When The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy returned to the BBC airwaves in late 2004, many things had changed: Douglas Adams had passed three years prior, David Tate - voice of Eddie the Computer - had died in 1996, and Peter Jones - the voice of the Book itself - had passed in 2000. For the Tertiary Phase, Eddie was now voiced by Roger Gregg, and role of the Book was taken on by William Franklyn.
Douglas Adams, however, managed to appear in the newly-revived series, voicing the interstellar misfortunes of Agrajag, who keeps finding himself reincarnated and killed by one Arthur Dent. Adams had recorded an audiobook version of Life, The Universe, And Everything in 1990 for BBC Audiobooks, and thanks to some clever editing his voice was lifted from that recording so that he might cameo as the character of which the author was so fond.
This Phase of the show is notable in that Dirk Maggs' adaptation hews rather closely to the Life, The Universe, And Everything book, whereas the previous series were radio dramas first, then books, while the final two series would digress somewhat from the books in order to tie all of the radio programs together. Because of this rather more faithful adaptation, fans familiar with the book are certain to find few surprises, but will definitely be entertained.
While Franklyn taking over for the voicing of the Book requires a bit of getting used to, by Fit the Seventeenth, one's acclimated quite nicely. There's a portion of Book narration in that episode, wherein Franklyn tells the story of how the Silastic Armorfiends of Striterax came to be in possession of the Ultimate Weapon. The way in which Franklyn wraps his voice around a series of tongue-twisting and ridiculous names is positively sonorous. It's the sort of thing that's so absolutely pleasing to hear that one finds it necessary to lift the needle and go back to listen to it another three or four times.
The Tertiary Phase is somewhat unique in that it was released in full on compact disc before the final episode actually aired. This release from Demon Music Group is the series' vinyl debut, and features the same crack packaging as the Primary and Secondary Phase releases - less of a box set and more of a coffee table book style, slightly larger than the usual LP jackets. The artwork is what's sure to grab any interested fan's eye first, thanks to Tom Fournier and Ray Wong's excellent illustrations, coupled with the design work of Oink Creative, but once the shrink wrap's off, the words are what are sure to entrance. The faux entries from the Book - apropos to the episodes' features - really make one wish that the creative team would collaborate to release a book which is nothing but those.
Jem Roberts, official Adams biographer, offers up a behind the scenes, while Dirk Maggs shares a tale of how he first met Douglas Adams. Throw in a reproduction of a contemporary Radio Times piece on the show's return, and there's enough reading material to leave even the most jaded fan spellbound.
THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY: TERTIARY PHASE / LABEL: DEMON MUSIC GROUP / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW