Towel Day - An Introduction

H2G2 book

Ian Ham paints Don't Panic in large friendly letters on his front to give an introduction to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy...

If you were to ask an entirely random person if they knew what the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was, the answer to that question would entirely depend on the person you happened to ask. If you were to quiz someone of a certain age, then they would probably say that it was an 80s TV series that they vaguely remember from many moons ago. People of a slightly lesser certain age may well say that was an odd film that came out a few years ago where Bill Nighy totally stole the show from under the noses of everyone else. More hard-nosed sci-fi nerds may well tell you that in actual fact it was a BBC radio series and a text based computer game, stupid. Bookish people of course will tell you that it was a bestselling trilogy of five books (Possibly six. Actually no. Five). Naturally, bathers will tell you it was a towel.

Of course, all these random people are correct. All of the above is true and more. Douglas Adams was wholly or partially responsible for a radio show, a movie, a series of books, a computer game, a television series, three professional stage shows, audiobooks, a couple of LPs, a comic book series, and several towels. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is also, confusingly, a character in the story.

In order to jog the memory of this entirely random person further, you may want to run through a quick overview of the story. And this is where it starts to get a bit complicated. For various reasons, each time Hitchhikers appeared in a new medium, it had a nasty habit of completely contradicting all of the other previous versions, so you can’t give your random person friend an overview of it without telling fibs about all the other versions. In essence, the basic story starts with an average tea-loving Englishman (Arthur Dent), whose best mate happens to be an alien (Ford Prefect). When the Earth is demolished, Ford helps Arthur hitchhike off the planet, and they go off on a series of funny and contradictory adventures. Most of it is amazingly funny and full of prescient ideas that wouldn’t become mainstream for many years to come (mobile devices all interconnected by a sub-etha net? I mean, come on!)

If this random person had never even seen, heard, played or dried himself off with the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, then the best place for him to start is probably the books. Unfortunately, they operating mostly under the law of diminishing returns, but when you start with the dazzlingly genius heights of the first book, the fifth book is merely very very good. Once you’ve completed the first five, stop. In 2009, Douglas Adams’ Estate (he sadly died in 2001) decided to continue to the series with other authors. This was a mistake and the resulting single book should be avoided by the reader at all cost.

Has your new random person friend finished the books? Good. Then encourage then to move straight on the 80s TV series. This was massively ahead of its time too, and holds up mostly well to the rigours of time. Just don’t mention Zaphod’s other head. Your new friend probably won’t enjoy that, and may well laugh at it.

Once the TV series is complete, you can probably advise that they give the movie a go if they’re feeling brave. The film somehow got the tone wrong, but there are some good bits in it. Some of the casting was a bit controversial. Apart from Bill Nighy who is just perfect.

So there you go. A short Guide to the Guide if you like. Hopefully your new random BFF will go away happy and contented. And also dry if they’ve discovered the towel too.

Image - Wikipedia