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I first heard this as a child, on a family holiday to the south of France. A long car journey made infinitely better by the comedy and outstanding ideas of Douglas Adams. When we got back home, I immediately sought out the book versions, got hooked on science fiction and haven't looked back since.
What makes this so superb is the imaginative ideas presented by Douglas Adams. It's not just that the robots have personalities and the doors are happy to open for you (and let you know!) but that one of them is an overwhelmingly depressed highly intelligent robot, able to read minds and finds it amazing that we live in "something so small". I particularly love the segues between what's happening to Arthur and what's about to happen to the Earth at the start of the book/series.
Even given that this was written at the end of the 1970's, it has held up very well over time, and I think, out of all the various adaptations (this, the books, tv series & film) this is the best version to start with, particularly if you've not seen or read of these. The actors playing the various parts all do an excellent job and the additional audio really helps bring it to life.
I've lost count of the number of times I've listened to this or re-read the books. Each time has been a genuinely enjoyable experience, and this is something I turn to when I need to put myself in a positive mood (even if the rate of inflation for the cost of a pint is slightly depressing!).
You should genuinely be laughing out loud within the first five minutes and continue to do so.
I first discovered the show when I was around 10 and a drama group I went to at the time spent a couple of hours acting out the first few scenes of the radio scripts. At this time I thought it was fantastic, but I didnt get the chance to investigate the show any further until it returned to the radio in 2004, after a break since 1980, for the Tertiary Phase (third series). I thoroughly enjoyed this even though, as I was only 14, I didn't fully understand some of the more intellectual, but ingenius, humour. I immediately got hold of the Primary and Secondary phases and consider them one of my most worthwhile purchases, having enjoyed them so much and listened to them so many times that I can now recite many parts of the scripts. When the Quandary and Quintessential phases came onto the radio I absolutely loved them too. I was especially impressed at how they managed to modernise the show in these last two phases without affecting the storyline set out in the final two books. At the end they even extended the radio show very slightly to resolve what made a rather depressing ending to the series of novels. An ending that Adams regularly said he regretted writing before he passed away in 2001. (With intentions of writing another book in the series)
Over the years I have listened and relistened to the radio series and I can say, without a doubt, that none of ther other versions of Hitchhiker's match up to it (books, TV or film). The radio version of the story was also the original version for the Primary and Secondary Phases, after which book adaptations were created for the first two phases. A further 3 novels were then written by Douglas Adams to continue the story and these were more recently adapted to the radio.
As I previously stated the show is packed with both intellectual and fun humour. The characters are wonderful and acted out brilliantly. All the main characters were played by the same actors for both the two old series and the three modern series. This however comes with the exception of the narrator ("The Book") who's original actor, Peter Jones, passed away in 2000. This is an amazing radio show and I would highly recommend it, even if you have seen the film and werent thrilled by it! (The film was a very loose adaptation of the Primary Phase in which the main storyline was almost entirely changed besides fundamental concepts. Even the main character, Arthur Dent, was significantly changed in personality!)