On March 11th 1952, the universe gave us Douglas Adams. And we were better for it. So put down the Vogon poetry and grab your towel, we’re looking at the life and works of Douglas Adams, this week on Midweek Trivia.


Doctor Who

Douglas Adams is best known for two works, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and his Doctor Who scripts. First off, let’s look at his Doctor Who work.

The Pirate Planet

In 1978 Douglas sent the script for the HHGG pilot radio program to the BBC and was assigned the Doctor Who script The Pirate Planet, working on both simultaneously.[1] This was the first of three DW scripts he would write, the other two being City Of Death and Shada, the latter however was un-aired due to labor disputes at the BBC. It was released in 1992, pieced together with narration from Tom Baker to fill in the missing footage that was never shot in 1980.

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The original draft of The Pirate Planet was different than what was aired. It centered on a time lord trapped in an aggression absorbing machine and there were multiple paradoxes. The story was simplified by editor Anthony Reed. The line “Standing around all day looking tough must be very wearing on the nerves” , spoken by the Doctor, was used in the HHGG radio serial, spoken by Ford Prefect to a Vorgon.

City Of Death

The script was written by David Fischer. He went through a few different ideads, settling on a detective story that would take plane in 1928 but alos involve different locations and times. After it was written, production unit manager John Nathan-Turner negotiated a deal where the shoot could afford to shoot on location in Paris with a stripped down crew [2]. This meant the 1920s setting could not be used [2]

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David Fischer was going through a divorce at the time so he could not afford the time to commit to a script re-write.[3] Producer Graham Williams and Douglas, who was script editor, worked on the re-write together. According to Adams, Graham Williams “took me back to his place, locked me in his study and hosed me down with whisky and black coffee for a few days, and there was the script”[4]. The story was titled “Curse Of The Sephiroth”.

NO, SCRAM YOU!

It was credited to David Agnew, a long time used BBC pseudonym. It had been used last for the season 15 serial The Invasion Of Time[5]. It was changed to City Of Death on May 8th 1979. [6]. Adams would use elements of this story as well as the unfinished story Shada in his story Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.[7]


The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The work Douglas Adams is probably best known for is The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. According to the EncyclopediaThatEvenFordPrefectFoundSnootyAndPretencious, Adams got the idea for the story while laying in a field in Innsbruck, Austria drunk. He looked at the stars, and having a copy of The Hitchhikers Guide To Europe, thought there should be one for the whole galaxy. He later admitted that constant repition of the story has obliterated his memory of the event.[8].

He worked on the radio serial at the same time as he was working on Doctor Who. While working on both projects at the same time, he had a bad habit of missing deadlines. He had to be locked in a hotel room with his editor for three weeks to ensure that So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish was completed on time.[9].

There is a HHGG comic book that was made in 1993. It was a three part adaptation done by DC in conjunction with Byron Preiss Visual Publications. Adams was reportedly not happy with the use of American phrases and idioms in what he believed to be a British story.

Yet another Alan Rickman role he fucking nailed. I really need to watch this movie again. I must be one of the few who liked it.


Personal Life

Douglas Adams was a self proclaimed “radical atheist”. He added the radical to prevent people asking if he was agnostic.

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He told American Atheists that this made things easier, but most importantly it conveyed the fact that he really meant it. “I am convinced that there is not a god,” he said. He imagined a sentient puddle who wakes up one morning and thinks, “This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!” to demonstrate his view that the fine-tuned Universe argument for God was a fallacy.[10]

Here is the full transcript of the speech he made to Digital BIOTA 2 at Cambridge in 1998.

http://www.biota.org/people/douglas…

Despite his atheistm,he was fascinated by the religions of the worlds.

He was an avid environmentalist and conservationist. He produced a non-fiction radio series called Last Chance To See, where he and naturalist Mark Carwadine visited rare species such as the Kakapo and Baiji. There was a tie-in book of the same name along with a CD-ROM with audiobook, e-book and picture slide show. They contributed the ‘Meeting A Gorilla’ passage from the series top the book The Great Ape Project. [12] Since 2003 Save The Rhino, a UK based conservation charity has held an Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture around the time of his birthday to raise money for environmental campaigns. Past lectures include Neil Gaiman and Richard Dawkins.[13]

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Last, but certainly not least, Douglas Adams was an avid fan of new technology. He was either the first or second person in Europe to buy a Mac. Depending on who tells the story it was either him or Stephen Fry. Fry claims he was second to Adams. [14] He was an “Apple Master”, one of several celebrities Apple used as spokespeople. Others were John Cleese and Gregory Hines. He spoke at the 1996 Microsoft Professional Developers Conference, talking about the PC as a modeling device.[15] His very last post on his forum was praise for Mac OSX and the possibility of the Cocoa programming framework, calling it “awesome”. That would be the final word he wrote on his site.[16]

Folks, this was one of the harder trivia posts I’ve done since I rebooted this column. Not because there wasn’t a lot of interesting information but because there was too much. I learned so much I never knew about this man doing this article and I encourage you to read some of the Wikipedia articles and even dig into the links provided. All I can tell you is that he was taken from us to soon, I would have loved to get his views on life in the year 2016. I’ll leave you with that to think about, and I’ll see you next Wednesday, for another Midweek Trivia.


1. DVD commentary, The Key Of Time

2. Pixley, Andrew (22 December 2004). “Archive Extra. City of Death”. Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition (9 – The Complete Fourth Doctor Volume Two): 37–39.ISSN 0963-1275.

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3. Stradling, Ed (producer); Morris, Jonathan (writer) (2005). Paris in the Springtime (City of Death DVD Special Feature). London: 2|entertain. BBCDVD1664.

4. Gaiman, Neil (2003). Don’t Panic. Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2nd ed.). London: Titan Books. ISBN 1-84023-742-2. Pg.49

5. Barnes, Alan (8 December 2004). “The Fact of Fiction. City of Death”. Doctor Who Magazine (350): 16–23. ISSN 0957-9818.pg. 16-17

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6. Pixley, Andrew (22 December 2004). “Archive Extra. City of Death”. Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition (9 – The Complete Fourth Doctor Volume Two): 37–39.ISSN 0963-1275.pg.38

7. Simpson, M. J. (2003). Hitchhiker. A biography of Douglas Adams. London: Hodder and Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-82488-3.pg.232

8. Adams, Douglas (2003). Geoffrey Perkins (ed.), Additional Material by M. J. Simpson, ed. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: The Original Radio Scripts (25th Anniversary ed.). Pan Books. p. 10. ISBN 0-330-41957-9.

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9. Felch, Laura (2004). Don’t Panic: Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Neil Gaiman, May 2004

10. Adams, Douglas (1998). Is there an Artificial God?, speech at Digital Biota 2, Cambridge, England, September 1998.

11. Silverman, Dave (1998–1999). “Interview: Douglas Adams”.American Atheist 37 (1). Archived from the original on 8 December 2011. Retrieved 16 August 2009.

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12. Cavalieri, Paola and Peter Singer, editors (1994). The Great Ape Project: Equality Beyond Humanity (U.S. Paperback ed.). St. Martin’s Griffin. pp. 19–23. ISBN 0-312-11818-X.

13. “The Ninth Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture”. Save the Rhino International. Retrieved 27 July 2011.

14. “Craig Ferguson 23 February, 2010B Late Late show Stephen Fry PT2". YouTube. 21 June 2010. Retrieved 27 July2011.

15.

16. “Adams’s final post on his forums at”. Douglasadams.com. Retrieved 1 June 2009.

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