World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has joined the cast of Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy: Hexagonal Phase. The cult classic returns to Radio 4 next month (and iPlayer) to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Douglas Adams’s groundbreaking radio series. In episode one, Professor Hawking will play The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy Mk.II, a hugely intelligent and powerful being who might have been known on our planet as Professor Stephen Hawking.

David Morley, producer of the new series says: “When we were thinking of cameos for the new series I suddenly thought of Professor Stephen Hawking. Douglas Adams’ work is admired by many of the world’s top scientists because of its innovative and hilarious twisting of the real universe, so I took a punt and asked the Professor if he’d like to actually play a role in the new series.

“It turned out that he was a huge fan of Hitchhiker’s and was keen to see the script. He very quickly came back with a resounding ‘yes’, and Dirk Maggs and I were jumping up and down with joy. His part blends perfectly with the actors. The results are fantastic.”

In 1978 the worlds of science fiction and comedy were united when BBC Radio 4 broadcast The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams. This was followed by four further series between 1980 and 2005. Now, for the 40th anniversary of Hitchhiker’s radio debut, the original radio cast will star in this latest installment, titled The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy: Hexagonal Phase.

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Across the six episodes, Simon Jones will reprise his role as the main protagonist, the quintessentially English Arthur Dent, as he continues to travel through space and time following the destruction of Earth. It also stars members of the classic radio, television and stage casts, including Geoff McGivern as Ford Prefect, Mark Wing-Davey as Zaphod Beeblebrox and Sandra Dickinson as Trillian. They will be joined by other special guest stars including Lenny Henry, Ed Byrne and Jane Horrocks as Fenchurch. Following in the footsteps of the late Peter Jones and William Franklyn, Douglas Adams’ friend, co-author and former flatmate John Lloyd will step into the voice of The Book.

Following previous series, which were chosen by Douglas Adams to bring Hitchhiker’s back to Radio 4 with the Tertiary, Quandary and Quintessential Phases, this series will be adapted from Eoin Colfer’s And Another Thing... which was commissioned by the Douglas Adams Estate in 2009 to mark the 30th anniversary of the first novel. It will also include unpublished Hitchhiker’s material by Douglas Adams, sourced from notebooks and writings preserved in the library at St. John’s College in Cambridge.

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy: Hexagonal Phase will air over six episodes on Radio 4 from 8 March at 6:30pm.