Navigating The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

An Introduction

May 25th has been declared "Towel Day" as a nod to Douglas Adams and his series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  If this is your first time reading about this sci-fi/comedy collection of books, then you're in for a treat!

After the destruction of Earth to create hyperspace bypass, last surviving man Arthur Dent is whisked away on a universally immense journey by Ford Prefect, a humanoid alien who was visiting Earth to update its entry in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  This electronic guide is a lifeline for space travellers with useful tips and tidbits like the multiple uses of a towel, the benefits of a Babel Fish, and the physical harm that comes from hearing Vogon poetry.  Other characters the men encounter include Zaphod Beeblebrox, a multi-limbed charlatan and the ex-Galactic President; Trillian, the last surviving woman of Earth; Marvin the Paranoid Android; and Slartibartfast, a planetary architect.

It's a fairly straightforward story, but the problem that can arise from looking into the series is its differing iterations.  Luckily, this article is here to help!

"How do I approach the Hitchhiker's canon?"

The good news is Douglas Adams declared all iterations of the story to be equally canon, so experiencing it comes down to a matter of preference.

The BBC radio plays

The first incarnation of the series, the BBC radio plays began in 1978.  However, only the first two programs predate their respective books.  The Tertiary Phase and onward were adapted following their books' publications and recorded following Douglas Adams' death.  All recordings are currently available through the Internet Archive.
The Primary Phase (1978) / The Secondary Phase (1980) / The Tertiary Phase (2004) / The Quandary Phase (2005) / The Quintessential Phase (2005) / The Hexagonal Phase (2018)

The novels

The most readily available incarnation of this story, copies can be checked out in physical and ebook format.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Life, the Universe, and Everything

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

Mostly Harmless

And Another Thing...
Commissioned after Adams' passing, written by Eoin Colfer.

Visual media

The 1981 series
A BBC miniseries covering the first two books
Reminder: Hoopla Digital has a monthly limit to checked-out items, and each episode counts as one three day check-out.  Our current limit allows you to see the entire series within the month.

The 2005 film
Walt Disney Studio's adaptation is good for a quick overview of the story's tone and characters and adapts the first book in the series.

The 2022 series
Yet to be premiered as of the publication of this article, this adaptation of the radio and book series is planned to steam on Hulu later this year.

Thank you for reading!