In the beginning of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, when the narrator is first introducing Zaphod Beeblebrox, he mentions that

"Very very few people realize that the President and the Government have virtually no power at all, and of these few people only six know whence ultimate political power is wielded. Most of the others secretly believe that the decision-making process is handled by a computer. They couldn't be more wrong."

So, does Douglas Adams ever address this later in the series? Are we as readers left to figure out where real power is held? Does he explicitly address it later in the series?

  • @Gallifreian You don't need the movie names in question titles. That's why I deliberately left it out in my edit. Nov 30, 2016 at 6:23
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    @steelersquirrel I thought the question would be better recognizable in the common question feed. After all, not everyone looks at the tags, and there are multiple franchises with real political powers. Nov 30, 2016 at 7:47

2 Answers 2


With the Ruler of the Universe (or maybe his cat)

Note the particular wording. "Only six people in the Galaxy" are aware of the true nature of the presidency:

It might not even have made much difference to them if they’d known exactly how much power the President of the Galaxy actually wielded: none at all. Only six people in the Galaxy knew that the job of the Galactic President was not to wield power but to attract attention away from it.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Later, in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, we learn the the Ruler of the Universe is a solipsistic man on a remote planet, and that only six people can find him:

On a small obscure world somewhere in the middle of nowhere in particular - nowhere, that is, that could ever be found, since it is protected by a vast field of unprobability to which only six men in this galaxy have a key - it was raining.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Some have speculated, though, that his cat holds the real power:

Ah!” barked Zarniwoop, “you say ‘The Lord’. You believe in something!”

“My cat,” said the man benignly, picking it up and stroking it, “I call him The Lord. I am kind to him.”

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

  • If the cat is the true lord then should it really be seven people who know the true job of the Galactic President?
    – Erik
    Apr 30, 2018 at 15:59
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    @Erik It is a cat. Cats aren't people. They are feline mammals. Apr 30, 2018 at 16:42
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    @DarthVader I guess I should have asked if the man on the planet has a key or not. If 6 external people have the key and there is one man with the cat then we have 7 people. I assumed he didn't have a key in the initial comment.
    – Erik
    Apr 30, 2018 at 16:47
  • @Erik Ok then. Anyways, I haven't seen or read the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy yet. PLS NO SPOIL Apr 30, 2018 at 18:00

You pays your money, you takes your choice!

However, your question appears to relate to events in a novel (several novels!) written by Douglas Adams. And not to the original BBC radio series - series 2, which was broadcast in 1980 - on which the key novel was based.

I make this point because the novels had a rather different (in this case read: very different) storyline to the radio show. Therefore reading the 2nd novel won't necessarily take you very far in understanding the somewhat whacky world of Hitchhikers.

As the radio show came first, and as it contains different facts to the 2nd novel, the answer to the question will differ depending which version you consult, book or radio show; but in my opinion the real answer to your question is not actually the one you've accepted, above.

In series 2 episode 6 of the radio show (Fit the Twelfth), the ruler of the universe reveals that Zaphod is in a conspiracy with a consortium of psychiatrists to sabotage the computer program designed to answer the ultimate question (see series 1), by destroying the Earth: presumably (it is implied) because the psychiatrists believe that discovery of the ultimate answer would solve everyone's neuroses and put psychiatrists out of business, hence stopping that is worth a lot of money.

However, this explanation is given in such a roundabout manner, and so obliquely, and so rapidly, that it is not readily understood from a first hearing of the episode. Yet it does explain so much (including the demolition of the Earth, the involvement of the Vogons, and the recurring appearances by Zaphod's analyst) that it is difficult to dismiss it as being just an after-thought.

Unfortunately, without this small - but vital - piece of information, everything that happens in Series 2 makes very little sense.

Additionally, the radio episode in question (Fit the Twelfth) casts doubt upon the existence of the Ruler of the Universe, who, it implies, may be part of the unreality of Zarniwoop's pocket universe -- for the following reasons.

The key question is: do they ever leave Zarniwoop's pocket universe? The Ruler of the Universe seems to be aware that there is some doubt as to whether the universe that he rules is real or not. But their meeting with him occurs after Zaphod's meeting with Zarniwoop (at which Zaphod, Ford and Arthur appeared to return to the real universe: the pocket universe appeared to collapse in upon itself, the sky fell, they gained access to the Heart of Gold, etc). But unexpectedly, at their very next stop the Ruler of the Universe believes he's ruling an artificial universe. Hence Series 2 ended on an ambiguous note: have they actually exited the pocket universe -- or not?

None of the events in the three subsequent radio series cast any light on these developments!

So the relationship between the part-time president Zaphod Beeblebrox, the so-called Ruler of the universe and his cat, Zaphod's analyst, and the Vogons, is never cleared up.

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