The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

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"Why are people born? Why do they die? And why do they spend much of the intervening time wearing digital watches?"

Don't Panic!

A franchise of different media, all telling variations on the same story by Douglas Adams.

To boil it down to the essentials, Arthur Dent, a fairly normal if feckless Earthling, wakes up one Thursday and, after a series of confusing events, is spirited away from Earth by his friend, Ford Prefect, right before the planet is destroyed. He then hooks up with Zaphod Beeblebrox, former President of the Galaxy, current fugitive, and all-around cool guy; Marvin the Paranoid Android, a sarcastic and chronically depressed AI; and Tricia McMillian, AKA Trillian, The Chick and the only other human being left. Zaphod is on a quest to find The Truth, and everyone else gets pulled along for the ride.

There have been many adaptations over the years, each one starting from this point and then branching off in a different direction. Adams himself has been part of most of these, and thus, they all have some level of "officialness"; it's less a single "original" with an Expanded Universe, and more a string of multi-media Alternate Continuities.

The first version was the radio series, The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy. The first series was broadcast on BBC Radio in 1978, with another series coming not long after, and a Christmas episode linking them. This material went on to become the foundation of the first two books. However, it has several bits not seen in any later version, including the full-length "Shoe Event Horizon" story. After Adams's death, three more series were broadcast, adapting the plots of the last three books.

Next came the book series, The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy, probably the best-known version. Originally, it adapted the plots from the radio series, but took off afterwards, becoming five novels in all. The novels vary widely in tone and subject matter, and the fifth book in particular didn't seem to please anyone, even its own author. Adams said near the end of his life that he wanted to do a sixth which might round things out more nicely, but this was cut short by his sudden death. Specifically, he was believed to have been retooling an in-progress Dirk Gently novel into a new Hitchhiker's story; a few reconstructed chapters were published as part of the Salmon Of Doubt anthology book. A sixth book by Eoin Colfer, entitled And Another Thing (not to be confused by a character dispensing important info just as they're about to leave) was published on October 12, 2009.

The books, in order, are:


A six-episode TV series version was shown on The BBC, The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy. This, too, was based on the first radio series, and used much of its cast. It was innovative, particularly in its use of pen-and-ink animation to simulate the "electronic" entries of the titular Guide, but suffered from low budgets.

There was an Interactive Fiction game, The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy, that was also largely written by Adams. It's known for being fiendishly difficult, yet a classic of the genre. A fully playable Java version of the original exists on Adams' own website, and can be found here, while the BBC website has two different illustrated 20th Anniversary Editions available on their website, here. The games have less plot than any of the other tellings, ending when you first set foot on Magrathea. A sequel was planned but never made.

In 2005, a big-budget Hollywood movie version, The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy, came out. The script was based on a previous Adams-written script, and contained several new ideas by him, including the POV Ray and the Vogon homeworld. Reviews were mixed, with some appreciating the wit and ideas, while others grumbled at the lack of a real narrative backbone and slightly lethargic pacing.

The series has also been adapted into stage shows, albums, comic books, and even a version printed on a towel. There is also a website, created by Adams himself and originally run by the BBC, called H2G2.


The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the Trope Namer for:

