Marvin, from The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, is clearly depressed, but there are not any indications that I recall (from the books, at least ) that he is paranoid. Yet both in-universe and out-of-universe, he's very often referred to as "Marvin the paranoid android" (Wikipedia even lists this as an alternate name for the character). Why is this? Is the character in the original radio show more paranoid?

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    Is Marvin even an android? May 25, 2015 at 17:10
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    @CodesInChaos I believe it's at least indicated that he's generally person-shaped. He has a head and legs. May 25, 2015 at 17:11
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    Since you mention Wikipedia, I'll note that the article does have a section on his name which specifically calls out that he "does not actually display signs of paranoia"
    – Tacroy
    May 25, 2015 at 17:16
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    @Tacroy Which does nothing to explain why he's given that name... May 25, 2015 at 17:26
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    Probably because of Zaphod's delivery of the line - it just stood out so well in the moment. Doesn't hurt that it rhymes nicely.
    – Anthony X
    May 26, 2015 at 2:17

3 Answers 3


Quite simply because it rhymes.

There is no suggestion that Marvin is clinically paranoid anywhere in the series.

Zaphod Beeblebrox is the first person to use the epithet in the radio series. Also, he calls Marvin many things as the series progresses. However, it is the Paranoid Android that sticks. Most characters refer to Marvin as a Robot, not as an Android. There aren't so many snappy phrases that use the word robot.

Zaphod often uses nicknames for other characters. They aren't always good descriptions.

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    Fun fact, in the german translation Zaphod used to call Marvin a "manisch-depressiver Roboter" (i.e. a bipolar robot), despite the fact that Marvin was uniformely depressive and did not show any upswings in mood that would normally be part of a bipolar disorder. May 25, 2015 at 17:40
  • @EikePierstorff IIRC, the English version also called him "manic depressive" at a couple of points, despite the distinct lack of manic symptoms. May 25, 2015 at 18:11
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    He calls himself that at one point ("What are you supposed to do if you are a manically depressed robot", in response to Ford's question "what are you supposed to do with a manically depressed robot") - you'd think with a brain the size of a planet, he'd know better. May 25, 2015 at 18:19
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    @DanielRoseman I rather think that he does know better, Marvin secretly delights in showering other "intelligent", living, artificial, or otherwise, beings with his particular brand of depression.
    – Chris O
    May 25, 2015 at 19:39
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    @EikePierstorff I remember one upswing in his mood from the book. There is a chapter where he utters the words: "I think, I feel good about it."
    – kasperd
    May 26, 2015 at 15:14

It might have something to do with the amount of pessimism Marvin displays. He's convinced terrible things will come of just about everything, and that people are going to treat him poorly, hence him being paranoid.

As noted there are also a number of points where he's referred to as being very depressed.

Overall though... this is Douglas we're talking about, his MO is inconsistency, contradiction and throw away jokes. I am quite comfortable accepting the notion that he went along with labelling Marvin paranoid just because it sounded nice. Need I remind people of the story behind Zaphod's third arm and second head and just how much trouble that caused when they tried to make the TV series? ;)

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    I'd appreciate the story about Zaphod's extraneous anatomy and the TV series; I've never heard it. May 26, 2015 at 16:00
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    @KyleStrand: It's mentioned in the footnotes in the (sadly out of print) Original Hitchhiker's Radio Scripts. IIRC, Zaphod's third arm and second head were both mentioned first either in ad libs, or at the very least, throwaway jokes added to the script at last minute. When the TV show was produced, Adams insisted on fidelity to the way the characters were depicted in the radio series (the latter being the closest thing to canon in the Hitchhiker's universe), including the ruinously expensive extra arm and head. May 26, 2015 at 17:06
  • I remember the original TV series - the CGI work that went into that head and arm was state-of-the-art at the time...
    – Steve Ives
    May 26, 2015 at 22:02
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    @SteveIves except they weren't CGI... they were radio controlled animatronics, definitely state-of-the-art at the time but completely unreliable sadly. The tales basically said that the head would often stop working after 10 minutes. The arm would be swapped around so that both arms on that side were shown working some of the time heh.
    – Kaithar
    May 27, 2015 at 22:04
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    @Kaithar - I was being slightly tongue-in-cheek. I thought the head and arm were actually papier-mâché and controlled by strings! Very much a budget special effect!
    – Steve Ives
    May 27, 2015 at 22:24

As mentioned before, the term comes from Zaphod. His own psych profile is "He's just zis guy". Don't expect a proper psychiatric diagnosis from him.

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    I believe his full profile is "He's just this guy, you know?." :P
    – Schilcote
    May 26, 2015 at 19:59
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    Ok, lets's get the quote right... "Zaphod's just zis guy, you know?" was Gag Halfrunt's catch phrase in the radio show. Halfrunt was Zaphod's "Personal Brain Care Specialist".
    – Kaithar
    May 27, 2015 at 22:08

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