Lion of the Blogosphere

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, 1981 BBC series

Every so often I re-watch this. It remind me of the first time watching this when I was in high school. The first time through, I missed the first episode; it was long before you could just watch a missed episode of anything on the internet. But in retrospect, the first episode is the worst of the bunch. You see, the most fun characters of the series are Zaphod Beeblebrox, Trillian, and Marvin the depressed robot, and they don’t appear until episode two. And unfortunately, they disappear (literally) ten minutes into episode six, leaving the final episode rather unsatisfying.

The actress who plays Trillian, the blonde-haired astrophysicist with the squeaky voice and air-headed demeanor, was 32-years old when this was filmed.

This time watching, I noticed that all of the characters are white. Even the aliens. Anyone who played anyone who resembled a human is white. Zaphod has two heads, but both heads are white. The only exception is one of the many background scenes: a black female scientist is seen for a brief moment.

I like the talking animal at the restaurant Milliways who’s the main dish, and is able to express his desire to be eaten.

ARTHUR I think it’s horrible. It’s the most revolting thing I’ve ever heard.

ZAPHOD Hey, what’s the problem Earth man?

ARTHUR I don’t want to eat an animal that’s lying there inviting me to. I think it’s heartless.

ZAPHOD It’s better than eating an animal that doesn’t want to be eaten.

The animal objects after Arthur asks for a green salad instead.

ARTHUR Is there any reason why I shouldn’t have a green salad?

ANIMAL I know many vegetables that are very clear on that point, sir. Which is why it was decided to cut through the whole tangled problem by breeding an animal that actually wanted to be eaten. And was capable of saying so, clearly and distinctly. And here I am.

When this was filmed, the idea of vegetables not wanting to be eaten was probably considered pretty far-fetched, but there was my recent blog post where I wrote about people talking on the internet about avoiding eating certain plants “because of the pain they suffer when we rip them out of the earth.” So what was absurd 35 years ago is today not so absurd.

* * *

Holy sh** When I wrote the above, I was completely unaware that in the 2005 movie version, Arthur’s friend Ford Prefect, the alien who looks exactly like a human such that Arthur was completely unaware his friend was an alien, is played by a black guy (rapper Mos Def).

Political correctness no longer allows all of the main characters of a movie to be white.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

July 1, 2017 at 11:20 pm

Posted in Television

24 Responses

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  1. Great books. Where can we purchase or stream this?

    K-Strategist

    July 2, 2017 at 1:02 am

  2. Not a big fan of it, but the movie version with Zooey Deschanel wasn’t bad. Have you seen it?

    Dave Pinsen

    July 2, 2017 at 1:53 am

  3. The original BBC radio series is in someways even funnier. I got it from Napster years ago, but I am sure it is around the internet somewhere. Personally I always thought the opening bits with Arthur and Ford are some of the funniest bits – at least in the radio series and the book.

    Peter Akuleyev

    July 2, 2017 at 5:58 am

  4. I loved the series and books as a child, even though they were not children’s books and a lot of it probably went over my head. The first episode was one of my favourites, especially the panic of the man wearing a ‘the end of the world is nigh’ sandwich board as he realises that the end of the world is actually nigh.

    I never had any intention of watching the film. It replaces white characters with black ones, is bound to have been modernised, Americanised, condensed and dumbed down in ways that makes the whole thing soulless and colourless. A big part of the humour of the original was the evocation of the petty beaurocracy and industrial disputes and other annoying aspects of British life of the time transposed into the world of space travel; all of which conspires to make Arthur Dent, the quintissential Englishman, grumbling and irritated yet ultimately accepting of the travails of life, oddly well equipped to survive in a space which turns out to be more like earth than we expected. Funny, I hadn’t actually realised that that was the joke of the series until I just wrote that sentence.

    prolier than thou

    July 2, 2017 at 8:03 am

  5. “Political correctness no longer allows all of the main characters of a movie to be white”.

    I think 80s pop culture was very creepy, but very “White” regardless. Nearly all the V reptilians were “White” dressed in Nazi uniforms with insignia. I can’t remember if any of them disguised themselves as black or Asian. They had an appetite for human flesh, where people (all of them were White) were rounded up in concentration camps to be frozen, and then uplifted to the ship’s storage unit. These space lizards also had a voracious appetite for live animals, where they would eat moving mice and birds. Something like this today would not pass as Kosher, where you’ll have all kinds of SJWs deriding it as racist, anti-semitic, cruel to animals, etc…

    A few precursors of this very hard to stomach show: the rise of the police state, and how corporations have infiltrated our political system and aligned themselves with politicians to make the general populace miserable.

