The recording at the end of the Universe
Rounding out the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the Hexagonal Phase, the sixth series in the 'trilogy'. 13 years since the Quintessential Phase hit the airwaves and 40 since the original landmark series was broadcast on Radio 4, the cast explain how it feels to be reunited a lifetime later.
It's good to be back
When the cast were asked what it was like to be back, the response was overwhelmingly positive. "Lovely," summarises Mark Wing-Davies, who reprises the role of Zaphod Beeblebrox, "just lovely to see everyone... it's great to do."
It’s one long reunion reallySimon Jones
While the radio series has returned only periodically, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has carried on through a run of live shows so it hasn't been too long since some of the cast have seen each other. As original cast member Toby Longworth describes it, “You never feel that you’ve been away... When we reconvene it’s like, well, I thought we were just talking.”
"It's one long reunion really," echoes Simon Jones aka Arthur Dent - the hapless human at the centre of the saga.
Memories of Douglas Adams
Everyone had very positive memories of Douglas Adams, the visionary author behind the epic who died in 2001. Sandra Dickinson remembers her audition for the television series. Adams was so large he took up half the tiny room. Both he and producer-director Alan JW Bell were very impressed that she made sense of the script better than everyone else at the auditions, even though she was nothing like Trillian is described in the novel.
"I still expect him to walk through the door saying 'Well I’ve just come back from looking for monkeys in wherever, where can we eat?'” Simon Jones muses. Adams' love of eating is well documented and he had been present for many milestones in Simon's life, including when he proposed. On the night he proposed to her in 1983, he was going for dinner with his fiancée as well as Douglas Adams and Terry Gilliam at the World Trade Centre when the kitchen caught fire. The distraught maître d' shipped them off to a sushi restaurant with a bottle of champagne.
Douglas was also a part of Mark Wing-Davey's family life. He remembers when both of their families were in France and Douglas had a party trick that he used to entertain children with. Telling them a string of events in a very specific order, if the child could recite it back in the correct order, Adams would do what ever they wanted. Mark's daughter successfully remembered and told Douglas she wanted him to jump in the swimming pool with his clothes on. When they got back home in Douglas went!
Your own personal Marvin
With a brain the size of a planet and only having menial tasks to do, Marvin the Paranoid Android is keen to let you know how miserable he is. Do the cast have a Marvin in their own lives? What do they think is the most paranoid bit of technology in their homes?
Simon Jones has several, “I discovered I wasn’t the only person who actually, more often than not, imbues inanimate objects with hostile personalities.” His problem stems from machines that don't do what they should, toasters that don't toast or the vacuum cleaner that doesn't clean. While he does have "dialogues", with the offending tech, he is gratified that it doesn't actually talk back. This is why he's not too keen on Alexa, who actually can talk back...
One cast member had a very succinct answer. "My iPad," laughs Mitch Benn, a Hitchhiker's super-fan who joined the cast in 2005, "because it’s seen things no one should ever see.”
A Real Life Guide - from the best bars to the secret of sub-light travel
If the chance presented itself to look at one article in a real life Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the cast varied wildly on what they would look up.
The future would be Sandra Dickinson's pick, to see if we all make it in the end. While Mitch Benn's choice is also concerned with the future, it adopts a more proactive stance. Mitch would look up the secret of sub-light travel, especially if it had practical schematics, so we could move forward with interstellar travel. A greater explanation of life, the universe and everything is what Mark Wing-Davies wants to know. Although he says that it were Zaphod who was looking, it would be all about Zaphod's entry and what it could tell him about his own future!
Other members of the cast took a different approach. Toby Longworth would find out where the best bars are as, based on the people who compiled the guide, it would not only be the best-researched but also the longest segment. Geoff McGivern, the taciturn Ford Prefect, didn't know what he would look up, opting for a lucky dip option. He did know to avoid Earth's entry as it's simply 'mostly harmless', a sentiment he believes to be "mostly accurate".
President of the Universe
As the new series begins, Zaphod Beeblebrox is President of the Universe and his first sweeping reform, according to Mark Wing-Davey, would have been pleasure orientated. Simon Jones' first reform if he were get to a similar position of power would be less physical. He'd cut off Twitter, thinking it would, “Save us all a lot of bother. Stop a lot of unnecessary chat.”
Both actors noticed similarities between the President of the Universe and another modern day president. Mark Wing-Davey points out “Zaphod has a narcissism that reminds me rather of the current guy who is the president of the United States." Simon Jones adds to this: "Douglas was a little bit of a prophet there. Little did he know there would be a real life Zaphod Beeblebrox.”