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As always, a PHENOMENAL bit of work by the BBC. Sound design is inspired and hearing the original radio show cast (minus a few who have, sadly , left us) is the auditory and emotional equivalent of slipping into a cherished pair of comfortable slippers. Truly wonderful stuff, that.
The rest is a bit troublesome.
Eoin Coffer is a brave author to wade into a pool as deep and sacred as Douglas Adams' eccentrically-named Hitchhiker's Trilogy and take on what was surely a lose-lose scenario: create a wholly new work and find it greeted as "not Hitchhiker's enough" or delve deep into the lore and find himself accused of coasting along atop Douglas' hard-won success.
To me, a die-hard Hitchhiker's fan since its first broadcast, the work comes off as clunky pastiche at best and fanfic at worst. It sounds like Douglas(ish.) And I suppose it sounds like Eoin(ish) but it feels overstuffed so chock-full of refences from the original Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that the work just feels forced. The parts that are original in tone or content, meanwhile, feel poorly integrated, and the whole thing reads like 2 authors writing, lightly at odds with each other while simultaneously attempting to mimic each other's style.
That said, the audio production itself is the work's saving grace. The original cast dances though the almost-but-not-quite-entirely-unlike-Douglas Adams prose as if Douglas had written it himself in the office down the hall from the recording studio. In their hands, and the capable hands of the sound designers, who pepper the saga with light callbacks to the original radio's sound, the work is elevated to far more than the sum of its parts.
If you're a fan, or a completist, or a fan who is a completist, yes, you'll probably have to own this work. It's fun to hear familiar voices, and the performances are sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, but I felt so often that just as I had gotten into the groove of hearing Zaphod, Trillian, Ford, Arthur or the Guide itself, along came some clunky new stuff that just didn't fit the groove, or worse, a callback to the original works that felt so ham-handed and obvious that it knocked me right out of the merry suspension of disbelief needed to enjoy the Hitchhiker's universe.
It was brilliant to hear the original cast bring the radio show back to life again. There were a few almost-Adams-quality jokes—I laughed aloud once, which I hadn’t expected to do without the man himself at the helm—but the overall effect was marred by a number of inconsistencies and inaccuracies (“Zark” was not used quite so generously by Adams, nor in such a way [‘Zark this, zark that’... it just didn’t feel authentic]; there was no need for further hyperspace bypasses due to a technological breakthrough just prior to the destruction of Earth II, so why were the Vogons still using hyperspace bypasses to travel [I can get behind their excuse that they had to kill Earthlings too, but every detail matters, and the details were often inaccurate]; language like “bastard” and “crap” [I mean honestly, a little more creativity, please?] came up way too often; there was more sexual humor than in the originals; Trillian acted massively out of character [really? She would just fling herself on Wowbagger like that? I don’t think so]; on and on.) True, Adams himself included inconsistencies (with a flourish!) between versions, but I found the lack of continuity between radio show seasons unfortunate. Adams did maintain consistency within each respective version, after all. On the brighter side, Ford felt delightfully true-to-life, and I appreciated the moments when I could almost convince myself that Adams had penned a joke or two.
Overall, though, it felt rather contrived—both trying too hard and not trying hard enough at the same time. I’m wishing someone other than Colfer had been chosen to add to the series. It was pleasantly nostalgic, but I feel that someone who knew the series better or at least cared to do more thorough research would have produced a wittier, more accurate extension. Not much one can do without Adams himself, I suppose. A decent effort, though, and worth a listen.
There are apparently people who don't like the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. No, don't scoff, it's true, I even know one of these rare anomalies! I have of course heard that the Lord works in mysterious ways and indeed that the human mind is a labyrinthine and complex world where the possibilities are endless but there can't be many greater unsolved mysteries than someone who didn't enjoy reading this trilogy. For me the BBC radio and TV series and of course the books were pure comedy nectar.
So that’s my colours nailed to the mast though it’s not quite that simple. Even I found there was a law of diminishing returns and after the initial trilogy I found that while I enjoyed the later books they just didn’t have the same impact. I was happy to read them but they didn’t rock my world in anything like the same way.
So fast forward a while and along comes master Eoin Colfer adding a sixth book to the trilogy. Based on the above I didn’t touch it until I saw the audiobook with the wonderful Simon Jones doing the narration a few years ago. And do you know what? It wasn’t half bad!
It was so comfortable getting back in touch with these wonderful characters and just drifting through multiple universes with them again. Personally I think Colfer really got it right and produced a great zany adventure in keeping with the wonderful original work. I particularly liked how the Vogons developed and call me soppy but I appreciated the ending too.
This production, as you would expect from our Auntie Beeb is excellent. Wonderful to hear that theme tune again, an excellent cast and great sound effects. Especially the screams! Of course the voices are different which can take some getting used to but that’s hardly something to complain about. So if it’s a bit of light-hearted froody goodness you are after then this really is better than an evening out with the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal!
12 of 14 people found this review helpful
... but let down by an awfully thin story line. A real disappointment to be honest. Eoin would have been better off not trying to be Douglas Adams because he's just nowhere near as good!
3 of 5 people found this review helpful