This whole bunch of stuff provides examples of:
  • Absolute Xenophobe: The Krikkiters, who on becoming aware that there was a universe outside their dust cloud decided that it all had to go.
  • The Ace: Zaphod, Zig-Zagging Trope.
  • Achievements in Ignorance: Invoked. To fly, one must aim at the ground and miss. To miss you have to distract yourself at the last moment. Then once you've achieved flight, you have to avoid thinking about how this is impossible or gravity will notice you, hard.
  • Alliteration: Big Bang Burger Bar
    • Except it's called The Big Bang Burger Chef in the radio series.
  • Advertised Extra: Trillian, in the radio series.
  • Ambiguously Human: Almost every alien in the series, since Adams wasn't big on description.
  • Aliens and Monsters
  • Alien Animals: White mice and dolphins.
    • The Mice aliens in that they commissioned the Earth to be built (long story), and the dolphins are aliens in that they left the planet before it was destroyed. They even left a laser etched fishbowl that gave us the title of the fourth book as a parting gift.
  • Alien Geometries: The inside of Wonko the Sane's house, "Outside the Asylum"; in the novels, Arthur valiantly tries to work out how the inside-out house actually goes together, but it never quite looks right to him.
  • All There in the Manual: The film doesn't explain things like the importance of towels, or how the Improbability drive works.
    • It's implied that Vogons are scared of towels, because just Ford waving one in their faces made them run away in terror. That could just be a function of the Vogons' bone-jarring stupidity, though.
  • Alternate Continuity: The official stance by fans is that the franchise has no canon, only suggestions. Each of the various formats the franchise covers (radio, novels, TV series, game, movie, etc.) directly contradicts all the others.
    • Played with in the radio series: "Many stories are told of Zaphod Beeblebrox's journey to the Frogstar. Ten percent of them are ninety-five percent true, fourteen percent of them are sixty-five percent true, thirty-five percent of them are only five percent true, and all the rest of them are told by Zaphod Beeblebrox".
  • Anti-Hero: Arthur, in the "befuddled" sense.
  • Applied Phlebotinum
  • Arc Number: 42. See also Memetic Number below.
  • The Artifact: Zaphod, at least if his absence in the last two Hitchhiker's novels Adams wrote is any guide; either Adams grew weary of the character or simply found him too difficult to write for. Every subsequent adaptation, including the radio versions made after Adams died has restored him to prominence.
  • Ass Pull Subverted.
    • At one point, the main characters escape being blown up by nuclear warheads only by the Improbability Drive turning the missiles into a sperm whale and a bowl of petunias.
      • This was even subverted later when it was revealed that the bowl of petunias was a fairly important character.
        • The improbability drive is basically an Ass Pull in concrete form. However, after establishing that the improbability drive can make literally anything happen, Ass Pulls cease to be Ass pulls
  • Author Existence Failure: Trope Namer, almost; the third book mentions a "total existence failure". Later, of course, succumbed to the trope when Adams died while working on the sixth book; his last published collection of pieces, The Salmon of Doubt, contains an early draft of a Dirk Gently novel that Adams was hoping to rework into a Hitchhiker book.
  • Ax Crazy: Random.
  • Bad Guy Bar: The Old Pink Dog used to have a sign that read "Please don't ask for credit because having your throat torn out by a savage bird while a disembodied hand smashes your head against the bar often offends". The bar's reputation eventually made the sign unnecessary.
  • Bathos: Used constantly for surreal humor. The page quote is just one of many, many examples.
  • Batman Gambit: In Life, The Universe and Everything Hactar takes advantage of his apparent failure to trick the people of Krikkit into destroying the universe to instead plant the real supernova bomb on Arthur and manipulate him into nearly doing so.
  • Big Little Man: The G'Gugvuntt and Vl'hurg, who spend thousands of years sending their fleet across space to attack Earth, only to be swallowed by a small dog.
  • Blessed with Suck/Cursed with Awesome: Marvin the Paranoid Android embodies both. He's a robot who exists entirely in a state of near suicidal depression, so being Nigh Invulnerable must be a horrible burden. It's just one more example of the myriad ways the universe keeps kicking him in the plums. If robots have plums of course.
    • Give him the POV Gun and he can make a small army of Vogons collapse from depression, unable to fight. Of course, that will not make Marvin himself feel any more significant.
    • He does the same thing to the Krikkit robots in Life, The Universe, and Everything when the Masters of Krikkit salvage him and put his massive intellect to work coordinating their military strategy. The result was war robots who would go off and sulk and start doing quadratic equations instead of their job.
