Thursday, 5 November 2009

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

One of my favourite jokes in THHGTTG is archaeological. It appears in the generally neglected second radio series. Hitchhiker's was a radio series originally, and the first radio series was adapted into the novels, the TV series, the computer game and, eventually, the movie. The second series, though, with some exceptions (such as the famous piece of advice involving towels) tends to be left out (though it's been a long time since I read the books, so this bit might appear there too - indeed, Wikipedia suggests some of it is in the second novel). It's my favourite, and I must have listened to it a thousand times, and it has some great stuff in it, such as the statue of Arthur throwing a cup that is held in place by Art, and John le Mesurer's performance as the Wise Old Bird.

Trapped on the planet Brontetaal, having fallen out of the artistic cup, Arthur meets Lintilla, an attractive young archaeologist who was presumably intended as a replacement love interest (Trillian didn't appear in the second series - I don't know whether they didn't want to recast, or just fancied a change). Lintilla is investigating a strange phenomenon in the archaeological record in Brontetaal - an entire archaeological layer of compressed shoes.

The Guide then explains (via a very entertaining if slightly disturbing interaction between a CompuTeach and a young student involving pressing exciting buttons) that, when a civilization is going downhill and everyone is depressed, they are all looking at their feet, so they go out and buy new shoes to cheer themselves up. Shoe shops start to take over the economy and eventually no other shops exist, and society reaches the Shoe Event Horizon and collapses, the survivors evolving into birds.

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that I am totally incapable of looking at the side of a trench in an archaeological site, or indeed at levels of geological strata in rockfaces, as I did the other day, without expecting to find an entire archaeological layer of compressed shoes. It's a good thing I'm not a practical archaeologist.


  1. Hmmm... I didn't know Hitchhiker's had originally been a radio show! I discovered it with the first book... such wacky fun! :o)

  2. I know! I love the radio show - the first two series are especially worth seeking out (series 3, 4 and 5 are adaptations of the books, rather than vice versa)

  3. I think I've only heard the first radio series, which was great. But to compensate, I have played (part of) the computer game (the text adventure). And seen the TV series. And seen the film. And read the books multiple times.

    The archeology joke does not appear as such in the books, though the Shoe Event Horizon does, as do the birds. Only they're on Frogstar B.

    This is all a clever ploy to make me buy Part 6 of 3, isn't it?

  4. Ah, my secret identity as a Hitchhiker's Guide representative from Megadodo Publications has been revealed! ;)


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