I'm listening to the Hitchhiker's Guide radio series, and there seems to be an obvious disconnect between these two parts:

  • Fit the Twelfth: At the end, Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, and Zaphod Beeblebrox visit the "ruler of the universe".

  • Fit the Thirteenth: At the beginning, Arthur Dent is back on Earth 2 million years in the past.

There does not seem to be any kind of logical transition between the two. It is almost as if we rewound back to the beginning of season 2, where Arthur and Ford are stuck on Earth 2 million years ago, except we have already gone through that part of the story.

I have not read the books, so perhaps I'm missing something fundamental. Does anyone have any clue what is going on between these?


4 Answers 4


The answer is pretty much as qntm's, but it's complicated...

So the history of HHGTTG is that:

  1. There were two radio series
  2. There was a book series spanning several years diverging from the radio plot
  3. There was one TV series that diverged from the above
  4. There were other things like records/text adventures that diverged from everything else
  5. Douglas Adams died
  6. There was a film version which diverged from everything else
  7. There was another book commissioned by Douglas Adams' widow

Now you'll see the word "diverged" in most of that, this was (pretty much) all done/agreed to by Adams, certainly 1-4 (I'm sure he didn't agree on 5, but didn't have a choice).

Now there was a move by Adams to finish/continue the original (radio) series, but it was also just beyond reach. Adams was friends with award winning producer Dirk Maggs (Superman, Batman: Knightfall, Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel), who Adams is reported to have said he would have wanted to finish the series.

Once Adams had died, Maggs did continue the radio series (and as it was "official" he got the living cast to play their parts). One sticking point remained, everything had "diverged".

So the decision was taken to remain as true to Adams books as possible without negating the reality of the radio series.

To do this took some backtracking/ingenuity and one part of which was the Bobby Ewing-esque "past was a hallucination" to explain things in the radio series which were contradicted in the books.

So don't think about it too much, just take them for what they are and enjoy.

  • Thank you so much for your amazing and well-researched answer!
    – Phrancis
    Nov 10, 2016 at 20:18
  • 2
    No worries, just been into Hitchhikers since I was a kid, and trying to find something worth listening to on this weird FM thing instead found this wild story of a man in his pyjamas trying to get tea across the galaxy... Nov 10, 2016 at 20:29
  • Had a bit of a run of luck that way, about a year before I was allowed to stay up later one night, and clicking through the meagre list of channels on TV hit right at the opening titles of UFO, and was hooked to that as well. Nov 10, 2016 at 20:34
  • Surely 'Shyster' not 'Shytser'...!
    – smci
    Nov 11, 2016 at 2:36
  • Yes, not sure what happened there, fixed. Nov 11, 2016 at 21:10

Wikipedia says when the book "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" was put together,

The book was adapted from the remaining material in the radio series—covering from the fifth episode to the twelfth episode, although the ordering was greatly changed (in particular, the events of Fit the Sixth, with Ford and Arthur being stranded on pre-historic Earth, end the book, and their rescue in Fit the Seventh is deleted)

The next book, "Life, The Universe, and Everything" was not based on previously broadcast material, and picks up with Our Heroes still stranded on Earth. The third radio series was an adaptation of the book, and follows that chronology.


What happened is explained during Fit The Thirteenth. Trillian reveals that Zaphod had a "double psychotic episode" when he arrived at the Guide offices on Ursa Minor Beta, and the entire second radio series was just Zaphod hallucinating.

  • Wow, are you serious? That's a bit disappointing...
    – Phrancis
    Feb 17, 2016 at 22:14
  • 1
    It's indicative of the quality of the third, fourth and fifth radio series. I found them unlistenable.
    – qntm
    Feb 24, 2016 at 23:38
  • 3
    [citation needed]
    – FuzzyBoots
    Nov 10, 2016 at 20:36

I'm finding this post late but if you think back to Fit the Seventh, Ford and Arthur see the Heart of Gold that rescues them but only when they don't drink, and it disappears when they do drink, prompting Ford to conclude that they're at a crossroads between two alternative futures, one where they stop drinking and work out how to summon the ship and one where they just get "totally slarmied." The way I rationalise the start of The Tertiary Phase is by thinking of it as the future where they get "totally slarmied," though I may be alone in this.

Zaphod, in having still "got lucky" enough to get the Heart of Gold back, doesn't rescue Ford and Arthur following surviving the Vortex, but instead is found by Trillian who has escaped her marriage.

I much prefer this personal theory of mine than the whole "Secondary Phase was all a dream" thing.

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