      • They harnessed Marvin's immense intellect to the Central Intelligence Core of the Krikkit War Computer. He didn't enjoy it. And neither did the Central Intelligence Core of the Krikkit War Computer.
    • And earlier in the series he drives an AI to suicide just by trying to talk to it.
  • The Blind Leading the Blind: Ford trying to teach Arthur about advanced scientific principles, most notably Time Travel in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Mostly Harmless.
  • Brick Joke: It is revealed after missiles are launched that the only damage to come to anyone are 2 mice being freed and a bruised arm. The episode proceeds. The End Credits stinger? "I'm sorry, but I'd probably be able to cope better, if I hadn't bruised my arm."
    • The TV series used "Arthur bruised his upper arm" said by the narrator/book after all the credits had run. (Also, if you replay the scene and look carefully, you can see the fall that caused the bruise).
    • It is quickly revealed that the fact of the freed mice is actually quite important.
    • Also, the third and fourth novel each retroactively create brick jokes out of what had originally been intended as unexplained throwaway lines: the third novel reveals the truth about the bowl of petunias that thought "Oh no, not again!", and the fourth re-introduces the girl from the cafe in Rickmansworth who was mentioned way back at the beginning of the series.
    • Not to mention the aside about living mattresses toward the beginning of the first book; eventually in Life, the Universe, and Everything we finally see one alive.
    • At the beginning of the game version, the player can pick up a toothbrush, upon which a tree falls on the phone lines. The game mentions that there is no causal relationship between these events. At the very end of the game, as the stinger, the game mentions that there actually is a causal relationship between these two events, and apologizes for the inconvenience.
    • In the secondary phase of the radio series, Arthur asks Ford "Who would want a motorised rock?" The response is essentially the same as Marvin's, to Zaphod's earlier question "Who in the Galaxy would want to bomb a publishing company?" (Another motorised rock/publishing company.)
    • The towel's role of importance to galactic hitchhikers, which was used in the TV series and the novelisation, was first used in the first chapter (or "fit") of the secondary phase.
  • Butt Monkey: Marvin on a lot of occasions has good reason for being so depressed. Most of the rest of the cast get to carry the Butt Monkey ball from time to time as well.
  • The Cast Showoff: Marvin (Stephen Moore) released four songs in the U.K.--"Marvin," "Metal Man," "Marvin, I Love You" and "Reasons To Be Miserable."
  • Casual Time Travel
  • Catch Phrase: "42."
    • Marvin: "Life! Don't talk to me about life!" "Brain the size of a planet" "This terrible pain in all the diodes down my left side", and perhaps most famously, "I think you ought to know, I'm feeling very depressed"
    • Arthur: "So this is it. We're going to die."
      • Which is usually followed up after its first usage in a work by the Guide explaining Ford Prefect's theories on human speech, the first being "If they don't keep talking their mouths seize up" and the second being "If they don't keep talking their brains start working", and then informing us that Ford quite likes humans even if the second theory is true.
    • Narrator/The Guide: "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has this to say on the subject of ____. It says that ____ is...", "By a startling coincidence"
      • And you're probably reading the rest of the article in Stephen Fry's voice now aren't you.
  • City of Weirdos: Periodically played for laughs, most notably when the Guide advises aliens visiting Earth to land in New York, since it requires no effort to fit in.
  • Confusing Multiple Negatives: The only way Marvin is capable of complimenting Trillian.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: The Total Perspective Vortex. Also, having Disaster Area stage a concert on your world might qualify.
  • Cool Starship: The Heart of Gold, the Starship Bistromath and several others.
  • Corrupt Politician: Played for laughs. Many galactic presidents are arrested on election, on general principal.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive The executives of insurance companies are implied to be this in general, since Trillian mentions that the death penalty has been instated for them, an when Arthur asks for wich offense she merely responds "What do you mean, offense?"
  • Crapsack World: No one seems to mind blowing up a planet and the legal system seems broken. Played for Laughs.
  • Creator Breakdown: Regarding the Downer Ending of Mostly Harmless and the mixed-to-negative reaction from fans, Adams conceded, "I just had a thoroughly miserable year, and I was trying to write a book against that background." He intended a sixth book to give the series a better conclusion, but succumbed to Author Existence Failure first.
