Across Pacific Magazine

Friday, May 6, 2005


By Andrew Wooding

SHEFFIELD, UK (ANS) -- In the late 1970s, relative unknown, Douglas Adams, was a scriptwriter and script editor on the long-running TV series Doctor Who. In his spare time, he wrote a six-part science fiction radio series called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy which was broadcast with little fanfare on BBC Radio 4 in the UK. No one expected it to be a hit, but rapidly – through word of mouth – it became a cult, so much so that Radio 4 repeated it almost immediately.

There then followed a Christmas special, a second radio series, a six-part TV series, two stage plays, five multi-million selling novels, a computer game, a comic book series, and more merchandise than you can shake a towel at. The only aspect of the media that Hitchhiker’s hadn’t conquered was the movies … till now. In fact, Douglas Adams died in 2001 in California while he was working on the script. A shame he didn’t get to see the finished movie as I believe he would have loved it, and the film stands as a fitting and lovingly-made tribute to his life and work.

Martin Freeman (from UK comedy series The Office) makes an excellent, perpetually-bewildered Arthur Dent. And Stephen Fry is just perfect as the voice of the book. Alan Rickman raises a smile as depressed robot, Marvin the Paranoid Android. Rapper Mos Def is surprisingly good as Arthur’s alien friend Ford Prefect, although at times he reminded me of Huggy Bear from Starsky and Hutch. And Sam Rockwell gives a manic, high-energy performance as two-headed president of the universe, Zaphod Beeblebrox.

As for the plot, well it has so many twists and turns (with countless colourful characters) that it is almost impossible to summarise … so I won’t even try. At the heart of the story, however, lies the quest to find the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything. Eventually the answer is given, but it doesn’t make sense until the ultimate question is found. Along the way, we meet the true creator of the earth and see a new earth being made – mountains are painted the right colour by workmen with paintbrushes, and hoses are used to fill the oceans.

Have you ever asked the question: “Why am I here?” Have you ever expected an answer? Douglas Adams was a well-known atheist and I suspect that, along with millions of others in this post-modern age, he would have said that trying to find an answer is impossible, and life is just one big joke, an accident, with no meaning whatsoever. One of the main themes of the story is that compared to the grand scheme of things, mankind is just an insignificant, mind-bogglingly unimportant blip. Depressing? You bet. There’s a word for this kind of thinking: nihilism.

A similar word is existentialism. As I understand it, existentialism also says that there is no ultimate meaning, but it adds that the best thing to do therefore is create your own meaning. For some, this might mean their career, children, relationships, whatever it might be. This is reflected in the movie - in a controversial departure from previous versions of Hitchhiker’s, there is a happy ending! I won’t say what it is, but I will say that during the course of the film one of the characters realises that he will never find the answer (or question) to life, the universe and everything, but it doesn’t matter because he has found something that has meaning for him: the love of someone.

Douglas Adams didn’t believe in God, but what about those who do? Are we insignificant accidents who live for a short while and then die? Jesus told us that God knows us through and through and believes we are of great worth: “God even knows how many hairs are on your head. So don’t be afraid. You are worth much more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10 v 30-31). And traditional Christian teaching says that God loves us so much that he even allowed his Son (Jesus) to die so that we would see how great his love for us is (see John 3 v 16).

I am a Christian, but I cannot pretend to know all the answers. In fact, life still seems like a massive mystery sometimes. But I do know that God knows me intimately and that I am loved. Sometimes that’s all I know … and you know what? It’s enough. How about you?

Note: This is an abridged review of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, taken from Church Army’s word-on-the-web site. For Andrew Wooding’s full review, along with some discussion questions, visit  and click on the link at the top for “Wooding Watches”. To receive a free email Bible study, 365 days a year, clink on the “Signup” link and follow the easy instructions.

Andrew Wooding
Andrew Wooding, the older son of Dan and Norma Wooding, is a Church Army evangelist currently working as Editor for word-on-the-web. He is a lifelong fan of the movies, has been an active member of the British Film Institute, and recently completed a course on "Theology Through Film". He has written seven books for children and teenagers, countless comic strips and magazine articles, and an ongoing radio serial. He lives in Sheffield, is married to Alison, and they have three children.  He can be contacted by e-mail at  (Pictured: Andrew and Alison Wooding at Sheffield Cathedral).

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