Star Trek exists in the Hitchhiker’s Guide Universe

Space is big. You just won’t believe how hugely, vastly, mind-bogglingly big it is.
But space is just 3 dimensions, there is also time, and there is also X. In Star Trek, apart from the usual travels in space and the occasional travels in time, we also have twice seen travels in X: a few visits to the Mirror Universe, and the Kelvinverse. These are not alternate universes, they are dimensions, because an alternate universe is a branching point, and the more time passes after the branch, the greater the deviation will be. Despite several decades after the branching point in the Kelvinverse and several centuries in the Mirror, we still see that the same people are being born, having the same meta-relationships, the same destinies. That implies that these are not separate universes but still fundamentally tied to the Prime. There is a Platonic underlying universe and these are different projections in a lower dimensional space, perhaps.

Having established that there is a dimension X, consider that it is common to H2G2. The Guide Mark II is able to directly manipulate X, even outside the X-unstable ZZ Plural-Z Alpha zones (which contains the Earth, and presumably most of the core federation, which is not coincidentally where most of the X-traveling shenanigans in Star Trek lore occur). Denizens of Plural zones are explicitly warned not to travel by hyperspace because they can be catapulted unpredictably along X, so most of the early galactic civilizations favored warp drive instead of hyperspace jumps. Much of the Second Phase of H2G2 occurs in a different X than the Primary, and we get some exposition about different-X versions of Zaphod in the Tertiary and Arthur in the Quaternary Phases, and Zaphod even managed to make a business model out of it in Hexagonal Phase.

What we know of Galactic history is that about 5 million years ago, and the “about” will become very important in just a moment, there was a Galactic Empire, where “life was wild, rich, and on the whole, tax-free. In those days, spirits were brave; the stakes were high; men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. And all dared to brave unknown terrors to do mighty deeds to boldly split infinitives that no man had split before.” I can think of no better description of the Original Series than this. Of course, there is some distortion, as 5 million years have passed from Kirk’s “men were real men” years and the relatively depressed era of Zaphod and Ford. Magrathea allegedly got its start in this era, as a means for the fabulously ultra-wealthy to spend money on custom planets (implying at least a Kardashev Type II civilization). However, if we allow for the fact that the Golden Age of the former Galactic Empire could span a million years of its own, then Magrathea could well have existed a million years before Kirk and crew. Or much, much longer – because a Type II civilization is not a transient thing.

My theory is that the former Galactic Empire was founded about 4 million years prior to the Zaphod era, and about 3 million years prior to the Kirk era. Lets establish Kirk taking command of the Enterprise in TOS as our zero date: 0 KE (Kirk Era). Dates before this point are BK (Before Kirk). The Zaphod Era (ZE) begins approximately 1M years KE. A few important dates immediately can be established:

2M years BK: Magratheans build Mira’s Earth
2M years BK: Ford and Arthur stranded on prehistoric earth with the Golgafrinchans
1M years BK: Fall of the Galactic Empire.
300 BK: Arthur Dent rescued from the destruction of the Earth by Ford Prefect, who has accidentally traveled 5M years back in time without realizing it.
10,000 KE: the Last Temporal Cold War
1M KE: the Galactic Republic, administered by the Vogon bureacracy, at its peak. This is where most of the canonical story of H2G2 takes place.

There certainly are some problems here. But most of those can be resolved by the fact that the Galactic Republic was notoriously more irresponsible about time travel than even the Federation was during the Temporal Wars (plural). After all, the whole Cathedral of Chalesme fiasco, which led to Slartibartfast’s involvement in the Campaign for Real Time, is evidence aplenty of just how screwed up the timeline became. The vast Dark Age between the Kirk and Zaphod eras was irresistible to tinkering, profiting, and just general screwing around by the various Powers That Be.

Ultimately, a lot of the general wierdness, like Miri’s Earth, Apollo, and whatnot that happened during TOS, not to mention the strange discontinuities around the Enterprise NX-01, which could actually be another poster child for the Campaign for Real Time to protest, can be explained by understanding that Star Trek and H2G2 happened in the same Galaxy – adventures in space, time, and X. I am sure this is a field of potentially rewarding inquiry for other researchers with more procrastination time than myself to pursue.

(for the purposes of this essay, I am treating only the radio scripts of H2G2 as canon. Yes, I am a purist. The book versions, and the regrettable movies and TV shows, can be considered different-X.)