  • Cross Cultural Kerfuffle: A minor, comical example. During the section explaining how scientists view of the Babel Fish has allowed for the final proof of the non-existence of God, it is said how one can then go on to prove black is white and promptly get run over at the next zebra crossing. In Britain and many other countries, black-and-white stripped "Zebra Crossings" are the equivalent of the (often yellow or parallel lined) American "Crosswalk". Americans, when reading the joke, usually imagine the term as an equivalent to a "Deer Crossing" (that is to say, a place where zebras cross) which makes for an equally humorous, though widely different joke.
    • There's an in-story example, where a casual throwaway remark Arthur makes regarding his lifestyle leads to an interstellar war of gargantuan proportions [1] breaking out.
    • The Ford Prefect was a small car Ford manufactured and sold in England, but not America. Adams regularly commented on how Americans were completely unaware of a joke they weren't getting.
      • Other countries that did translate it had to find ways of getting around the problem. Usually by renaming him "Ford Escort".
      • The TV series partially averts it by showing a list of names Ford considered using, most of the rest being much more recognizable, at least getting across the impression that he's named after something real. The movie lampshades it by Ford referring to Arthur meeting him by saving him from being run over when he tried to shake hands with a car (which he now explains, having revealed himself to be an alien, he had mistaken for the dominant life form on Earth).
  • Divide by Zero: The second book states a theory which basically says that if anyone finds out the meaning of life, then the universe will end and reboot as something even harder to explain. (Another theory says that this may have happened.) Life, The Universe, And Everything later handwaves away The Ultimate Question and Answer Of Life, The Universe, And Everything as causing such an event if anyone found out both.
  • Does Not Understand Sarcasm: Ford, occasionally.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind / The Dog Is an Alien: The white lab mice were the real masters of Earth.
  • Downer Beginning: Earth is destroyed by a Vogon constructor fleet.
  • Downer Ending: The end of Mostly Harmless. Earth Explodes, Everyone Dies, and not only are they dead, but they've been removed from the timeline and have ceased to have ever existed in any possible timeline. See Creator Breakdown.
  • The Drag Along: The characters usually take turns depending on the situation, but Marvin is always this.
  • Dreadful Musician: Disaster Area. Subverted in that they're still wildly popular.
    • On one occasion the argument is put forth that Disaster Area is actually good for the environment, on the basis that a show in a desert causes the entire desert to fly into the air and flip over like a mile-thick pancake, and the resulting exposure of fertile soil causes a field of vibrant flowers to sprout in short order.
    • Also Disaster Area is the only noise in the universe loud enough to drown out the unwanted telepathy of the above-mentioned Belcerebons - this is why the Disaster Area concert takes place on Kakrafoon. The Belcerebons are quite lucky - since Disaster Area is established as the loudest noise in the universe, it not being loud enough would mean there is no cure at all.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Poor Fenchurch.
  • Earn Your Happy Entire Book: Arthur was due the huge break life gave him in So Long. Too bad it didn't stick. (Though it does in the radio version.)
  • Earth Is the Center of the Universe: Averted at the beginning of the first book, then played straight for the rest of the series.
    • An odd example of this trope. While the Earth is important to the mices' plans, what are those plans? To go on the talk show circuit and get rich. The only version of the Ultimate Question we learn is nonsense. When another character learned universal Truth by another method, it drives some people mad, but has more to do with frogs than universal epiphanies and isn't mentioned again in any of the following books. There is a Ruler of the Universe, and he doesn't live on Earth. All things considered, Earth is more important to the universe in this series than it seems in Real Life, but it's still an absurd, farcical, nearly crapsack universe full of Shaggy Dog Stories, so nothing is all that important.
  • The Eeyore: Marvin.
  • Electric Instant Gratification: In the radio series and in Mostly Harmless.
  • Elvis Has Left the Planet: heavily implied by a scene in Mostly Harmless.
  • Empty Shell: Arthur visits a planet like Earth, but without any motivation or hope. They die of thirst when their plumbing breaks.
  • Encyclopedia Exposita: Not only are there lengthy excerpts from Guide articles, the radio series, television series, and The Movie make it plain that the story is being told by the Guide itself.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Subversion: The series starts by blowing up the planet.
    • Lampshaded in advance by the barkeep at the pub from which Ford and Arthur have just left.

