Adams stars in radio return of 'Hitchhiker'

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Douglas Adams is to star from beyond the grave in his classic comedy the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which is making a radio comeback after 25 years.

Douglas Adams is to star from beyond the grave in his classic comedy the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which is making a radio comeback after 25 years.

In the first of three new series based on his cult sci-fi novels, Mr Adams plays the part of Agrajag, a character who is continually being accidentally bumped off by the hapless hero Arthur Dent and reincarnated in different forms.

Thanks to digital technology, the producers have woven a recording of Mr Adams made before his death in 2001 into the new series on BBC Radio 4.

"It's a sad irony, but rather wonderful as well that Douglas plays an immortal character, because in a way he is immortal through his work," said Bruce Hyman, the executive producer, who was a close friend of Adams.

The new production, directed by Mr Adams' original choice for the job Dirk Maggs, is based on extensive notes and instructions left behind by the author for the piece.

Mr Adams also spent many hours in conversation with Mr Hyman and Mr Maggs, explaining how he wanted the last three books in the Hitchhiker's saga - Life, The Universe And Everything, So Long And Thanks For All The Fish, and Mostly Harmless - to be adapted for radio.

"It informed our every move," said Mr Hyman. "It was rather like having Douglas sitting on my shoulder while we were making it."

Much of the original cast of returned to star in the radio comedy after a quarter of a century, including Simon Jones as Dent, Geoffrey McGivern as Ford Prefect, Susan Sheridan as Trillian, Mark Wing-Davey as Zaphod Beeblebrox and Stephen Moore as Marvin the Paranoid Android.

The late Peter Jones, who played The Voice Of The Book, has been replaced by his great friend William Franklyn.

There are also cameo roles from Joanna Lumley, who plays a woman who looks like the Sydney Opera House at an intergalactic cocktail party, Leslie Phillips as a "very wicked malevolent force" and the veteran cricket commentator Henry Blofeld.

A film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is also being made, starring the Bafta-winning Bill Nighy and Martin Freeman from The Office. According to legend, Mr Adams came up with the idea for the Hitchhiker books "while lying drunk in a field in Innsbruck". They went on to become global best sellers, selling 14 million copies worldwide.

Other highlights of Radio 4's summer/ autumn season, unveiled yesterday, include a radio play by Michael Stott written for and starring the comedian Johnny Vegas.

Mr Vegas, whose real name is Michael Pennington, plays Norman, a man on the margin of society after spending much of his life in a psychiatric institution. The play, a monologue set in a park in Lancashire, was recorded on location in Regent's Park.

"There's something about Johnny that's both funny and poignant," said Mr Hyman, whose company Above The Title also produced Norman. "I've worked with many comics, some of the finest, and I would say that Johnny is a kind of genius. He also happens to be a very good actor."

Radio 4's new season also features the first dramatisation of Alexander McCall Smith's The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, a series on the seven deadly sins,presented by Joan Bakewell and a production of Homer's Odyssey that has been dramatised by the poet Simon Armitage.