Sunday, 15 July 2018

Douglas Adams - The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy: Quandary Phase

DOUGLAS ADAMS - THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY: QUANDARY PHASE (320kbs-m4a/255mb/1hr50mins)
BBC Radio 4 Extra broadcast: 11th June to 2nd July 2018

Fourth series of the cult science fiction comedy based on Douglas Adams's book So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish.

THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY: QUANDARY PHASE - EPISODE 1 (320kbs-m4a/64mb/27mins)
BBC Radio 4 Extra broadcast: 11th June 2018

Arthur Dent has returned home to Earth. Not time travelled but hitchhiked back in his present to the planet he was born on, the planet described in the Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy as "Mostly Harmless" and the planet which was destroyed by the Vogon Constructor Fleet seconds after he escaped with the help of his friend, the Betelgeusian Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy Researcher Ford Prefect.

In order to get to Earth, and then more specifically his home in England, Arthur has hitched rides from an Intergalactic Teaser, a lorry driver called Rob McKenna - who is, unbeknownst to himself, a Rain God - and, finally, a Saab driver called Russell whose sister Arthur has inexplicably fallen in love with. Whether or not she returns the sentiment is hard to establish because she is unconscious throughout their first meeting and, as Arthur only caught the name 'Fenny' before being dropped off at his cottage, he may have some trouble re-establishing contact.

Ford meanwhile has been researching drinks prices in a far from harmless bar on a far from harmless planet. Despite encounters with a bird which squawks the name of local contract killers and a disembodied hand with homicidal tendencies, he survives to learn from an update to his copy of the Hitchhiker's Guide that the Earth is suddenly a going concern once again. This gives him a Purpose In Life.

Meanwhile it is giving a headache to Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz , whose Constructor Fleet is recalled to Megabrantis, the administrative hub of the Galaxy, where he must explain how he has apparently broken the most fundamental of Vogon directives and failed to carry out a simple order.

THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY: QUANDARY PHASE - EPISODE 2 (320kbs-m4a/64mb/28mins)
BBC Radio 4 Extra broadcast: 18th June 2018

Having rediscovered a mysteriously intact Earth, Arthur Dent finds his cottage and his bedroom in a similar (mysteriously intact) condition. He has also found a mysterious Grey Glass Bowl bearing the inscription 'So Long And Thanks For All The Fish'. Having awoken, washed and breakfasted he has managed to explain his absence from work he has gone in search of Fenny, the unconscious girl he encountered in a Saab on the A303 and, amazingly, has found her.

During the ensuing conversation in a pub - despite the attentions of an over-eager raffle ticket vendeuse - it becomes clear that what the fates laughingly call 'chemistry' is occurring here and these two people are falling in love. It also emerges that the girl's name is Fenchurch and that she has a history of mental instability. This matters to Arthur no one jot. What matters to him infinitely more is that he has won the pub raffle, and the ticket he traded in for his prize bore Fenchurch's phone number.

Meanwhile Ford Prefect, having escaped a particularly nasty fate at the hand of a ... er, hand ... in The Old Pink Dog Bar in Han Dold City, has managed to hitch a ride aboard a Sales Scoutship of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation, an organisation he particularly loathes and detests. The re-appearance of the Earth having inspired to a new and startling purpose, Ford has managed to patch the Scoutships comms system into the British Telecom Speaking Clock, a feat which has left him feeling fulfilled but in need of a rest. Unfortunately his choice of cruise vessel proves to be a Xaxisian Robot Ship engaged in a war which could severely shorten his life.

While Ford reprograms the Xaxisian Ship to seek out Possibly The Most Exciting place In The Known Universe (according to the Hitchhikers Guide), Arthur has gone in search of the prehistoric Islington cave we first met him in at the start of the Tertiary Phase, and finds it the site of a mews cottage occupied by ... Fenchurch.

THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY: QUANDARY PHASE - EPISODE 3 (320kbs-m4a/63mb/27mins)
BBC Radio 4 Extra broadcast: 25th June 2018

Arthur's new love Fenchurch - that is her name, for she was conceived in a ticket queue at that eponymous railway station - is troubled by an experience she had once in a cafe in Rickmansworth, which made her think the Earth was being ripped apart. This event is dismissed by the majority of people on the mysteriously re-appeared Earth as a mass hallucination, but to Arthur Dent it sounds suspiciously like the day the Vogon Constructor Fleet blew up his home planet and exiled him to bootless wandering about the Galaxy.

