After rewatching The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (the movie) — I think because I forgot how MPDG Zooey Deschanel was — I tracked down the radio show. Some interesting comparisons:
Storyline: The first half of the movie is very clearly lifted straight from the radio show, down to the dialogue. Where it deviates, like the whole Humma Kavula detour, was basically where the movie starts to fall flat for me. The thing with the point of view gun was a little forced. Basically, it’s a plot device that allows the movie to go: hijinks, hijinks, hijinks, emotional resolution for characters too distracted/self-involved to notice.
Characters: It’s been a while since I’ve read the books, so I can’t compare the characters there. However, in the movie, Arthur is a bit of a wuss. He complains that all this stuff is happening to him, and Trillian tells him at one point to, “grow a backbone.” In contrast, in the radio show Arthur keeps his upper lip stiff. The Earth is destroyed? He’s being shot at? And being shot at again? He’ll muddle through, and have energy to spare for sarcasm.
Zaphod, in the radio show, is a rock star. “Hey, man, I’m Zaphod Beebrebrox!” However, this awesome-ness doesn’t come at the expense of others. He is quite capable of getting himself out of jams he’s gotten himself into, piloting stolen starships, piecing together the puzzle he laid out for himself, beating the total perspective vortex. In contrast, the Zaphod in the movie is pretty useless and largely serves to bully and be a romantic rival for Arthur.
Trillian, in the radio show, isn’t a MPDG. In relation to Ford and Zaphod, she’s the sensible one. In relation to Arthur, she’s the one he can relate to (being human) and is more space traveled. In relation to Marvin, she’s the main one that shows compassion. The narration gives subtext that Arthur wishes he’d hitted it off better with her at the party, but they’re rather adult about it. Trillian is a cross between The Smart One / The Chick character archetype (Melancholic / Supine temperment) But cast in the lens of 00’s movie industry, Trillian is the MPDG to shake boring Arthur Dent out of his hole.
The End: I believe the chronology of the series went like this: Radio series 1-2, covering much of the first two books; Books 1-5; Radio series 3-5, covering the last three books; the movie. Let’s face it, the books ended in a fairly depressing manner. Dimensions are collapsed to ensure that the Earth is destroyed for good, including all earthlings. In the tag of the 5th radio series, they toss that aside and pencil in happy endings all around: Random is (somewhat) well-adjusted, Arthur finds Fenchurch at Milliways, even Marvin is born again. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I mean, I didn’t like the original downer ending, but the new one also seems rather artificial.