    JS

    July 2, 2017 at 9:37 am

    • “These space lizards also had a voracious appetite for live animals, where they would eat moving mice and birds. Something like this today would not pass as Kosher”

      The birds would pass as kosher, but not the mice.

      • It’s quite amazing/scary how this show was aired on prime time TV, and kids would watch it. You have a few notable B actors like Jane Bader (I think she’s Jewish), who is a native New Yorker, and she played the commandering lizard lady, John Herd (2nd in command, known for his role in TJ Hooker with William Shatner) and pre-Freddy Cougar, Robert England (also Jewish), one of the good extraterrestrials.

        JS

        July 2, 2017 at 9:53 am

      • Unlike today, when prime-time TV shows have under-18 kids having sex.

      • “You have a few notable B actors like Jane Bader…”

        Jane Bader: 5/10. Would not bang.

        Otis the Sweaty

        July 2, 2017 at 8:51 pm

  6. At one point the actress who plays Trillian was married to the actor who plays the Dish of the Day.

    MEH 0910

    July 2, 2017 at 9:45 am

  7. MEH 0910

    July 2, 2017 at 10:07 am

    • Yep, that clip demonstrates that Zaphod, Trillian and the robot are the most entertaining characters in the series.

  8. How does the TV series compare to the book series? The book series starts brilliantly but there is a continuous and precipitous drop in quality beginning in the 3rd book Life, the Universe, and Everything. You could tell that Adams was dealing with both writer’s block and depression.

    Jokah Macpherson

    July 2, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    • I believe the TV series just covers the first book.

      MEH 0910

      July 2, 2017 at 6:47 pm

    • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hitchhiker%27s_Guide_to_the_Galaxy_(TV_series)

      The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy[1] is a BBC television adaptation of Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy which was broadcast in January and February 1981 on UK television station BBC Two. The adaptation follows the original radio series in 1978 and 1980, the first novel and double LP, in 1979, and the stage shows, in 1979 and 1980, making it the fifth iteration of the guide.

      MEH 0910

      July 2, 2017 at 6:50 pm

  9. To the extent they could be said to desire to be or not be eaten, flowering plants do desire that you eat the fruit part of the plant. It is, after all, delicious by design so that hungry animals with powers of locomotion will spread the seeds.

    Jokah Macpherson

    July 2, 2017 at 12:36 pm

  10. “Political correctness no longer allows all of the main characters of a movie to be white.”

    I’m to lazy to look it up, but I think that Adams, anticipating this, had specified that any actor playing Arthur Dent in any future adaptation had to be English (like racially and culturally English I mean). Arthur’s not an interesting character himself but he serves as the “fish out of water” character who can ask the questions, from a stereotypical reserved British perspective, that set up the other characters for explaining stuff.

    Jokah Macpherson

    July 2, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    • No, Arthur is not an interesting character. Which is why the two episodes featuring the most Arthur, one and six, are the weakest.

  11. ARTHUR I think it’s horrible. It’s the most revolting thing I’ve ever heard.

    Now see, that’s funny. In 1981, the most revolting thing I ever heard was that gays were getting a new disease as the result of licking each other’s arseholes. So there’s your PC right there- Arthur, like white women, pretended not to know about that.

    Jeez

    July 2, 2017 at 1:12 pm

  12. What made you think of this? By a strange coincidence, a couple of my sons just watched the movie and mentioned it to me a few hours ago.

    destructure

    July 2, 2017 at 2:04 pm

  13. I read the books as a teenager and never saw the TV or movie version.

    Oddly, as a teenager I always mentally pictured Zaphod as Black (actually I think it was he had one Black and one White head). Read into this whatever you will. It was just what popped into my head while reading the series. I never thought of Ford as anything other than White.

    Also I agree completely with Jonah Macpherson. This is one series of books that drops notably in quality at the end. The central problem of the series never gets resolved at all. Arthur Dent never goes “home” (though he does go back in time to a pre-historic version of Earth”or adapts to his new surroundings), or finds out the significance of 42 or anything. Nothing raised in the plot gets resolved. The whole thing just sort of runs out of steam.

    While parts of the second book are great, and there are one or two funny parts in the others, such as when Elvis appears, in retrospect the best part was the opening and then it goes gently downhill from there.

    Ed

    July 2, 2017 at 2:52 pm

  14. Those unusual names provoke a question. Does anyone else think that they sound a bit Harry Potter-ish?

    gothamette

    July 3, 2017 at 12:44 pm


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