It’s easy to see why people in creative industries like to mention the work of Douglas Adams. His unique perspective was eccentric and funny, but also very sharp and occasionally extremely wise. A story as riddled with ideas as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (whether book, TV show or radio drama) is bound to pick up fans who want to tip the wink to other fans, and some of those fans are in positions of extreme authority, creative or actual.
So, here are some of the knowing winks and heartfelt tributes to Douglas Adams’s most popular work, starting with the TV show in which some of his Hitchhikers ideas first came to fruition:
1. Doctor Who
There are quite a few Hitchhiker’s references in Doctor Who, as you might expect given that Douglas was a script editor during the Fourth Doctor era. In “Ghost Light,” the Seventh Doctor asks himself who said, “Earthmen rarely invite their ancestors to dinner?” which is a Hitchhikers quote; there’s a whole episode called “42” (which serves as both a nod both to the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything and the TV show starring Kiefer Sutherland).
Rory Williams describes the TARDIS graveyard in “The Doctor’s Wife” as “the junkyard at the end of the universe,” as opposed to The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, and of course the Tenth Doctor claims to have met Arthur Dent in “The Christmas Invasion.”
Oh and speaking of 42…
2. The number 42
It’s impossible to tell exactly how many of these references are definite nods to Hitchhiker’s, but the true figure is definitely somewhere between all and none, and includes (deep breath):
TV: In The X-Files, Agent Mulder lives at apartment 42, while 42 is also one of the Hurley Numbers in Lost. 4242 Adams Blvd is an address in an episode of NCIS, and Lionel in the PBS Kids series Between the Lions wears a jersey with the number on it, as does the character Adam in Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. And in Stargate Universe, Dr. Nicholas Rush has a dream in which he writes the number 46 on a whiteboard and Dr. Daniel Jackson says, “Well, it’s not the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything.”
Gaming: Fable II throws up an artifact that demands, “Now just think of the number 42,” whereas Destroy All Humans takes players to a place called Area 42. In Borderlands, there’s a character called Tannis building an Infinite Improbability Drive from 42 parts, and Universal Sandbox has an Easter egg whereby typing 42 without anything selected gives the achievement “The Answer.”
Comic books: Miles Morales, the current Spider-Man, took on his powers after being bitten by a genetically altered spider, marked with the number 42.
Real life: When moving into their Googleplex HQ, Google named the first building they moved into 42, and Cern’s Large Hadron Collider also has an office complex with a similar name for similar reasons. After all, they’re all looking for the ultimate answer too.
Two asteroids have been named with Douglas in mind. The Minor Planet Centre space agency named one 18610 Arthurdent, and asteroid 2001 DA42 was named 25924 Douglasadams.
4. The Big Bang Theory
To date there have been three principal Douglas Adams references in this geek-ridden romantic comedy. In “The Romance Resonance” Penny buys Leonard a romantic gift of a first edition of Hitchhiker’s (but he already has one), in “The Prom Equivalency,” Sheldon suggests that the best way to withstand a fake prom is to pretend to be a visitor from another planet, like Ford Prefect, and in “The Table Polarization,” Sheldon takes a stand to defend his desk, saying, “Think of me as Arthur Dent in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, lying in front of the bulldozers to protect his home.”
5. Marvin the Paranoid Android
It’s a fleeting reference, but how many other key characters in science fiction have had a Radiohead song named after them? “Paranoid Android” was the lead single from the band’s astonishing 1997 album OK Computer, and topped the British singles chart, despite not really being about the depressed robot at all.
Of course, Marvin does have a musical past of his own, as he was the star of this 1981 spin-off single, performed by his real human voice, Stephen Moore:
6. Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters
Neopets is an online virtual pet community, in which players interact with their virtual pets and collect various items. One of these is a drink called the Pan Galactic Gargle Slushie, a far less dangerous version of the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster, a drink the Hitchhiker’s Guide refers to as replicating the effect of “having your brains smashed in by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick.”
7. Zaphod Beeblebrox
There are a pleasing amount of references to Zaphod (pleasing for him, at any rate) across a variety of media, from webcomics (Questionable Content refers to his habit of sending down drinks to check on other drinks as “Beeblebrox’s Gambit”) to nightclubs (in Ottawa, Canada).
In nature there are two creatures that officially bear his name, both because they have patterns that resemble a second head to throw potential predators off track. There’s the fungus moth Erechthias beeblebroxi, and the fish Bidenichthys beeblebroxi. In a less scientific naming protocol, the head male meerkat in Animal Planet’s Meerkat Manor was named Zaphod.
And while there are plenty of references to Zaphod across various games—console, online and PC—World of Warcraft takes the crown for having a quest called Four Heads are Better than None, in which players must collect four heads, named “Za” “Phod” “Beeble” and “Brox.”
8. The Flash
It’s a brief moment of cross-fandom nerditry, but in the episode “Fast Enough,” Cisco utters the phrase “So long and thanks for all the fish,” which is not only the last message left for humans when the dolphins of earth abandon the planet just before the Vogons blow it up, it’s also one of the books in the Hitchhiker’s series:
9. Towel Day
Towel Day is, of course, a global celebration of Douglas Adams’ work, which takes place on the 25th of May each year. In 2013, the Norwegian public transportation company Kolumbus marked the occasion by giving their customers towels that had a special chip inserted that allowed them to ride on buses and boats for free. And for 2015’s event, astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti read a sample from The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy out loud from the International Space Station.
10. Google (again)
To honor his 61st birthday in March 2013, Douglas was the subject of a rather sweet Google Doodle:
Now, go and play our personality quiz: Which Hitchhikers Guide character are you?
The new series Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, adapted from the books of Douglas Adams, arrives on BBC AMERICA on October 22.Read More