Episode 12 - Fit The Twelfth
Episode 12 takes place on Planet Brontitall. As the episode begins, Ford and Zaphod discover an extremely delayed Transtellar Spacelines flight, while Arthur and Lintilla escape from the evil shoe corporation executive Hig Hurtenflurst.
Some scenes of this episode were remixed and re-edited after its initial broadcast.
Geoffrey Perkins writes:
The final show in the series very nearly didn't make it on the air. Although the actors were recorded on 13 January the actual mixing of the show was all done on the day of transmission, completed some twenty minutes before it was due to go out and then spirited in a fast car down one of London's busiest roads... to BBC Broadcasting House, where it arrived just a few minutes before transmission. Keen eared listeners might have noticed that some scenes were remixed for the subsequent repeats, since at the time we had no time to do anything on the last scene but add a little rain and some cat impersonations.
In fact, most of the episode changed subtly, not just the last scene. The list of changes given above does not include very minor edits that permeate the episode, such as tightening of pauses in dialogue. None of these seemed sufficiently interesting to merit inclusion here. Similarly, the scene with the Allitnils was clearly remixed to avoid obscuring dialogue with gunfire sound effects; I have found several instances where gunshots were moved so that the actors could be clearly heard. However, the content of the episode is entirely unchanged by this process.
The interesting changes occur while Ford and Zaphod are on board the Transtellar Spacelines ship, during Marvin's autobiography, and during the final scene with the man in the shack.
Transtellar Spacelines ship
In the original version, the audience stays with Ford and Zaphod as they move through the ship. When the android stewardess awakens the passengers, Ford and Zaphod run for their lives. They pass through several automatic doors and down a corridor before arriving directly on the flight deck.
The revised version transitions directly between one area of the ship and another using a crossfade, perhaps because Arthur has already spent most of this episode running from the footwarriors, and listening to somebody running does not make for particularly interesting radio. It adds more noise from the passengers, and an alarm clock sound effect is added just before the passengers awake, and somehow Zaphod has a sense of what is about to happen, because he cries "Run, man!" just before the passengers begin to screech. This works well and adds to the horror of the scene.
The two find that the autopilot will not be reasoned with. It begins chanting "Return to your seats". Ford and Zaphod decide to find the first class cabin. In the original version, the pair run through another series of automatic doors, and the voice of the autopilot fades into the background. It is talking to itself on the flight deck, repeating "Return to your seats" ever more insistently; an insane computer in the best tradition of HAL.
The revised version does something quite surreal here, even by HHGTTG standards. The voice of the autopilot begins to echo and pans around the stereo picture. It fades and becomes more and more metallic. There is another fadeout, and the pair arrive at the first class cabin. Personally, I find the original version far more disturbing: the new effects are, I think, overdone.
Marvin deals with Poodoo and the priest by playing them a tape of his autobiography. A few lines were cut in the revised version as Marvin complains that he "didn't ask to be made".
"Reality is on the blink again"
Zarniwoop collapses the artificial Universe, and a few lines of dialogue from other parts of the series are heard again as reality tears apart. This is a curious sequence; it does not appear in the script book, and yet it must be important, since it was extended for the revised version with the following lines:
POODOO What we did, you see, is we flew in. ZARNIWOOP Here's to your achievement, Zaphod Beeblebrox. ZAPHOD Achievement? Oh, yeah.
These new lines were spliced in without remixing the earlier parts of the sequence, as evidenced by the particularly harsh edit just before Poodoo speaks. Clearly this sequence was felt to be worthy of extension, and it certainly adds to the already high level of universal uncertainty and paranoia found in the final episode.
The Man in the Shack
In this final scene, the protagonists finally meet the man who Zaphod and Zarniwoop have been trying to find all along.
At the beginning of the scene, the revised version adds more rain and thunderstorm effects and cuts one line where the man is talking to his cat: "Pussy think, eat fish or not fish."
The end of the scene (and the end of the series) plays out faster in the revised version. In the original version, Ford spends about ten seconds calling for Arthur, but the Heart of Gold is long gone by that time. In the revised version, Ford and Zaphod see the ship leave.
Episode 12 has many minor changes where pauses have been tightened and dialogue has been made clearer. None of these seemed sufficiently interesting by itself to appear here, although it would be possible to group many small changes together as a revised scene (as in the case of the scene with the Allitnils).
On the next page, I describe how you can restore the episodes to their original form. There are two ways of doing this - by hand, and using a program which I am distributing. The program has the advantage that it can make a large number of changes without human intervention. Therefore, it restores more sections of episode 12 than I have listed here, containing minor edits.
My comparison of the off-air HHGTTG records and the commercial CD release reveals that the two are largely the same.
Revisions were made in only three out of twelve episodes. In two cases, these only affect a single scene in each episode. The exception is the final episode, where changes are widespread. The amount of material that was lost is, fortunately, quite small. Nine episodes remain, to the best of my knowledge, entirely unchanged.
As a long time fan of the original version of HHGTTG, I must comment that most of the revisions were an improvement. The exceptions are the Magrathea scene, now restored by the BBC, and the changes to the autopilot's voice (see above). It is also a shame that some of Marvin's autobiography was removed, as Marvin is awesome. However, the mice are improved on the commercial CD release. The Allitnil scene is clearer, the passenger cabin more horrifying, and the final scene with the man in the shack sounds better.
I would like to thank a number of people for contributing to this project, and draw your attention to the possibility of restoring your copy of HHGTTG to match the original broadcasts.
Share and enjoy.
Jack Whitham, October 2009.
Page revised April 2015.