The Encyclopaedia Galactica has this to say on the subject of continuity: Continuity, it says, is an artificial construct of certain carbon-based life-forms to allow them to make some sense of the hugely complex, multi-dimensional universe in which they live.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy also mentions continuity. The Guide calls continuity an artificial construct of certain carbon-based life-forms which frequently mucks up a good story and should be dispensed with entirely, or at least treated with flagrant disregard, as often as possible.
And so it is that we find Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, having previously escaped from the prehistoric planet Earth by hailing the Heart of Gold with a fossilised towel, back on prehistoric planet Earth, awaiting the more usual means of escape – namely, the next sofa to Lord’s cricket ground.
When the Tertiary Phase first aired on Radio Four back in 2004, there were those who thought them a poor relation of the original episodes. That’s not really a fair criticism; the Tertiary Phase stuck very closely to the source material – Life, the Universe and Everything – which, having been recycled from a rejected Doctor Who story, is the weakest of the five novels. Hearing some of the same characters with different voices (in this instance Slartibartfast, and of course The Book) took a bit of getting used to, but Arthur, Ford, Zaphod and Marvin sounded just the way I remembered them. Even Trillian was back, having been missing for the Secondary Phase (which she helpfully explained away in passing as one of Zaphod’s psychotic episodes).
Simon Jones was especially good, I thought; Arthur sounded just as bemused at being back on Earth as he was at being snatched away from it all those years ago…
On the other hand, some bits didn’t work too well, like Arthur talking to himself in Agrajag’s Cathedral of Hate, although it could be argued that that would have been perfectly in character for someone who had spent five years on a prehistoric planet talking to trees.
It’s good, also, to have a posthumous cameo from Douglas, who many years ago when a radio adaptation of LTUAE was first discussed, insisted that he should play Agrajag.
All in all, a welcome addition to the multi-dimensional Hitchhiker’s canon.
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