiating with both the BBC and Disney (who control the forthcoming movie rights) and plans are now progressing nicely. Dirk also confirmed I’d be hearing from them shortly, as all the complex legal hassles had finally been dealt with.”

19th September 2004
More Tertiary Phase coverage: Sunday Times, Irish Times
The Sunday Times has followed its daily sister paper with an intelligent piece by Paul Donovan. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is dated in two ways,” he points out. “First, who now dares to hitchhike? And second, the theme of space travel harks back to the decade of Star Wars, which was also the last one in which man stepped on the moon. But it is not dated in its surrealism, its sense of madness allied to its implicit yearning for a better world, its juvenile word play, love of gibberish and jokes about Islington and saggy bottoms.”

Meanwhile I have got hold of Roger Gregg’s piece for the Irish Times, thanks to Michael Carroll. “Hitchhiker was revolutionary for not only was Adams’s hybrid of sci-fi-comedy-adventure a radical and very funny innovation for British radio, his notes for the sound design were as bold as his plot lines,” writes Roger. “It was the first BBC radio comedy to be recorded in stereo, to use layers of music, and to consciously exploit the image-creating possibilities of audio production. Adams had set out to create the kind of rich soundscapes he knew so well from Sergeant Pepper and Pink Floyd – soundscapes of which most radio drama productions were resoundingly bereft.”

18th September 2004
Good Tertiary Phase feature in The Times
Today’s Times has a good feature on the new series, including comments from Dirk Maggs and Simon Jones. “Maggs is just the man; he is the Phil Spector of Radio 4,” says Jones. “As in the Wall of Sound, that is. Not as in being accused of shooting your girlfriend.”

17th September 2004
Green thing returns on US WYWH cover
It is well documented that Douglas Adams really, really loathed the grinning green thing which his US publishers insisted on putting on all the American editions of the Hitchhiker’s books. He was very proud of the mid-1990s editions which finally dispensed with it and used the ball puzzle from the Illustrated Hitchhiker’s Guide instead. Sadly, less than a year after he died, ‘Jeremy Pacman’ was back on the cover of a new omnibus edition, The Penultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And now the ghastly green thing has the effrontery to appear on this awful and inappropriately Python-esque cover for the forthcoming American hardback of Nick Webb’s book Wish You Were Here which has recently turned up on Amazon.

16th September 2004
Roger Birnbaum speaks
Executive producer Roger Birnbaum, whose many other credits include Rush Hour, Reign of Fire and Unbreakable – and who was ranked as the 73rd most powerful person in Hollywood last year – has written a letter on the official movie site (it’s dated 10th September but only appeared yesterday). “I remember admiring Douglas’ loyalty toward the fans and his total dedication to writing a movie that would live up to their expectations,” he says. “For a generation of fans all over the world for whom hitchhiking has a special meaning, we are very proud to be associated with this film.”

16th September 2004
Roger Gregg writes in Irish Times
Roger Gregg, the Tertiary Phase’s Eddie the Computer, wrote a piece about the series for the Irish Times last week. Unfortunately, if you want to read the article (dated 9th September) on the newspaper’s website you will need to be a subscriber.

16th September 2004
Hitchhiker US paperback confirmed for April
My US publisher, Justin Charles & Co, has confirmed that the American paperback edition will be published on 1st April. No jokes please!

14th September 2004
Movie release date change? says that the release date for the movie has been brought forward a month to 6th May, while the Inaccurate Movie Database lists 6th May for the UK release but still says the US release will be 3rd June (they also list 8th June for France and 30th June for the Netherlands)*. Whatever anyone says, any release date is still provisional and liable to shift as other blockbusters (especially ones with Jedi Knights in them) shuffle around the calendar. However, I can confirm that the UK and US release will be simultaneous – what the industry calls ‘day and date’ – following star-studded premieres in both countries. The first trailer with footage is likely to appear five or six months ahead which would place it conveniently in ‘the Holiday Season’.
*As exclusively revealed on this site last month, the tie-in edition of the novel is listed, rather cryptically, on for publication on 6th May. This lends credence to Comingsoon’s report.

14th September 2004
Trillian’s genetics confirmed – she is half-alien!
Informed sources have confirmed that Premiere magazine’s reference to Trillian as ‘half-human, half-alien’ is true. She does have some extraterrestrial DNA, although it’s not a major plot point and doesn’t alter her character. What it does do is clear up a minor plot hole.

14th September 2004
Tertiary Phase Radio Times on sale
The new issue of Radio Times is now on sale, cover dated 18th-24th September and with, coincidentally, Douglas Adams’ old friend Tom Baker on the cover. Inside is a feature about the Tertiary Phase with quotes from Dirk Maggs, Simon Jones and William Franklyn, and there is also a mention in the editor’s column. “Hitchhiker is old,” says a somewhat ambivalent review on page 122. “What felt like incredibly sharp, spiky comedy in 1978 sometimes feels just a bit like disconnected, self-referential and sometimes even schoolboy humour. But it’s event radio and quite brilliantly made.”

The main feature would have been larger if it had run back in February as planned but space restrictions have shortened it slightly. There are a couple of mistakes, notably a reference to the LPs as being produced by the BBC and a perpetuation of the myth that Douglas recorded Agrajag shortly before his death – but there is a nice plug for my book so I’m not complaining! Issues of RT featuring the first broadcast of the original radio series, second series and TV series are now very collectable so it may be worth buying two copies and keeping one safe for the next twenty years.

