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Simon Jones
Simon Jones as Arthur Dent

Hitchhiking Dressing Gown

Dressing Gown Guru Simon Jones took time out to speak to us about Life, The Universe and being a 3D Answering Machine.

The original Hitchhikers radio series cast
The original Hitchhikers radio cast

From book to radio to TV and film and now the final series, we got a chance to interview the original Arthur Dent from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

The phenomenon of Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy started off life as a BBC Radio series. The books followed suit and within five years, the first had been adapted into a BAFTA winning TV series.

Next Wednesday will see a new series on Radio 4 that is taken from the fifth part of the trilogy in five parts 'Mostly Harmless'. And if that's not enough, a new and first blockbuster movie opened in Jersey yesterday.

"If I don't know about dressing gowns nobody does."
Simon Jones

The original Arthur Dent was played by actor Simon Jones, who appears in all three incarnations of this series, including a spectacular cameo roll in the new film.

Below are a few excerpts from the interview with Roger Bara. For the full interview click 'Simon Jones Interview' on the right hand side.

The interview

Arthur Dent and Marvin
Arthur Dent and Marvin

Q: What was it like getting back into that dressing gown yet again for this new radio series? (books 3 and 4)
We'll I'm glad to say it still fits, which is pretty amazing, and it hasn't got the moth, but then I've kept it in a vacuum sealed pack ever since.

Q: The new series reunites the original cast as well as featuring quite a few famous cameos doesn't it? What was it like meeting up again?
We'll it was a bit like going to a class reunion and wondering who has lost the most hair, (ME); who has been the most ravaged by time, (ME), while everyone else looked just like I mentioned them.

Q: I understand your voice has gone down one semitone since the original radio series - so do you sound like you've just been slowed down a bit?
No I sound the same actually, all I had to do was compensate for it. I thought as you got older your voice got higher [high pitch] so you end up sounding like a little old man [normal voice] - apparently not.

Simon Jones
Simon Jones Today

Seems strange but it is 25 years since we first did it, and 22 years since we finished doing 'Restaurant at the End of the Universe' and before we started the tertiary phase that went out last autumn.

Q: You must have noticed a difference in radio technology that's available for new series compared to original?
To a certain extent. The microphone is the same, but it is the scissors and paste and tape, and the reel to reel. We still use reel to reel tape for the sound effects.

As it is all digital you can actually see a picture of each episode in multi colours, it must be easier to edit.

David Dixon and Simon Jones
Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent

We are doing this in 5.1 Dolby stereo, if you have one of these amazing set ups with four speakers you can experience the whole thing going on around you. Forget Star Wars, we are playing mental tricks with your head.

Q: Didn't you consider the  TV series to be high tech and wonderful, and wasn't it the Americans that said it's a bit plastic and 'Crossroads' like?
That's it exactly. It was during my first interview in America, I was told what the presenter particularly likes was the deliberate tackyness of the effects.

I don't think anyone appreciates or knows that the  graphics that were so integral to the show were done by hand.

They were not done by a computer, and that is truly astonishing because they look as though they were.

Q: Are you at all surprised at it's longevity, the whole thing, or when you first did the radio series did you think, this could be a winner for years?
Not at all, we thought we would be lucky to get one series out of this. When we were told it was going out at 10:30 we thought it was the same thing as locking it in a closet and putting a sign up saying "beware of the leopard".

They had this vision [the BBC]. They said now that the listening public would be making their goodnight cocoa, putting out the cat, what a strange picture they have of their audience, that they would hear it and want to hear more.

Douglas Adams
Douglas Adams

Q: That first series, did Douglas Adams had a lot of input into that?
Douglas had a lot of input all the way through, well he didn't of course at the end, because he died sadly at the age of 49.

Q: So it was very different recording this series without him being there?
Yes but his presence was everywhere and he does appear. There is a character called Agrajag who Arthur accidentally kills a million times throughout his various incarnations.

Douglas had always said to Dirk Maggs that he if he had a chance he would like to play Agrajag.

Well, with Douglas not here anymore, Dirk wondered how this could be accomplished. He listened to a recording of Douglas reading the books and realised that he put so much passion into the character of Agrajag that he could just lift the dialogue. I had this surreal experience of acting with a box containing the voice of my late friend.

Simon Jones and David Dixon
Simon Jones and David Dixon

Q: Is the timing of the new radio series and the film release almost at the same time a good or bad thing?
I'm sure it is totally coincidental and completely coincidental that they are repeating the television series, astonishing coincidence really, a confluence of amazing coincidences.

Q: WE must talk about your cameo role in the new film - firstly they didn't let you play Arthur Dent did they?
No. I'm thrilled he said bitterly. I can't think of anyone better to take over my part, I think Martin is doing a fine job, from what I've seen of the clips. Although I don't like the colour of his dressing gown, it is a horrible colour.

Q: Didn't they ask you for advice, nobody has worn the dressing gown more than you have?
Well exactly, if I don't know about dressing gowns nobody does.

Q: Did Douglas always want a movie made?
Yes, he was obsessed with getting a movie made, he wanted to be the master of all media's and I'm glad to say he finally is.

Q: How far up the CV is your role in the new feature film, you do appear briefly in 3D don't you?
I think there is a bit of a plot here, they don't give out any 3D glasses so I must come out as a bit of a blur.

We'll I'm going to take my 3D glasses with me, I think it will go out with the DVD with a pair of glasses.

Q: When are you going to see it?
I'm going to try and sneak in with a dirty rain coat and a pair of dark glasses this weekend.

You can hear the final series of Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy on BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday at 6.30pm. And BBC 2 is showing the original award winning TV series after Newsnight each night next week.

last updated: 06/05/05
Have Your Say
Are you a fan of the series? Have you seen the new film? Tell us your thoughts here.
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The movie was nowhere near as funny as the book. Zaphod Beeblebrox looked like a moron and the plot went so far away from the original plot line that it was disgusting. All in all don't watch the movie, read the book.

Bernd Haeckel
Well, I'm an absolute fan of the written quadrilogy; and when I saw the original series on TV I found it had it's charme - typical British. lease don't be offended, but I saw some Monthy Python influence in there at that time. Anyhow the new movie seems to lack some of this charme, it's more - well, how shall I say - mainstream-like. Though it's good, too.

I think that the film is wonderful and i just LOVE sandra dickinson

Charlene Jackson
I am a teacher and come across the book in the library and i loved it. I loved it so much that my yr 8 english are studing the tv series, the book and the New movie. They don't get all the jokes but they love telling me the differences between the media. Cheers Charlene

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