Barkeep: Last orders, please.

There was a terrible ghastly silence. There was a terrible ghastly noise. There was a terrible ghastly silence.

  • Evil Minions: "Resistance is useless!"
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The Point of View Gun.
  • Extra Parent Conception: Zaphod has a bit of this, mixed with Grandfather Paradox.
  • Eye Lights Out
  • Famous Ancestor: Mr. Prosser is, humorously, a direct descendant of Genghis Khan. And Another Thing adds another that is the descendant of the Norse hero Sigurd. Needless to say, he becomes obsessed with Thor once he lands on Nano.
  • Fantastic Fragility
  • Fiction 500: The "plutonium rock band from Gagrakacka Mind Zones," Disaster Area; and Magrathea, the planet that became so rich the rest of the galaxy's economy collapsed.
  • Fictional Colour: Hooloovoo is a supersmart shade of blue. And by "supersmart", we mean "sentient and intelligent."
  • Fish Out of Water
  • Foreshadowing: In the first book, Arthur says, "I wish I had a daughter so I could forbid her to marry [a Vogon]." As of Mostly Harmless, he has one.
    • The other half of the spoilered text turns out to be a subversion in And Another Thing. Early in the book, we see Random's questionable choice of husbands, and later, we meet a Vogon character who is actually a fairly decent guy. The two never meet.
    • The part on Bartledan literature is foreshadowing on the use of foreshadowing in Mostly Harmless. In the book Arthur reads, the main character dies of thirst just before the last chapter, because of some problem with the plumbing that is only referenced once at the beginning of the book. Arthur finds this exasperating. Of course, the few clues that explain the Bolivian Army Ending are hidden the same way in Mostly Harmless. The reader finds this exasperating.
    • The demolition of Arthur's house due to a huge bureaucratic cockup foreshadows Earth's fate.
      • Although it is subverted in the books and the movie by The Reveal that it was actually malicious. (For money in the books, and to break up Zaphod and Trillian in the movie.)
  • Friendly Playful Dolphins: This trope is stated to be why dolphins are a Superior Species -- while humans went around having wars and inventing the wheel, dolphins just splashed about in the water having a good time. Their final message to humanity ("So long, and thanks for all the fish") was disguised as "a sophisticated attempt to jump through a hoop while whistling The Star-Spangled Banner."
  • Genesis Effect: The Magratheans create customized planets for very wealthy customers.
  • Genetic Memory: Humans created Cricket out of a racial memory for the Krikkit wars.
  • Giftedly Bad: The Vogons, at poetry.
  • God Is Inept:
    • His final message to His creation is "We apologise for the inconvenience."
    • One of the first things mentioned in the books and miniseries is the blockbuster philosophical trilogy "Where God Went Wrong", "Some More of God's Greatest Mistakes", and "Who Is This God Person Anyway?"
      • The author of these books was Oolon Coluphid, who went on to write "Well, That About Wraps It Up For God" when it was shown that the Babel Fish proved by its sole existence by chance that God does not exist.
  • Godly Sidestep: The Answer doesn't mean anything. The Question (which ought to clarify matters) is never seen in its completed form, as the Earth blows up five minutes too soon.
    • The footnotes of the original radio scripts notes that a letter in The New Scientist points out that 42 is the atomic number for Molybdenum, a chemical thought to have been instrumental in the creation of organic life.
  • Good Guy Bar: Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. It's also implied that the Big Bang Burger Bar at the other "end" of the universe is one as well.
  • Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress: The art of flying lies in the ability to abuse W.E. Coyote's Rule of Cartoon Inertia.
    • It involves throwing yourself at the ground and missing. This can only be accomplished by distracting yourself from the fact that you're about to hit the ground, thus inverting Dogbert's approach on Gravity Is Only a Theory.
  • Great Big Book of Everything: The titular Guide.
  • Guide Dang It: The game.
    • Think it is hard enough? Try passing a link of it to friends who have both never read the series, nor told you what it is a game of.
    • An in-universe example would be, well, the universe, especially for Arthur Dent. It would seem almost impossible to navigate without the Guide.
  • Hand Wave
  • Happy Fun Ball: There's an ordinary-looking cricket ball that triggers the end of the Universe when hit.
  • Herald: Ford.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: Ford and Arthur.
  • How Do I Shot Web?: Arthur learning to fly in the third book.
  • Huge Rider, Tiny Mount: The Vogons and their gazelle-like creatures.
    • In this case the poor unfortunate gazelle-like creatures are used more as furniture than transport, as they were too fragile to support a full-grown Vogon and their backs would snap instantly under the strain.
  • Human Aliens
  • Humans Are Morons: Arthur Dent, the only human left alive (except for Trillian), is constantly being referred to as an ape or otherwise put down as a moron (mainly by Zaphod, though he isn't exactly bright himself.)
    • Well, humans ARE only the third most intelligent species on Earth, behind Dolphins.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: Travel through hyperspace is described as "unpleasantly like being drunk." "What's so unpleasant about being drunk", you say? Ask a glass of water.
  • I'll Take Two Beers, Too!: Zaphod ordering Gargle Blasters. And Ford ordering six pints of bitter in the first book.
  • The Infinite: As a speed you can move at it is played for all the absurdity it is worth with the Infinite Improbability Drive. Where you can move at infinite speeds but only if the destination is really improbable.