13th September 2004
Is the movie Trillian ‘half-alien’?
Thanks to Chris Cotton for spotting that on page 80 of the September issue of Premiere (with Colin Farrell on the cover) there is a short interview with Zooey Deschanel to promote her new film Eulogy. The final paragraph runs thus:

‘Next, she’ll play a drug-addicted waitress in Winter Passing and straddle two realms again as the half-human, half-alien scientist Trillian in the long-awaited screen version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. “We did a scene where these enemy Vogons fire at us,” she says of Hitchhiker’s. “I got hit by one of the fake bullets – it broke the skin, and I have a big welt. But” – her voice perks up, gears changing again – “I feel sort of proud of it. It’s like my little battle scar.”’

Significant scoop or lax journalism? Magrathea will investigate...

13th September 2004
Douglas Adams on HIGNFY 2 CD
According to the publicity, Douglas Adams is one of the panellists on a new double CD of Have I Got News For You that was released last week. However, as he was only in one show and didn’t say a great deal in that, it is likely that this is the same clip that is on Douglas Adams at the BBC.

12th September 2004
Under-researched Tertiary Phase feature in Mail on Sunday
As exclusively announced here last month, today’s Mail on Sunday carries a five-page feature on the Tertiary Phase in its Night and Day magazine. However, journalist Rob Waugh has not exactly put a lot of effort into his research because he thinks that the third book, on which the new series is based, is So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish. In addition, the text-only computer game is referred to as a ‘videogame’ throughout and the magazine’s caption writer hasn’t bothered checking how to spell ‘Trillian.’ Simon Jones and Dirk Maggs are both interviewed but to be honest neither says anything different to what they have said in other interviews and most of the photos used are from the TV series. Unlike most newspapers, the Mail on Sunday does not have an on-line edition so if you really want to read this you will need to check your local library’s copy.

6th September 2004
Radio 4 launches ‘Guide entry’ competition
There is a competition on the Radio 4 Tertiary Phase website, asking people to describe the Earth using exactly 264 words (262 more than ‘mostly harmless’). First prize is a digital radio and there are runners-up prizes of Tertiary Phase CD sets.

6th September 2004
Dirk Maggs interviewed in Cult Times
The new issue of Cult Times (no.108, with Smallville on the cover) includes a five-page interview with Dirk Maggs about the new radio series. It is, as they all seem to be, on page 42.

6th September 2004
DNA@BBC on sale
The three-CD set of Douglas Adams at the BBC goes on sale today, approximately two years after I first suggested the idea to BBC Worldwide. Although its release is being somewhat overshadowed by the Tertiary Phase and the movie, nevertheless this is an absolutely essential addition to every Hitchhiker’s Guide fan’s collection.

3rd September 2004
Two new Simon Jones interviews
Simon Jones has been busy doing interviews to promote the Tertiary Phase. There’s one on page 42 (of course) of the new issue of Dreamwatch (no.121, October 2004, with ‘New Season TV!’ on the cover) and another in the BBC Radio Programme Information newsletter for week 38 which is available in PDF format. In both interviews Simon also discusses the movie though he stops short of revealing his role. The PI interview perpetuates the myth that the Hitchhiker’s novel debuted at number one on the best-seller list and the Dreamwatch interview says the new series was recorded earlier this year but otherwise both are pretty accurate. Dreamwatch also mentions Hitchhiker’s Guide in a feature on TV series that should have run for longer.

1st September 2004
Vote for Zaphod and Marvin on Sky One site
As exclusively revealed here on 29th July, Zaphod Beeblebrox and Marvin are among the science fiction icons discussed in a new TV show on Sky One. Now the channel has created a site for the programme which has been snappily retitled Ultimate Sci-Fi Top Ten. The series kicks off with Ultimate Sci-Fi Top Ten Moments on 13th September (no Hitchhiker’s content*), then Ultimate Sci-Fi Top Ten Aliens (featuring Zaphod) on 20th and Ultimate Sci-Fi Top Ten Robots (featuring Marvin) on 27th. The site offers the chance to vote from a list of 30 possibilities in each category but rest assured that Zaphod and Marvin’s inclusion in the series is guaranteed.
* Milliways is included in the ‘Moments’ list on the site. You can vote for it all you want but it’s not in the programme!

1st September 2004
Duke of Dunstable set report on-line
Swedish superfan Jenz Kjellberg aka The Duke of Dunstable has finally been given the go-ahead to put his movie set visit report on-line. The good news is: it’s as enthusiastic as previous reports by myself, Jamie Freeman and others. The less good news, for those of you who have not been fortunate enough to see these things with your own eyes, is that Jenz is subject to the same reporting restrictions as the rest of us and so, apart from some hints at the appearance of the Vogons and their spaceship interior, it’s as frustratingly vague as all the other reports published so far...

1st September 2004
Graham Chapman biography on hold
Bob McCabe’s authorised biography of Graham Chapman, The Life of Graham – which will presumably include a look at Chapman’s writing partnership with Douglas Adams – has been indefinitely postponed. Although still shows the book as being published by Orion in October, David Sherlock tells me that the date has been put back and the publisher won’t be Orion.

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