It’s ten years today since my hero Douglas Adams died.
He was such a huge influence on so many people, me included. Although, strangely enough, I’ve never been that keen on the novels. Or the TV series. And I didn’t bother to see the recent film. As for the various Dirk Maggs adaptations … shudder …
For me, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is, and always has been, about the original two radio series, the Primary and Secondary Phase – and Christmas special. To this day I haven’t heard anything funnier. Not on the radio anyway.
Like most people I think I just wanted to meet the guy who came up with phrases like: ‘No Sex Please We’re Amoeboid Zingatularians’, or who decided that since the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything is 42, the question has to be ‘what’s 5×9?’ Obviously.
So here’s a crazy interview with Adams, not dealing with Hitchhikers for once, but recounting 24 hours in his life as script editor on Doctor Who:
“An interesting thing actually happened during the making of ‘City of Death’, because although I’d written it to be in Paris I was the only member of the team who didn’t get to go to Paris! So I was rather upset about this, I was sitting in my office at the BBC feeling a little miffed, because everyone else was gallivanting off in Paris and I was by myself, and this wild Scottish ex-hippie came into the office and said ‘Where is everybody?’, and I said ‘They’re in Paris’, he said ‘Well I need to talk to the producer’, I said ‘Why’s that?’, he said ‘I’m directing the next show, the Dalek story, and there are some problems I want to talk about’. This was [director] Ken Grieve, who is one of the world’s most stupendous and marvellous piss artists, and I said ‘Well you can’t talk to them, they’re in Paris’, he said ‘And you’re here all by yourself?’, I said rather bitterly ‘Yes’, he said ‘Why don’t we go to Paris?’, I said ‘Don’t be stupid’.
“So we got our passports, went down to the airport, jumped on a plane, got into Paris, arrived at the hotel we knew they were staying in. They were all looking tired after a long day’s shooting, other than Tom, and we said ‘Hey, bet you’re pleased to see us’, of course they weren’t. We said ‘Let’s go out and have fun’, but they’d had a long day, they said ‘You go out and have fun’. At that point, Ken and I sort of looked at each other, and gradually the realisation dawned on us that if we’d really planned this trip at all, well (a) we wouldn’t have made it, and (b) we’d have brought someone prettier than the other one.
“But we thought we’d better make the best of a bad job, and went off into the night, found a nice restaurant, had a nice meal, drank quite a lot of wine, went to a bar and stayed there drinking until the bar closed. We found another bar, stayed until that one closed, then we went to another bar, sat there and drank for a while until it closed and they threw us out. So now it was pretty late at night, we were in the Montmartre district and we couldn’t find another bar that was open at this point, so Ken said ‘Look, I do know for sure one bar that’s definitely open, do you want to go?’, I said ‘Yes, where is it?’, he said ‘West Berlin’. We phone the airport, unfortunately there were no imminent flight to West Berlin. Eventually we discovered another bar that was open, and we get going until about 5am, when it became apparent to me that Ken was quite drunk at this point, because whenever I managed to find him, which was quite tricky because he was about three feet away, he was doing things and saying things that I couldn’t understand.
“We called a cab, arrived at the airport, I got out of the cab, Ken fell out, cut his face open rather badly, by the eye, and we had to take him to the doctor at the airport, who stitched him up. We got him on the airplane, and British Caledonian were wonderfully sympathetic. We arrived back at Television Centre at 9am, feeling a little worse the wear, and Ken was further gone than anyone I’ve ever seen before, and he discovered he had to go to the basement and watch six episodes of ‘Genesis of the Daleks’, which he wasn’t quite certain if he could face but he went off to do it bravely. I spent the morning in the office, I didn’t go home, and I went to the bar at lunchtime and I knew somebody would be there and somebody said ‘How are you, do anything interesting last night?’, and I said ‘Oh, it was one of those nights, 4am you start wondering how you’re going to get back to England’.
Check out the full interview, and many more, at the wonderful drwhointerviews blog here.