  • Informed Obscenity: The word Belgium, while on Earth the name of a country, is elsewhere a very foul expletive. See Pardon My Klingon below.
  • Insignificant Little Blue Planet: Probably the most famous example, but Earth actually doesn't stay that way for long. See Earth Is the Center of the Universe for more details.
  • It Runs on Nonsensoleum: The Heart of Gold and the Bistromathics drive, among other things.
    • For instance, a giant cup made out of solid marble being held up fifteen miles in the air by art.
    • The Bistromathic Drive is far more efficient than all that mucking about in hyperspace or Improbability Factors because it runs off a form of mathematics based off the calculation of restaurant bills.
      • Hey, when you break the laws of physics everything becomes absurdly simple nonsense. It's how bistros stay in business, so why can't we do the same for Casual Interstellar Travel?
    • The Bistromathics Drive is probably similar to how Earth is-was the greatest supercomputer in the history in the universe albeit on a smaller scale.
    • At one point in history, someone built a space ship powered by bad news, because as everyone knows nothing travels faster than bad news. Unfortunately, when it arrived at its destination, nobody wanted it.
    • Then there's the literally flying party...
      • Well, the partygoers were drunk and had the expertise to make the building do so.
      • And, as the book points out, the problem with a party that never ends is that all those things that only seem like good ideas at parties keep on seeming like good ideas...
  • It's a Small World After All: Arthur is the only man to escape Earth before it's destroyed, and who should he run into almost immediately, in all the galaxy, than the only woman to escape Earth, and it turned out to be someone he'd met. Of course, this was due to the intervention of a spaceship powered by improbability, and the ship computer even suggests it's all interconnected.
  • I Would Say If I Could Say
  • The Jimmy Hart Version: Of "Tunnel of Love" by Dire Straits, in the radio adaptation of SLaTfAtF.
    • The theme on the TV series and record albums is a BBC-re-orchestrated edition of the Eagles' "Journey Of The Sorceror."
  • Just Ignore It: The Ravenous Blugbatter Beast of Traal.
  • Kill'Em All
  • Large Ham: In most versions featuring audio of some sort, Zaphod is often played as a fresh large ham.
    • The print version pretty much portray Zaphod this way as well. It's even more obvious when you know that when Douglas Adams wrote the original radio play, he based the character of Zaphod on similar characters played by actor Mark Wing-Davey, who played Zaphod in the radio show and television series. Large Ham is a quintessential part of Zaphod's nature.
    • Valentine Dyall's portrayal Deep Thought. A multi dimensional super-computer is able to take hamminess to levels that are not normally physically possible.
  • Law of Conservation of Detail: Subverted to hell and back, probably deliberately. The narrative throws in references to bizarre alien places and things via the Guide frequently. A few of them pop up later in the same book or radio show, a few of them become Brick Jokes when a later book or show makes a Call Back to them, and some quite clearly were random jokes that no one ever fleshed out or ever intended to.
  • Left Hanging: Partly because Douglas Adams is now, you know, living-impaired)
  • Life Imitates Art: Smartphones and tablets with access to Wikipedia mimic the capability and functions of the Guide with uncanny accuracy.
  • Loud of War: Vogon poetry.
  • Medium Blending: The yarn scene in the movie.
  • Meganekko: Trillian in The Film of the Book. Unfortunately, she takes them off.
  • Memetic Number: 42. Pretty much defined the series as a whole.
    • Adams seemed to regret this somewhat, at least to the extent that this one joke overshadowed all the others. "I just looked out the window and thought '42 will do'. I may be a pretty sad case but even I don't make jokes in base 13."
  • Memory Gambit: Zaphod setting up a scheme to learn who the ruler of the universe is, which involved giving himself self-imposed amnesia so that he could become president, allowing him to steal a ship equipped with the Infinite Improbability Drive so that he could find the hidden planet used to hide the aforementioned Ruler of the Universe.
  • Message in a Bottle: A fossilized towel, in the original radio version.
  • Mile-High Club: Arthur and Fenchurch, sans plane.
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: The Belcerebons of the planet Kakrafoon, cursed with the social disease of telepathy by the Galactic Tribunal.
  • Monkeys on a Typewriter: As a result of the Infinite Improbability Drive, Ford and Arthur get approached by "an infinite number of monkeys who want to talk to us about this script for Hamlet they've worked out."
  • Morning Routine: The opening, with Arthur Dent waking up as normal to discover his house is about to be bulldozed... and his planet destroyed.
  • Mr. Exposition: The Book, and to a less literal degree, Ford and Slartibartfast.
  • Multi Boobage: Eccentrica Gallumbits, the Triple-Breasted Whore of Eroticon VI.
  • Nobody Poops: Lampshaded in the new radio series adaptation of Life, The Universe, and Everything. "You know, in all this time I have never once flush".
  • Non-Indicative Name: Marvin is known as "The Paranoid Android," but he's not remotely paranoid. He's depressed, nihilistic, sarcastic, pessimistic, and a few other adjectives, but never paranoid.
    • He's also not manically depressed, despite multiple people (including himself) referring to him as a "manically depressed robot".
