As far as advice for life goes it doesn't get much better than 'Don't Panic'. These two words are famously inscribed on the cover of the fictitious Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and are intended to reassure the more nervous intergalactic explorer. They have, however, proven remarkably adaptable to most nearly any situation one might inadvertently stumble into. They've certainly done me right over the years.
Which is why I've been repeating them like a calming mantra this week. Plans, you see, are afoot. Plans which are enough to send even the most hardened pop culture explorer into a state of mild hysteria. These plans involve having another crack at adapting the real, but wholly fictional, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy into a television series. Don't panic? I'm trying.
Douglas Adams' comedic sci-fi trilogy of six books rate amongst my favourites. I've read them all endlessly. Even the one written by someone else after Adams passed. They're logically nonsensical and paradoxically coherent. Full of dry wit, dark humour and fantastical word play that's only bettered by the absurdly ridiculous situations his characters find themselves in; a Cathedral of Hate, a restaurant at the end of the universe and, eventually, stranded on a prehistoric planet that's mostly harmless.
In a larger sense Adams' books are about the human struggle. The pains humanity endures in our futile quest to understand and make sense of things that simply don't. Things like life, the universe and everything - coincidentally the title of the third book in the series.
So while (most) of the characters grapple with these larger philosophical questions while dealing with more immediate issues like escaping physically painful poetry readings, battling wits with our mice overlords or simply trying to find a bar in the universe that serves Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters, Adams makes an incredibly strong case for the pointlessness of it all.
These are things that won't ever make sense because they can't ever make sense because that's not how the universe works. No, the best thing you can do is not panic and make a nice cup of a tea.
Which is largely what our hero, everyman Arthur Dent, attempts to do in the books. After being rescued from the destruction of the earth he spends the rest of his time bewildered by a universe he understands not at all, panicked by dangerous situations he bumbles into and unhappy that he's altogether unable to find a proper cup of tea anywhere in the galaxy.
So it's a relatable story then. Which, when added with the comedic brilliance of Adams' writing, accounts for its great success. Its popularity ensures adaptations. And its here where things get a lot shaky.
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Funnily enough, and suitably round-about, the Guide itself is an adaptation. Adams originally wrote it as a radio series for the BBC. That was popular so he wrote another series. And when that was popular also, he got asked to adapt it into a book. Which he did. Easily the best adaptation of his work.
From there its history is as convoluted as its story. The Guide has been adapted into more radio, a text-based computer game, a telly series in 1980, and a movie in 2005. You could argue the case for the radio series but in my view all pale compared to what Adams put into print.
The main issue is that when these things adapt from the books it's never as good as what Adams' words and your imagination has conjured up over the years, and any new stuff invented specifically for the adaptation tends to pale in comparison and never seems to quite get it right.
However, the episodic nature of television is a far more natural fit for the Guide than the big screen could ever hope to be. Especially as Adams cobbled the books themselves together by shoehorning bits and pieces of his various other adaptations into them.
So, just like Dent on his eternal galactic search for a cuppa I live in hope. Even though many of the adaptations of Adams' genius have been widely regarded as a bad move it's best to heed the words of the guide itself. Don't panic. I know I'm not.