Hexagonal Phase incoming

There isn’t that much new here, but more details on cast, and confirmation that it will based on Eoin Colfer’s fantastic And Another Thing… which I bought as an audiobook because Simon Jones is the narrator – so it’s Arthur as Arthur. I can’t even express the joy I feel when I hear him reprise his role. Hexagonal Phase will be an interesting contrast. In a way I kind of enjoyed Jones’ take on Zaphod in the audiobook more. But it doesn’t matter. I’m obsessed.

Trillian will return, with a new voice actor. And we have a new voice of the Book, too.

Starring alongside Simon will be Geoff McGivern as Ford Prefect, Mark Wing-Davey as Zaphod Beeblebrox and Sandra Dickinson as Trillian, as well as special guest stars including Jane Horrocks as Fenchurch.

Following in the footsteps of the late Peter Jones and William Franklyn, Adams’ friend, co-author and former flatmate John Lloyd will step into the voice of The Book.

image: Fair use, Link

Hexagonal Phase in 2017? freeeeow!

Marvin the Paranoid Android (Stephen Moore), Ford Prefect (Geoffrey McGivern), Trillian (Susan Sheridan), Arthur Dent (Simon Jones), Zaphod Beeblebrox (Mark Wing-Davey)
Marvin the Paranoid Android (Stephen Moore), Ford Prefect (Geoffrey McGivern), Trillian (Susan Sheridan), Arthur Dent (Simon Jones), Zaphod Beeblebrox (Mark Wing-Davey)

My initial reaction to this news was PLEASE NO – until I realized, it was about radio, not TV or movie:

More than a decade since the show last aired in 2005, a new season of the sci-fi comedy series has been commissioned.

The sixth season is expected to be titled ‘The Hexagonal Phase’, the British Comedy Guide reports.

The new episodes will apparently be based on And Another Thing…., author Eoin Colfer’s 2009 book featuring the characters created by Doctor Who writer Douglas Adams, who died in 2001.

The original radio cast is expected to return for the six episodes, which will again be overseen by director Dirk Maggs.

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You know what? I’m game for this. I haven’t even read Colfer’s sequel but this might be the excuse I need. And the fact that they are reuniting the original radio cast means they actually give a pair of Zarquon’s singing fish about Douglas Adams’ legacy.

The Tertiary Phase was really the one that required the most getting used to. The actors’ voices were noticeably aged, especially Zaphod (Mark Wing-Davey). But from there, the Quandary and Quintessential Phases were natural to me. And the replacement voice of the Book, William Franklyn, for Peter Jones, was inspired. As it turns out, there’s actually some H2G2 audio I haven’t heard yet:

Simon Jones who plays Arthur Dent, Geoffrey McGivern (Ford Prefect), Mark Wing-Davey (Zaphod Beeblebrox), and Stephen Moore (Marvin) last reunited with Maggs in 2014 to record a special one-off live transmission for Radio 4, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy Live. The episode also saw Susan Sheridan reprise her role as Trillian. It would prove to be her last time playing the character, as she died in August 2015.

I am saddened to hear that Trillian has passed away too. This means I need to find that audio ASAP and make a new master playlist. That’s the last True Trillian.

As far as adaptations go, the only ones ever worth a damn were the ones with this crew. That includes the TV series they made – the long-awaited movie was such a travesty that I can’t even. The bottom line: I am looking forward to this. Simon Jones IS Arthur Dent. Geoffrey McGivern IS Ford Prefect. Steven Moore IS Marvin. And Mark Wing-Davey IS Zaphod Beeblebrox. Where those three goofballs go, I’ll follow, and gladly.

Google’s Douglas Adams Doodle: happy birthday old man

google doodle douglas adams
Google Doodle for Douglas Adams
As my site archives on H2G2 attest, I am something of a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy aficionado – if I had to rate my fandom, H2G2 would stand far above even Star Wars and Star Trek in my personal pantheon.

Click over to Google today (or check out the Doodle Archive page if you are coming late) to see the Doodle in all it’s glory. It’s got the requisite towel, cup of liquid that is exactly but not quite unlike tea, and of course the Guide itself, with “Don’t Panic” written on the front in large, friendly letters. And there’s a touch of Whovian/70’s scifi chic and sound effects to boot. Bonus tip: try actually using the Guide.

Douglas Adams would have been 61 years old today. He was one really, amazingly together guy. He was more than just a hoopy frood; he was so hip he had difficulty seeing over his pelvis. He was so cool you could store a side of beef in him for a month. He deserves not one Google Doodle, but 42 of them.

The Total Perspective Vortex

I am transcribing this segment from The Hitchhiker’s Guide, Secondary Phase, for posterity.

