Panic! It's the last ever instalment of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, with a brand new full-cast dramatisation of Mostly Harmless, the final book in Douglas Adams's famous 'trilogy in five parts'. While frequent flyer Arthur Dent searches the universe for his lost love, Ford Prefect discovers a disturbing blast from the past at The Hitchhiker's Guide HQ. Meanwhile, on one of many versions of Earth, a blonder, more American Trillian gets tangled up with a party of lost aliens having an identity crisis. And just when Arthur thinks he has found his true vocation on the backwater planet of Lamuella, the original Trillian turns up with more than a little spanner in the works. A stolen ship, a dramatic stampede and a new and sinister Guide lead to a race to save the Earth...again. But this time, will they succeed?
Simon Jones returns as Arthur, Geoffrey McGivern as Ford, Mark Wing-Davey as Zaphod Beeblebrox, Susan Sheridan as Trillian, Sandra Dickinson as Tricia McMillian, and Stephen Moore as Marvin. William Franklyn is the Book, alongside a host of famous guest stars.
This extended edition features 30 minutes of material not heard on BBC Radio 4.
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If you listened to the previous BBC radio productions of Douglas Adams "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series (including the "Tertiary Phase" and the "Quandary Phase"), you've probably already decided to complete the story by getting the "Quintessential Phase." You're in for a treat.
In my reviews of the previous two "phases", I said that portions were over-produced and too faithful an adaptation of the novels. All four radio episodes that make up the "Quintessential Phase" are free of those problems. Well, mostly free; there are one or two spots when there's too much going on. But they are brief, and you can figure things out afterwards.
If you've read the fifth book in the HHG series, "Mostly Harmless," you know that Adams ended the series on a depressing note. It was a clear message to his readers: that's the end of the story, there will be no more.
The radio series includes that ending. I listened to it... then saw on my iPod that there was still ten minutes of audio left to go. Huh?
I don't know if this was Adams' intent before he died, or a decision on the part of the writer who adapted the series for radio, but the radio story goes on. It ends on a glad note, not a sour one as in "Mostly Harmless." I laughed out loud at the inventiveness of it, for the first time since I started listening to the "phases." I don't mean to imply that the rest of the radio series is humorless, but I'd read all the books and was already familiar with the jokes. This was new... and funny.
It is a fitting celebration to the end of the story, and a touching tribute to Douglas Adams' creation. If you're fan of HHG, it's worth getting this audiobook for the ending alone. It even explains the transition between the end of the second BBC HHG radio series, and the start of the "Tertiary Phase." A neat trick!
I hope that someday Audible will make the first two BBC radio productions of HHG available, so new listeners can hear all five in sequence.
For me, each version of The Hitchhiker's Guide, as it was translated from one medium to another and back again, possesses its own unique charm. Detailed comparative studies can be, should be, and probably have been, made of the differences and variations between the radio, television, book, record album, computer game and - sure, what the hell - film translations of this most endearing and enlightening franchise, and i imagine such studies would prove enjoyable in their own right. The author's hand is evident in each, ensuring that his vision remains undiminished and undiluted. Those who yearn for continuity, whether in story or performance, should not be disappointed. Most of the original cast are here, laying it down as solid as ever, with some fine additions picked up along the way. (i confess that i did not originally dig the television version of Trillian, but she makes the scene, for very good reason that becomes clear as the story unfolds, shines as brightly as the others, and i cannot imagine how this could have worked without her.) Rula Lenska returns, with mystical intensity and cosmic scope. Fans of Absolutely Fabulous should be notified that Joanna Lumley and Jane Horrocks appear in this and/or preceding Phases, along with Stephen Fry and other very cool folk, and some americans, i think, as well as an actor whose voice i had not heard much of before, one Douglas Adams, of whom great things may be expected in future lives. But i digress. The storyline of these Phases is consistent with the radio serieses, which form the first two, and this most Quintessential of Phases comprises a kind of paraconsistency with some of the other mediumses through which this saga has passed. It could be argued that the latter Phases seem to accelerate to a point at which it becomes difficult for the listener to follow just what is happening, that the fine details and elaborately explanatory sidebars get lost. (i for one could have done with a bit more of Old Thrashbarg myself, but i am probably alone in this and rightly so.) But this treatment is perfect for the story's own internal metaphysick; it could even be said that it counterpoints the surrealism of the underlying metaphor, and rewards multiple listenings with profound and vivid insights. Me, i just kind of like stuff that i don't get all of the first time through, and fans of the Firesign Theatre albums might appreciate this quality of replayability. Of paramount importance, however, is that this is especially recommended for those who finished the book Mostly Harmless and felt cheated out of a satisfactory conclusion to this long-running and diversely presented chronicle. That satisfactory conclusion is here. In the same format in which it began. With such deft flourish of ease that one cannot help but wonder if that was exactly the author's intent all along. It is right. It works. And no one has to get nailed to anything. If anyone finds this review helpful, i'd be surprised.