Most people probably know Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as a series of books. And when I present you with a list of actors who were in it, your first thought might then go to the 2005 film adaptation. But no! As any die hard fan could tell you, the books themselves began life as adaptations, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was originally a radio show.
So, we’re actually going to be ignoring the movie on this list, as we take a look at ten actors you might be a little surprised were in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
This one is not from the radio show, but actually from a television adaptation of the radio show’s first series, that the BBC aired in 1981. Coming out after the first two books had already been written, the television series was also able to include some material created in their writing. One such example is the role that Davison played.
Peter Davison had not yet graced television screens in his most internationally famous role as the Doctor, but he was already rather well known in his home country for his portrayal of a vetrinarian in the television program All Creatures Great and Small. So what better role for a vet to play then... The Dish of the Day, the animal that was bred to want to be eaten?
From this point on this list will stick with the radio show, but before we go on a quick honorable mention: the same episode that featured Davison also had in it one David Prowse, also known as Darth Vader.
Woods is probably best remembered these days as Bill, the candy store owner from the beginning of the 1971 film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. But he also voiced not one but three rolls in the sixth episode of the second series of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He was the Haggunenon Underfleet Commander, Number Two on the B Ark, and the Hair Dresser.
Rincewind in the live action adaptation of Terry Pratchet’s The Colour of Magic (and the unrelated character of Albert in the earlier Pratchet adaptation Hogsfather), David Jason turned up in the same episode of Hitchhiker’s as Aubrey Woods. Jason outranked Woods as the Captain of the B Ark, but was also on the lower run of the evolutionary ladder when he provided the grunting noises for the caveman Arthur Dent was attempting to teach Scrabble to.
Most known these days as her performance as Professor Sprout, Hogwarts’ Herbology teacher in the Harry Potter films, she also voiced a role in Hitchhiker’s. In her case, however, her Hitchhiker’s performance came after many of her more famous roles.
When the original radio version was adapted into novels, they were pretty much covered after two novels. The third, fourth, and fifth novels in the trilogy were all original material. But in 2004 and 2005, Hitchhiker’s came full circle as those books were adapted back into the radio format. Margolyes portrayed the Smelly Photocopier Woman to whom Arthur went to for advice in the adaptation of Mostly Harmless.
Known for a variety of roles, but probably most famously as Patsy in the British sitcom Absolutely Fabulous, Lumley also lent her voice to the revived Hitchhiker’s radio program. She can be heard in the adaptation of Life, the Universe, and Everything as the “Sidney Opera House Woman,” one of the other guests Arthur encounters at the ill-fated flying party.
If one takes into account the charity special Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, this makes Lumley the second actor to have both played the Doctor and been in Hitchhiker’s!
A famous stand-up comedian with many film and television roles also under his belt, Mason is yet another actor who came in for a part in the revived radio show. He played the alter kocker East River Creature that Ford encounters in the adaptation of So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish.
Broadbent is well known for a large variety of roles, from Harold Zidler in Moulin Rouge! to the above pictured Professor Slughorn in the Harry Potter films. But unlike his fellow Hogwarts professor above, Broadbent was in the vintage radio show. He played Vroomfondel, one of the two philosophers (although they may not be!) who objected to the activation of Deep Thought. He also played both of the cops who showed up on Magrathea looking for Zaphod, portraying Shooty on radio, and Bang-Bang when the story was adapted for LP.
Most recently seen as the High Sparrow in the last season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, but also well known for many other roles such as a Bond villian in Tomorrow Never Dies or Governer Swann in the Pirates of the Carabian franchise, Pryce was in Hitchhiker’s as Zarniwoop in the second series of the original radio version.
It doesn’t end there, however. When the last three books were adapted for radio, the previously unrelated character of Vann Harl was combined with Zarniwoop. Pryce, even though he is a much more well known star then he was when he originally did Hitchhiker’s, returned to reprise the role.
Famous for his role in the 80’s cult classic Heathers and currently appearing in the USA Network series Mr. Robot, Slater lent his vocal talents to the adaptation of So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, playing the pivotal role of Wonko the Sane, the man Arthur and Fenchurch travel to America to see in hopes that he may be able to provide them with some answers.
I know what you’re thinking... “You said you were sticking to the radio series after #10!” And yes, the above images come from the television series, where he had cameos sitting at the end of the bar that Ford and Arthur went to, as illustrations in the Guide, or walking naked into the sea... But those mere cameos weren’t his biggest acting role in Hitchhiker’s.
Planning for Hitchhiker’s return to radio began before Adams’ unfortunate passing, and in fact the script for the first episode was written with his participation. He also expressed a desire to play one of the parts himself. And no, it wasn’t just a small one-line cameo, it was Agrajag: the poor, spiteful creature who Arthur had been unknowingly killing over and over again, and who sought to finally have his vengeance.
Now, with Adams undergoing a sudden existance failure before that could be made to happen, you may think that that was that, and they would just cast another actor in the part. But no, a way was found to honor Adams’ wish: he had recorded audio versions of the books, and his reading gave a more than sufficient performance that the audio of it was able to be dropped into the radio version with no problems. And thus, the author was able to make a wonderful posthumous appearance in what may be the definitive version of his work.