  • Noodle Implements: Twice in the book series: Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged became that way due to an accident involving a particle accelerator, a liquid lunch, and a pair of rubber bands. The other was due to an incident with a time machine and a contraceptive, maybe
    • The second one is the reason that Zaphod's direct ancestors are named in reverse order; his father is Zaphod Beeblebrox the Second, his grandfather the Third, and so forth, all the way back to Zipo Bibrok 5 × 10 to the 8th power or some damn thing.
      • Fenchurch's discarded underwear were also noodle implements in their own right as they massively changed lives for reasons not gone into.
  • "No Respect" Guy: Arthur.
  • Note to Self:: Zaphod.
  • The Nudifier: Finite improbability generators were doing this in their early versions.
  • Ominous Floating Spaceship
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Hactar. And because of him, also the people of Krikkit.
  • Once For Yes, Twice For No: Zaphod makes Eddie do this after gagging him.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The name Ford Prefect was born with is long since lost in the mists of time. Apparently he couldn't pronounce his own given name, causing his father to die of shame. Before he adopted the Ford Prefect moniker, he was known by the nickname Ix.
  • Only Sane Man: After being convinced the entire universe is insane, Wonko the Sane built an inside-out house and named it "Outside the Asylum". If the outside of the house is on the "inside", then everything on the outside is also on the "inside" and thus safely contained. (If you know topology, this makes absolutely perfect sense -- see, he told you he was sane.)
  • Outsourcing Fate: To the real President of the Galaxy, a little old man in a shed in the middle of nowhere. All he's interested in is feeding his cat, but occasionally people stop round and ask him what he thinks about certain things.
  • Pajama-Clad Hero: Arthur.
  • Pardon My Klingon: Apparently, "Belgium" is the most offensive word in the entire galaxy.
  • Pieces of God
  • Power Perversion Potential: The Improbability Device
  • Precision F-Strike: In So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish and Mostly Harmless.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: Trillian in the movie. In the novels, the relationship between Trillian and Arthur is somewhat schizoid -- Arthur had a chance with her at one point before she became involved with Zaphod, but they get Ship Teased in Life, the Universe, and Everything, get sunk in So Long and Thanks For All the Fish when Arthur hooks up with Fenchurch, and actually have a daughter together (via sperm bank) in Mostly Harmless.
  • Put on a Bus: Fenchurch after So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
  • Relatively Flimsy Excuse: The radio series has a subversion of the 'this autograph isn't for me' variant: "It's not for my daughter, you understand, it's for me." (It turns out to be a ruse to get Zaphod's signature on a contract he'd never have signed voluntarily.)
  • Riddle for the Ages: The Ultimate Question to Life, the Universe and Everything, although there's a hint in Life, the Universe and Everything that it may be "Think of a number, any number."
  • Ridiculously-Human Robots
  • Robot Buddy: Subverted with Marvin the Paranoid Android, and just about everything made by the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation.
  • Sanity Ball: Arthur starts off as the sane one. Ford quickly takes over this role. You know things have gotten weird when Zaphod gets the ball, however temporarily...
  • Sapient Cetaceans: In this series humans are stated to be actually only the third most intelligent creatures on Earth. The first is mice. But then, they are hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings who are actually running the Earth, which is a giant computer program, and the second is explicitly stated to be dolphins (who aren't in disguise and are still ahead of humans), and who knew about the impending destruction of Earth long before the humans themselves knew about it. The dolphins tried to warn them, but when the humans didn't understand, they left the planet quietly by their own means. Their last message is "so long and thanks for all the fish", and this all becomes important in the book So Long and Thanks for All the Fish. At the end of So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, it's all but stated outright that the Dolphins were responsible for restoring Earth.
    • The Movie even gave the dolphins a musical number as an opener, complete with a beautiful view of them shooting into the skies like rockets.
  • Sapient Ship: The spaceship Heart Of Gold is maintained by Eddie, a Sirius Cybernetics Corporation computer with a sickeningly cheerful and optimistic programmed personality. Other equally unlikable computers have been installed to run other functions on the ship as well, right down to automated doors run by programs that live for the chance to open and close for someone. At one point Zaphod discovered that Eddie had an emergency backup personality - unfortunately, it was worse.
  • Saw Star Wars 27 Times: At one point, Wowbadger the Infinitely Prolonged asks his ship computer if there's any movie he hasn't already seen "over thirty-thousand times."
  • Science Is Wrong
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Krikkit
  • Second Law, My Ass: Marvin is a low-grade version of this trope.
  • Security Blanket: Always know where your towel is.
  • Seekers: Most of the core cast, really.
  • Seen It All: Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged.
  • Self-Deprecation: "Any people you may meet are merely the products of a deranged imagination." All the people are, of course, the product of Douglas' imagination.
  • Shiny-Looking Spaceships: The Heart Of Gold, which makes sense because Zaphod steals it just as it is being christened.