Meanwhile Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz has been called to account for the fact that the Earth he destroyed is still serenely sitting in that quadrant of the galaxy called ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha. Being a planet in a Plural Zone, the Earth actually exists on several levels of Probability, and thus when one Earth is destroyed, chances are pretty good that another will just pop into existence in its place. The Court of Enquiry on Megabrantis is a dangerous place to develop a tickly cough but it is agreed that a new method of destroying ALL the Potential Earths must be found if the paperwork is to be kept in order. This, however, may have to be undertaken in a less overt, more sneaky manner than before.

After a short romantic interlude, which includes the revelation that Fenchurch's feet do not touch the ground and that she shares Arthur's handy knack of flying, the disappearance of all the dolphins shortly before her nervous breakdown suggests to Fenchurch that a Californian scientist and dolphin expert named Wonko The Sane may be able to advise them on what may have occurred. Using contacts like the friendly if decidedly odd journalist Murray Bost Henson to find Wonko's whereabouts, they travel to the USA and meet him in a curious inside-out house on the shores of the Pacific Ocean called The Outside of The Asylum. It is here that Wonko reveals that the grey glass bowls, both inscribed 'So Long And thanks For All The Fish', are in fact vessels bearing the farewell messages of the dolphins.

This mystery solved, Fenchurch has decided she would like to leave the planet.

THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY: QUANDARY PHASE - EPISODE 4 (320kbs-m4a/64mb/28mins)
BBC Radio 4 Extra broadcast: 2nd July 2018

Arthur and Fenchurch return home to England, having discovered from Wonko the Sane that their gifts of mysterious grey glass bowls emit a message from the dolphins when pinged, viz., 'This Bowl Is Brought To you By the Campaign To Save the Humans. We Bid You Farewell'. Hitching a fortuitous ride aboard Rob McKenna's All Weather Haulage lorry from Heathrow, they arrive at Arthur's cottage in Somerset where Ford Prefect sleeps soundly on a sofa, having left a trail of havoc leading back to a huge Flying saucer in which he arrived and which has flattened most of Knightsbridge, London.

The saucer's pilot is a one-hundred foot high Xaxisian Robot who has somehow been led to believe that Bournemouth is one of the most exciting places to visit in the known universe. Having entirely failed either to be taken to a lizard (its preferred negotiating counterpart) or to find anything of interest in Bournemouth, it has decided to leave, and Arthur, Ford and Fenchurch hitch a ride off Earth with the help of the 'Share And Enjoy' novelty ringtone-equipped Sirius Cybernetics phones which Ford liberated on his travels.

As the ship coasts into deep space Arthur and Ford debate why Earth has reappeared and Arthur suggests the answer must be that Earth must exist in several parallel universes. Each time one Earth is destroyed, another takes its place. This may explain the strange existence of not one but two Trillians in his current existence - one, the girl he met at a party in Islington, the other a blonder, earthbound and more American version who goes by Trillian's original name, Tricia MacMillan.

Arthur and Fenchurch voyage to Preliumtarn, where Prak The Truthful said that God's Last Message To His Creation could be found. This, Fenchurch is sure, will help her come to terms with the experience she had in a cafe in Rickmansworth when it seemed as if the Earth exploded. On the way they encounter Marvin The Paranoid Android, now a rusted shell of his former self making a final pilgrimage. Together they help Marvin to where the message can be seen, and it proves to read ""We Apologise For The Inconvenience"". This satisfies Marvin so much that he promptly and poignantly expires on the spot.

Slightly sadder but a little wiser, leaving Preliumtarn to go on a tour of the Galaxy, Arthur and Fenchurch board a slumpjet which makes a routine hyperspace jump. Routine in all aspects except the very important one which involves Fenchurch suddenly not existing at all in Arthur's universe just as the jump occurs.

Arthur has lost the love of his life. His unhappiness is complete.

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