Monday, 29 May 2017

Hitchhikers and Doctors

This is a bit off my usual bill of fare. But after finding a recent review on the Hitchhiker’s Guide film adaptation and a subsequent rewatch of some of the television series (middling good, but the pictures are better on radio), I decided to write up this, having not seen anyone suggest it elsewhere.

The claim is that certain parts of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy are something in the way of a pastiche and/or parody of Dr Who. Douglas Adams was a writer for it at the time; I understand that Life, the Universe and Everything is an unused script – as is Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (look up Shada sometime). But this isn’t just about biographical information. Consider the following:

·         An everyman is whisked off on a tour of time and space; but Rather Than appreciating the Wonders of the Cosmos, he obsesses about his home.
·         The Everyman’s Guide is a being from another world, but Rather Than being a nigh-on immortal space wizard, he’s a layabout and occasionally a travel writer.
·         Rather Than getting round the universe in a fantastic machine than can speed across time and space and violate dimensions, they have to Thumb a Ride.
·         Rather Than saving the world time after time, it is destroyed pretty finally in the first episode.
·         Rather Than being having as a nemesis semi-robotic psychopathic fascists, the race of assorted baddies are ‘not actually evil, but bad-tempered, Bureaucratic, officious and callous’.
·         Rather Than an ancient race of immense cosmic power and learning being the Progressive Rock equivalent of the House of Lords mixed with Oxbridge, they are driven by a desire to sell planets and make vast profits  – or appear on chatshows.
( “In the sky a huge sign appeared, replacing the catalogue number. Whatever your tastes, Magrathea can cater for you. We are not proud.
And five hundred entirely naked women dropped out of the sky on parachutes.”)

Doubtless there is more, for those that want to find it.

Now, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is hardly just a pastiche or parody or satire. But it is in some ways part of the DNA of its creation, in the same fashion that the Ford Prefect and a computer that prints out ticker tape point to the time in which it was written.

To make a further comparison, in the late Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, the city of Ankh-Morpork starts as something in the way of a parody of Lankhmar from Fritz Lieber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories. Yet it becomes something greatly more complex (not to denigrate Lankhmar!).

This is hardly essential for you to know – but it has some interest for me. It might sound like this makes The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy  sound somewhat derivative. But even going back to it with this in mind, it was hardly at the forefront of my viewing experience. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is sufficient to push any such claim away.

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