Ford: I think this ship is brand new!
Arthur: Why? Do you have some kind of alien technology for measuring the age of metal?
Ford: No, I just found this sales brochure lying on the floor.

  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: So Long And Thanks For All The Fish. Not the book itself which has the happiest ending of any in the series, but what Mostly Harmless, the next book in the series, did to this happy 'ending'...
  • Sinister Geometry: The Vogon ships in the movie.
  • Sink-or-Swim Fatherhood
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Firmly cynical, with a brief one-book excursion to visit the idealistic side.
  • The Slow Path: One of the ways in which the universe keeps kicking Marvin in the teeth is that he keeps getting sent back in time but never forward, resulting in him just waiting around to intersect with the rest of the cast again. By the end of his life he is more than 37 times older than the universe itself
  • Somebody Else's Problem: Trope named by the Somebody Else's Problem Field.
  • Something Completely Different/Out-of-Genre Experience/Mood Whiplash: So Long And Thanks For All The Fish is radically different in story and tone from the other books in the series.
  • Sound Effect Bleep: In the radio version of Life, The Universe And Everything, "Most Gratuitous Use of the Word * engine roar* in a Serious Screenplay".
  • Sound to Screen Adaptation
  • Spanner in the Works: The aforementioned Gambit fails because Arthur is absolutely the worst cricket bowler ever.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Pretty much all the main characters (yes, that includes Marvin) in the Radio adaptation of Mostly Harmless.
  • Spoiler: In-universe example, at the beginning of the missile attack, although this is done ostensibly in order to reduce suspense-induced stress (the narrator says so). It does preserve a minor piece of suspense, however, by not telling us exactly who's arm is bruised.
    • See also: Peril-Sensitive Sunglasses.
  • Spot of Tea: A recurring theme is Arthur's inability to get one.
    • The Infinite Improbablity Drive is created by putting an atomic vector plotter into a source of brownian motion, which happens to be a "nice hot cup of tea."
  • The Stinger: The reveal of the identity of the person who bruised their arm in the missile attack comes at the end of the radio and TV episode it occurs in, and the end of the chapter in the book.
  • Suckiness Is Painful: Vogon Poetry is the third worst poetry in the Universe.
  • Sudden Downer Ending: At the end of Douglas' last book, everyone but the Vogons are dead.
    • Except Adams was planning to write another book, which suggests that they actually survived. As indeed they did in the radio adaptation of the later books, and the Colfer book.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Alien: The mice, the Magratheans.
  • Take That: Ever wondered why the worst poet in the universe was changed from Paul Neil Milne Johnstone in the radio series to Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings in all other versons? It's because Johnstone was a real poet who was at university with Adams and he complained. The snippet of Paula's poetry seen in the TV series ("The dead swans lay in the stagnant pool...") is a genuine poem that Johnstone wrote.
    • He was just "amused" at being called the worst poet in the universe, but he objected to his address being broadcast. So instead of "Beehive Court, Redbridge", Paula lived in "Wasp Villas, Greenbridge". He went on to be quite a successful poet, but he admitted that the stuff he wrote as a teenager sucked.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: Marvin does this by accident, by plugging himself into a ships computer and telling it how depressed he is. This also kills two soldiers whose life support is connected to the computer.
    • He also talks a tank and a bridge to death.
      • Although the tank is a subversion, since he actually tricks it into sending itself plunging to its' doom, rather than making it suicidally depressed. The bridge, however, appears to have been intentional.
  • Tannhauser Gate: Mentioned by Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged in And Another Thing.
  • Ted Baxter: Zaphod.
  • Terrain Sculpting: Slartibartfast once won an award for his work on the fjords in Norway.
  • Terminator Twosome: Mostly Harmless. On the good side, Ford and Arthur. On the evil side, the Guide Mk II.
  • Theory of Narrative Causality: Justified in-universe, first with the Infinite Improbability Drive, then the Mk II Guide's reverse temporal engineering.
  • Thing-O-Matic: Ford's Sub-Etha Sense-O-Matic, the Kill-O-Zap guns, among others.
  • Think Nothing of It: Zaphod takes this literally.
  • Thirteen Is Unlucky: The evil Guide-bird was kept on floor thirteen.
  • Time Abyss: Thanks to a great deal of Time Travel and taking The Slow Path, Marvin reaches a nearly impossible age. By the time he dies, Marvin is thirty-seven times older than the universe itself.
  • Time Travel
  • Time Travel Tense Trouble: Dr. Dan Streetmentioner's handbook willan haven been the quote-giver.
    • It should be noted that the Guide itself doesn't even bother with the tenses, and simply mentions that they don't use the future perfect tense, because it was found not to be.
      • The text gives some examples of the usage of the entirely correct tenses, for about one paragraph, following mentioning the book by Dr. Streetmentioner, and stopping before the note about dropping the 'future perfect' tense.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: since the whole Time Travel thing (and indeed pretty much every other sci-fi concept) is played for laughs, don't expect consistency. This is lampshaded and played with constantly.
  • Too Soon: An in-universe Too Soon: the sheer tastelessness of a genocidal war being reduced to an entertaining British ball game has caused most of the galaxy to shun humanity.
    • Also, The BBC provided a content warning when the episode involving the air attack on the Guide offices (a giant H-shaped skyscraper) was aired shortly after 9/11 - to their credit they didn't postpone the broadcast altogether.
  • Translation: "Yes": Ford's former alias was "Ix", which means "Boy who is unable to satisfactorily explain what a Hrung is, or why it should collapse on Betelgeuse Seven".
  • Translator Microbes: Lampshaded with the Babel Fish.
  • Tricksters: Zaphod and, to a lesser degree, Ford.
  • Unkempt Beauty: Trillian (Zooey Deschanel) in her first main story scene in The Film of the Book.
  • Unknown Rival: Agrajag and Arthur.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Belgium!
    • To a lesser extent, Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish.
  • Utility Belt: Always know where your towel is.
    • Other hitchhikers had seen fit to modify their towels in exotic ways, weaving all kinds of esoteric tools and utilities and even computer equipment in their fabric.
  • Video Inside, Film Outside: The TV series.
  • The Wall Around the World: Wonko the Sane constructs a wall around his home to fence in the world, which he calls "the Asylum."
  • Warrior Poet: The Vogons, in a depressingly literal fashion.
  • Watching the Sunset
  • Weapons Grade Vocabulary: Vogon poetry, which makes the listeners seriously ill or worse. It is advised to take some other option than that.
    • Marvin's seen it. It's rubbish.
  • Weirdness Censor: The "Somebody Else's Problem" field, which makes people dismiss anything unusual as "somebody else's problem". Much easier (and more power-efficient) that real Invisibility.
  • Weirdness Magnet: The luckless Arthur; more literally, the Infinite Improbability Drive, which creates weirdness.
  • What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: In the fifth book, Arthur is practically worshiped as a god for his incredible skills at... making sandwiches.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged.
  • Widget Series: A Western example.
  • The Wonka: Ford Prefect.
  • Write Back to the Future: The towel in the lava flow on prehistoric Earth.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Because, as has been mentioned, it exploded.
    • Doesn't stop them from doing so. Twice.
  1. from the perspective of the participants; both sides ultimately invade Earth and their forces are swallowed by a small dog