The Total Perspective Votex derives its picture of the whole Universe on the principle of extrapolated matter analyses. To explain, since every piece of matter in the Universe is in some way affected by every other piece of matter in the Universe, it is in theory possible to extrapolate the whole of creation – every sun, every planet, their orbits, their composition, and their economic and social histories – from, say, one small piece of fairy cake.

The man who invented the Total Perspective Vortex did so basically in order to annoy his wife.

Trin Tragula – for that was his name – was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher or, as his wife would have it, an idiot.

And she would nag him incessantly about the utterly inordinate amount of time he spent staring out into space, or mulling over the mechanics of safety pins, or doing spectrographic analyses of pieces of fairy cake.

“Have some sense of proportion!” she would say, sometimes as often as thirty-eight times a day.

And so he built the Total Perspective Vortex, just to show her.

And into one end, he plugged the whole of reality (as extrapolated from a piece of fairy cake), and into the other, he plugged his wife, so that when he turned it on she saw in one instant the whole infinity of creation and herself in relation to it.

To Trin Tragula’s horror, the shock completely annihilated her brain, but to his satisfaction he realized that he had proved once and for all that if life is going to exist in a Universe of this size, then the one thing it cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion.

The Shoe Event Horizon

This segment ranks among my most favorite moments of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Secondary Phase, Fit the Eleventh, to be precise (the BBC radio series is the True version of the Guide, without all that tedious mucking about with printed pages).

Part of the brilliance is the twisted, yet straightforward, logic of the economic theory itself. But what makes it gold is how the narrative is presented in a teacher-student context, with a rather.. twisted… take on academic incentives. I’ve decided to waste 15 minutes of my life and transcribe the good bit below.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy BBC Radio Series - The Complete Collection

TEACHER: Good morning, lifeform!

STUDENT: Hi teach!

Are you sitting comfortably?

Yes!

Then stand up. Harsh Economic Truths, class 17. Are you standing up?

yes.

Good. Posit. You are living in an exciting, go-ahead civilization. Where are you looking?

Up.

What do you see?

The open sky… the stars… an infinite horizon.

Correct! You may press the button.

Thank you! (tinkly music plays) Oh! That feels nice.

Posit. You are living in a stagnant, declining civilization. Where are you looking?

(subdued) Down.

What do you see?

My shoes.

Correct! What do you do to cheer yourself up?

Um. Press the button?

Incorrect! Think again. Your world is a depressing place. You are looking at your shoes. How do you cheer yourself up?

I buy a new pair.

Correct!

Can I press the button?

All right.

(twinkly music plays) Oh ho! So nice!

Now. Imagine everyone does the same thing. What happens?

Everyone feels nice?

Ah, forget the button, concentrate! Everyone buys new shoes. What happens?

More shoes.

And?

More shoe shops.

Correct.

Can I?

No.

Aww.

And in order to support all these extra shoe shops, what must happen?

Everyone must keep buying shoes.

And how is that arranged?

Manufacturers dictate more and more fashions and make shoes so bad that they either hurt the feet or fall apart.

So that?

Everyone has to buy more shoes.

Until?

Until… everyone gets fed up with lousy rotten shoes.

And then what?

(plaintive) Why can’t I press the button?

And then what? Come on!

Massive capital investment by the manufacturers to try and make people buy the shoes.

Which means?

More shoe shops.

(insistent) And then we reach what point?

(sullen) The point where I press the button again.

(exasperated) All right!

(twinkly music plays) Woo hoo hoo! Ah! That’s so nice! That’s really nice!

And then we reach what point?

(sighing with bliss) The Shoe Event Horizon! The whole economy overbalances! Shoe shops outnumber every other kind of shop! It becomes economically impossible to build anything other than shoe shops, and bingo! I get to press the button again! (twinkly music plays) Wooooo hoooo!!!!

(angry) Wait for permission!!! Now, what’s the final stage?

(distracted) Um. Every shop in the world ends up as a shoe shop.

Full of?

Shoes no one can wear.

Result?

Famine, collapse, and ruin… any survivors eventually evolve into… birds… and never put their feet on the ground again.

Excellent! End of lesson! You may press the button!

(twinkly music plays) Woo hoo hoo! Yee hoo hoo hoo! Oh ho! Oh, that’s nice! Thank you teach, goodbye!

Ahem, aren’t you forgetting something?

What?

Press the other button.

Oh. Right.

(twinkly music plays) Ooh ho ho ho! Woo hah hah hah! Wha ha hah ha ha ha!