.Scifind recently spoke to Dirk Maggs – director of the Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy radio series
Scifind: Did you feel a big responsibility taking such a hugely successful and
fan-scrutinized source material as Hitchhikers Guide and developing it
Dirk Maggs: Yes, but mainly because I was determined not to let Douglas down. He told me very early on that his first rule was to ignore the expectations of others and just do the best job he could. So I made that my rule in his absence. There have been some astonishingly nice verdicts from critics and listeners, but also there have been some astonishingly vitrolic ones too. One I particularly treasure on a certain bookselling internet site slags off a whole series in a hissy fit and adds, “Dirk Maggs is not Douglas Adams and never will be,” which was the one objective and sensible thought in the entire review. The movie has had the same range of responses. In the end, there will always be folks who feel you’ve taken liberties with their personal property. But, as Douglas used to say, they’ll get over it.
Scifind: Do *YOU* feel you succeeded?
Dirk Maggs: On the good stretches, I’d give it 8 out of 10, but I’m my biggest critic. It’s a never ending quest for perfection. Hitchhiker’s was two years of 7-day week slog, but there’s a lot of aspects of it that I still wish I could re-do.
Scifind: How did you have to differ from the books?
Dirk Maggs: I tried to stick as closely as possible to LIFE, THE UNIVERSE AND EVERYTHING in The Tertiary Phase because Douglas was adamant that it needed little or no re-ordering to work on radio. As he wasn’t around to discuss that point, I felt I must keep the promise I made him in 1993. As regards the Quandary and Quintessential Phases, the last two books were far less dialogue-friendly and the overall plot was going in some extreme directions, so I felt I had to try and impose some kind of order on things based on what had occurred in the radio series so far. Thus I was obliged to move around sections of the books, filleting stuff that didn’t fit into the radio universe and tailoring other bits to fit. My biggest single addition was a coda to the last episode which suggested what MIGHT have happened to our heroes in a slightly less unsympathetic universe than the one they ended up in, in MOSTLY HARMLESS.
The Hitchhikers series began as radio, did you feel like you were taking it back to its origin?
Dirk Maggs: It felt like we were taking it full circle. A neat kind of closure. I’m very thrilled to think that the entire, complete Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy Saga exists in the medium which gave it form. Audio Theatre/ Radio Drama exists in a medium that works in ways that television and film can only dream about. It allows the audience to participate in the thoughts and emotions of the characters while providing special effects generated by the most sophisticated computer on the planet – the Human Brain. For listeners in surround it also constitutes the first genuinely 3-D form of recorded entertainment. I’m just hoping that the new generation of phones and iPods proves the limit to which the visual medium can convey real drama – that people would rather have widescreen entertainment beamed directly onto the Imax screen of their imagination, than squint at a piddly 2.3 inch screen … AND you can get the ironing done …
Scifind: What were your views on ‘The Movie’? And would you be involved in any
future movie production if asked?
Dirk Maggs: It was very hard to watch the movie objectively while so actively involved in the radio series. I admired Robbie, Nick and Garth very much for what they pulled off. The design in particular was breathtaking. I’m not sure all of the ideas translated smoothly, but there were some terrific moments. As to being involved in any future movie, that is an outcome I doubt very much indeed.
Scifind: Toast or croissants?
Dirk Maggs: Um – English muffins?
Scifind: You were involved in the Judge Dredd radio production, have you heard
the John Ainsworth produced Big Finish adaptations? If so what are your
Dirk Maggs: Wonderful stuff, Toby Longworth is a genius, I tell you, a veritable giant of the airwaves. (That’ll be a pint, Toby)
Scifind: With such large list of adaptations of everything from Batman to Independence Day ?what? next on your agenda?
Dirk Maggs: I’m attempting to write a book for kids based on my 1998 Radio 4 Christmas ‘audio movie’, THE GEMINI APES. It’s a relief to work on an original idea of my own – and in a different medium.
Also I’m currently setting up a podcasting-type Production Company. Robbie Stamp, Douglas Adams’s business partner (and Executive Producer of the HHGG Movie) introduced me to two terrific blokes, Paul Weir (highly experienced in musical composition, sound design and software development) and Richard Adams (an expert consultant on interactive media. Building on our combined skills, in 2006 we intend to launch a website dedicated to excellence in audio entertainment.
This we propose to call Perfectly Normal Productions. The name – apart from being a gentle tribute to Douglas, who inadvertently brought us together – is a sort of ironic hallmark, a calm, quiet reassurance that Perfectly Normal in our book means Superbly Excellent compared to anyone else. The site would offer serialised material for download to the new generations of phones & media players. The plan is to produce and distribute a clutch of insanely great audio productions, direct to the many people who demand something more exciting from their earbuds than much of what is currently available.