Everything you didn’t know about Douglas Adams but were afraid to ask…
Douglas Adams was a very tall man: 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m). A remarkably creative man, he also stands tall in the annals of books, radio and television. Most famously, he created The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, first pitched as a BBC radio series in 1977. The Hitchhikers’ Universe later spun off from radio into books, TV, comic books, computer games, and a posthumous Hollywood movie. Featuring the adventures of Arthur Dent across space and time, it became embedded in our culture.
But did you also know he formed a writing partnership, in the early 1970s, with Graham Chapman of Monty Python fame? And that he actually made two brief appearances in the fourth series of Monty Python’s Flying Circus broadcast in 1974?
For six months, Adams was also the script editor of Doctor Who during its 17th season, in the Tom Baker era. The three stories he was involved in writing were The Pirate Planet, City of Death – which famously achieved the show’s highest ratings ever, with 16 million viewers, after strikes took ITV off air – and Shada. Production on the latter story was abandoned in 1979, again due to industrial action. However, it was recently announced that previously unmade sections of Shada had been recreated as colour animations with new voice performances. The brand new reconstructed version will be shown at the British Film Institute’s NFT1 in December 2017.
Interestingly, Adams also co-wrote scripts for the animated TV series Doctor Snuggles with producer John Lloyd, the man who created Not The Nine O’Clock News and who produced all four series of Blackadder.
With elements drawn from two of his Doctor Who stories, notably the Cambridge-set Shada, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency was published in 1987. Adams described it as a “a kind of ghost-horror-detective-time-travel-romantic-comedy-epic, mainly concerned with mud, music and quantum mechanics.” A sequel, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, followed in 1988.
Adams was a noted environmental activist who campaigned on behalf of endangered species. This included, in 1994, taking part in a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro whilst wearing a rhino suit. SUP Theatre Company’s production of Dirk Gently is proud to support the Save The Rhino charity.
Fascinated by religion and “a radical atheist” – his own words – Adams died of a heart attack in California in 2001, aged just 49. You can visit his gravestone, where his ashes were laid to rest, at Highgate Cemetery in north London. His memorial service was reportedly the first church service to be broadcast live on the web by the BBC. A few days before Adams died, the Minor Planet Center announced the naming of asteroid 18610 Arthurdent. In 2005, another asteroid – 25924 Douglasadams – was named in his memory.