After three previous instalments which went to triple LP length, the vinyl debut of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy's Quandary Phase comes as a bit of a relief at only two records. Delving into a double album becomes something of a quicky, in comparison to the previous releases.
The reduction of the Quandary Phase from six fits to four removes a bit of the looseness which was both charming and frustrating in previous series. While it's not nearly as freewheeling as the original installments, tacking the plot to So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, as well as a little of Mostly Harmless, keeps everything nicely-plotted and moving along at an exciting clip.
Focusing most of the story on that of Arthur Dent and his newfound girlfriend, Fenchurch, did upset quite a few fans, who felt that the romantic angle was a bit adrift from previous stories, which were far more madcap and weird. That's true, but bringing the emotional component to the forefront grounds the storyline of the Quandary Phase in a way that's necessary to keep everything down to four episodes.
The cast is excellent, as per usual, and the use of Christian Slater to voice Wonko the Sane is an inspired touch. Jane Horrocks as Fenchurch has to carry a lot of weight as a new character in the long-running audio version of the series, but also acquits herself very well. Simon Jones is starting to sound a little long in the tooth, but manages to keep up a certain sort of youthful vigor to combat the almost far-too-real world-weariness in Arthur Dent's voice.
Quandary Phase's audio quality keeps up that of prior instalments, and the blue vinyl is rather lovely to look at, as well. The text of the liner notes is a little less than the first three releases, but given the brevity of the audio itself, as well as the series having been written about so much already, one can readily let that go. Stephen Fry's admission of the loss of ‘Douglasness’ is rather sad, though.
THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY: QUANDARY PHASE (2015) / LABEL: DEMON MUSIC GROUP / RELEASE DATE: MARCH 29TH