By Douglas Adams
Adapted for readers theater from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Crown, 1980
GENRE: Science fiction
THEME: Dangers of bureaucracy; progress vs. personal values
GRADE LEVEL: 6 and up
TIME: 10 min.
ROLES: Narrator 1, Narrator 2, Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Prosser, Vogon/Bartender/(Bulldozer Driver)
NOTE: This is the beginning of Douglas Adamss Hitchhiker TrilogyThe Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, and Life, the Universe and Everything. These stories first appeared as a British radio series, then were made into a British TV series, and only then were adapted into novels. Later, Adams added a fourth book: So Long and Thanks for All the Fish.
NARRATOR 1: Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy, there lies a small, unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly 98 million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive, they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.
NARRATOR 2: One Thursday, a terrible, stupid catastrophe occurred.
NARRATOR 1: The story begins with a house. Not a remarkable house, by any means. The only person for whom the house was in any way special was Arthur Dent, and that was only because it happened to be the one he lived in.
NARRATOR 2: At 8:00 on Thursday morning, Arthur woke up blearily, got up, put on his bathrobe, wandered round his room, opened a window, saw several big yellow bulldozers, found his slippers, and stomped off to the bathroom to wash. He drank a large glass of water.
ARTHUR: (reflectively) Bulldozers. (gasps)
NARRATOR 1: Fifteen seconds later, Arthur was out of the house and standing in the mud in front of a big yellow bulldozer that had been advancing up his garden path.
NARRATOR 2: Mr. L. Prosser was, as they say, only human. In other words, he was a carbon-based bipedal life form descended from an ape.
PROSSER: Come off it, Mr. Dent. You cant stand in front of the bulldozer indefinitely. This expressway has got to be built, and its going to be built!
ARTHUR: Whys it got to be built?
PROSSER: What do you mean, "why"? Its an expressway. Youve got to build expressways! You were quite entitled to make any suggestions or protests at the appropriate time, you know.
ARTHUR: Appropriate time?! The first I knew about it was when a workman arrived at my home yesterday and said hed come to demolish the house!
PROSSER: But Mr. Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months!
ARTHUR: Yes, well, as soon as I heard, I went straight round to see them. You hadnt gone out of your way to call attention to them, had you? I mean, like actually telling anybody.
PROSSER: The plans were on display
ARTHUR: On display? I had to go down to the cellar to find them!
PROSSER: Thats the display department!
ARTHUR: With a flashlight.
PROSSER: The lights had probably gone out.
ARTHUR: So had the stairs.
PROSSER: But you found the notice, didnt you?
ARTHUR: Yes, I did. It was "on display" in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying, "Beware of the Leopard."
PROSSER: Mr. Dent, have you any idea how much damage that bulldozer would suffer if I just let it roll straight over you?
ARTHUR: How much?
PROSSER: None at all. (moves away)
* * *
NARRATOR 1: By a curious coincidence, "none at all" is exactly how much suspicion the ape-descendant Arthur Dent had that one of his closest friends was not descended from an ape, but was in fact from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse.
NARRATOR 2: This friend of his had first arrived on the planet Earth some fifteen Earth years previously, and he had worked hard to blend himself into Earth societywith some success. He had made one careless blunder, though. He had chosen the name "Ford Prefect," thinking it would be nicely inconspicuous.
NARRATOR 1: Fifteen years was a long time to be stranded anywhereparticularly somewhere as mind-bogglingly dull as the Earth.
NARRATOR 2: Ford wished that a flying saucer would arrive soon, because he knew how to flag down flying saucers and hitch rides on them.
FORD: Hello, Arthur.
ARTHUR: Ford! How are you?
FORD: Fine. Look, are you busy?
ARTHUR: Am I busy? Well, Ive just got all these bulldozers and things to stand in front of, because theyll knock my house down if I dont, but other than that
NARRATOR 1: They dont have sarcasm on Betelgeuse, and Ford Prefect often failed to notice it unless he was concentrating.
FORD: Good. Is there anywhere we can talk?
NARRATOR 2: For a few seconds, Ford stared into the sky, like a rabbit trying to get run over by a car.
FORD: Weve got to talk. And drink. Now. Well go to the pub in the village. (looks at sky again)
ARTHUR: Look, dont you understand? That man wants to knock down my house!
FORD: (puzzled) He can do it while youre away, cant he?
ARTHUR: But I dont want him to! Whats the matter with you, Ford?
FORD: Nothing. Listen, Ive got to tell you the most important thing youve ever heard, and Ive got to tell you in the pub.
ARTHUR: Why in the pub?
FORD: Because youre going to need a very stiff drink.
ARTHUR: But what about the house?
FORD: Im sure we can come to some arrangement. (to Prosser) Excuse me!
PROSSER: (coming over) Yes? Has Mr. Dent come to his senses yet?
FORD: Can we for the moment assume that he hasnt?
PROSSER: (sighs) Well, then?
FORD: And can we also assume that hes going to be staying here all day?
FORD: So all your men are going to be standing around all day, doing nothing.
PROSSER: Could be.
FORD: Well, if youre resigned to doing that anyway, you dont actually need him to stand here all the time, do you?
FORD: (patiently) You dont actually need him here.
PROSSER: (considering) Well, no, not as such. Not exactly need.
