These web pages are an archive of differences between the initial broadcasts of the famous "Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (HHGTTG) radio series, and the versions of those broadcasts now available on CD*.
Revisions were made for a variety of reasons, some obvious, some more subtle. I have compared the CD version against original off-air recordings and documented all of the differences that I found.
On this page, I explain the background of this restoration project. The next page explains how I located differences between the original broadcasts and the CD release. (That's quite technical.) Subsequent pages deal with the differences in specific episodes: Fit the Third, Fit the Fourth, and Fit the Twelfth. There is some software to "patch" the sound on the CD release to restore the original version, and many people to thank for their contributions to this project!
BackgroundThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was (originally) a radio series, broadcast on BBC Radio during March and April 1978. It was a success. A Christmas special followed in December 1978, and a five-episode second series was broadcast in January 1980.
At the time, off-air recordings were made by a number of people. Using various forms of analogue tape, some high quality, these fans were able to preserve the episodes as originally broadcast. They proceeded to trade analogue copies with others who had missed the original broadcasts. This helped the show to become a cult favourite and guaranteed an audience for future HHGTTG-related material, such as books, records, the TV series and the fiendishly difficult computer game.
Meanwhile, some of the episodes were revised slightly for repeat broadcasts. Some revisions were clearly performed to improve quality, while others were done for copyright reasons. Dialogue was added and removed, scenes were re-edited and (in one case) deleted entirely.
These revised versions were used for commercial CD releases of HHGTTG (e.g. series 1 from Amazon). They were also used for radio broadcasts, though interestingly enough, recent repeats on BBC Radio 4 Extra have returned to the original form of one episode.
In one respect, these changes fit perfectly with the nature of HHGTTG, as every version of the Guide is different. The TV series, books and records do not share the plot of the original radio broadcasts; in fact, the plot of the books diverges so strongly from that of the radio series that the third radio series (produced in 2004, after Douglas Adams' death) was forced to disown all of the events of the second series as "an hallucination". The plot of the computer game is different again, and the least said about the movie the better.
However, none of these different versions can replace the original. Like an old series of Doctor Who, it has a special magic that is unique to that time and that production, an aspect that cannot be recaptured with Hollywood budgets and flashy audio/visual effects.
My interest in restoring the original episodes was kickstarted by a repeat broadcast of the series on my University's student-run radio station, University Radio York (URY). I noticed that a piece was missing - the scene where the characters step out onto Magrathea. It's a piece that I distinctly remembered hearing on the decades-old off-air recording that first introduced me to HHGTTG.
The reason was simple. URY was broadcasting from the commercial CD release. I found the episode on the tape recording, digitised it, made a web page, then wondered what else might have changed. Various people contacted me since then, providing more information. I am grateful to my sources for complete sets of original off-air recordings and snippets from A Tree Full of Secrets: most particularly the anonymous person who sent me a CD of all twelve episodes in June 2009.
On the following pages, you can read about the differences and hear sound clips. And, if you are really interested, you can "patch" the sound on the commercial CD releases of HHGTTG series one and two (the "primary" and "secondary" phases, as they have since been renamed), and hear the show as it was broadcast in 1978-1980, in CD quality whenever possible.
* A note about my source material. I am confident that the off-air recordings of series 2 used in this project are from the initial broadcasts. For series 1, I am less confident about this, as they may be taken from early repeats, and there is evidence that some scenes might already have been revised by that point. If you have earlier recordings of the series 1 episodes, or know of differences that I have not mentioned here, please consider getting in touch.