FORD: So, if you would just like to take it that hes actually here, then he and I could slip off down to the pub for half an hour. How does that sound?
PROSSER: (going along with it) That sounds reasonable.
FORD: So, if you would just come over and stand here.
FORD: Ah, Im sorry, perhaps I hadnt made myself fully clear. Somebodys got to stand in front of the bulldozers, havent they? Or there wont be anything to stop them driving into Mr. Dents house, will there?
ARTHUR: (under his breath) Ford, what are you talking about?
PROSSER: You want me to come and stand there in front of the bulldozer instead of Mr. Dent.
PROSSER: In the mud.
FORD: In, as you say, the mud.
PROSSER: In return for which you will take Mr. Dent with you down to the pub.
FORD: Thats it. Thats it exactly.
NARRATOR 1: Mr. Prosser stepped forward nervously and felt the mud ooze into his shoes.
FORD: And no sneaky knocking down Mr. Dents house while hes away, all right?
PROSSER: (deviously) The thought hadnt even begun to speculate about the merest possibility of crossing my mind!
FORD: Good. Lets go, Arthur. (starts off)
ARTHUR: (following Ford) But can we trust him?
FORD: Id trust him to the end of the Earth.
ARTHUR: (sarcastically) Oh, yes! And how fars that?
FORD: About twelve minutes. Here we are. Bartender, six pints of bitter. And quickly, please. The worlds about to end.
BARTENDER: (going along with it) Oh, is it, sir? Nice weather for it. There you are, sir, six pints.
FORD: (hands him the money) Keep the change.
BARTENDER: From a five-pound note? Thank you, sir!
FORD: Youve got ten minutes to spend it.
ARTHUR: Ford, would you please tell me what is going on?
FORD: Drink up! Youve got three pints to get through.
ARTHUR: Why three pints, just like that?
FORD: Muscle relaxant. Youll need it.
ARTHUR: (to his beer) This must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
FORD: All right, Ill try to explain. How would you react if I said Im from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse.
ARTHUR: I dont know. Why? Do you think its the sort of thing youre likely to say?
NARRATOR 2: At that moment from outside came a dull, rumbling crash.
ARTHUR: Whats that?
FORD: Dont worry. They havent started yet.
ARTHUR: Thank God for that!
FORD: Its probably just your house being knocked down.
ARTHUR: What?! (looks out door) My God, they are! Theyre knocking down my house!
(ARTHUR starts running back, with FORD following.)
ARTHUR: Stop, you vandals! You home wreckers! You half-crazed Visigoths! Ill have you hung, drawn and quartered! And whipped! And boiled! Then Ill take all the pieces and I will jump on them until until until (stops short, looking up) Whats THAT!
NARRATOR 1: Huge yellow somethings were screaming through the clouds. Impossibly-huge yellow somethings. They tore the sky apart with mind-boggling noise and leaped off into the distance, leaving the gaping air to shut behind with a BANG that drove your ears six feet into your skull.
NARRATOR 2: All around the world, city streets exploded with people, cars skidded into each other, as the noise fell on them and rolled off like a tidal wave.
NARRATOR 1: Only one man knew exactly what was happening. He had known ever since his Sub-Etha Sens-O-Matic had started winking in the dead of night. When he had deciphered the signal pattern, a coldness had gripped his heart. But he knew what he had to do.
NARRATOR 2: A sudden silence hit the Earth. The great ships hung motionless in the sky, over every nation.
VOGON: People of Earth, your attention please. This is Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz of the Galactic Hyperspace Planning Council. As you will no doubt be aware, the plans for development of the outlying regions of the Galaxy require the building of a hyperspatial express route through your star system, and regrettably your planet is one of those scheduled for demolition. The process will take slightly less than two of your Earth minutes. Thank you.
NARRATOR 1: Uncomprehending terror settled on the watching people of Earth.
NARRATOR 2: Panic sprouted, desperate fleeing panic, but there was nowhere to flee.
VOGON: Theres no point acting surprised about it. All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display in your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for fifty of your Earth years! Youve had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaints. Its far too late to start making a fuss about it now!
FORD: (fiddling with his gadget) Ready, Arthur?
ARTHUR: Ready? Ready for what?
FORD: Im rescuing you. The Earth is about to be demolished.
ARTHUR: And just how are you going to rescue me from that?
FORD: Were hitching a ride on one of those spaceships.
ARTHUR: Excuse me? Are you trying to tell me we just stick out our thumbs, and some green, bug-eyed monster will poke his head out and say, "Hi, fellas, hop right in"?
FORD: Well, the "thumb" is this electronic sub-etha signaling device, but otherwise, thats more or less right.
ARTHUR: Now I know its Thursday.
FORD: This is it, Arthur! Up we go!
(FORD and ARTHUR transport off.)
NARRATOR 1: The huge ships turned slowly in the sky. On the underside of each, a hatchway opened, an empty black square. Suddenly, light poured out of the hatchways.
NARRATOR 2: There was a terrible, ghastly noise.
NARRATOR 1: There was a terrible, ghastly silence.
NARRATOR 2: The Vogon Constructor Fleet coasted away in the inky, starry void.
VOGON: Apathetic bloody planet! Ive no sympathy at all!
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