Douglas Adams’ comedic science fiction classic The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is getting a new version. Deadline reports that Hulu is developing an adaptation of the radio drama and novel with Lost’s Carlton Cuse and Wonder Woman’s Jason Fuchs.
Deadline says that the series will be a “modern updating of the story,” which follows an earthling named Arthur Dent who discovers that his house is being destroyed to make way for a highway bypass and that the Earth is in the same situation. He’s rescued by an alien named Ford Prefect, a writer for a galactic encyclopedia called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Most people are familiar with Douglas Adams’ novel by the same name, but Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has transformed numerous times over the years. Adams first came up with the idea while traveling across Europe with a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Europe. Years later, he found work as a sketch writer for a radio series and, eventually, for the famous comedy troupe, Monty Python.
Adams later had the chance to meet with a producer from the BBC and pitched the now-famous concept. The BBC greenlit the series, and Adams ended up writing six episodes for the comedy radio drama, which came out in 1978. (You can listen to the entire series on Archive.org.)
Boosted by positive word of mouth, the series became popular with fans, and a publisher approached Adams to produce a novelization of the series. The novel was wildly successful: it sold out quickly, and the BBC commissioned another season, which came with another sequel called The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. From there, the story appeared in other permutations: the BBC turned it into a TV series in 1980, Adams wrote additional novels, and it became a film in 2005.
Deadline points out that there’s a bit of corporate synergy at play here: ABC Signature Studios is developing the series along with Cuse’s Genre Arts through their overall deal. Disney still has the rights to the story; its Touchstone Pictures produced the 2005 film adaptation, and it owns Hulu. As other major entertainment companies launch their own streaming services, there’s been a mad rush to develop as much original intellectual property as possible, in order to entice subscribers into giving their dollars and attention. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has an advantage here: it’s already been a popular TV show, and there is plenty of material for Hulu to work with if the project moves from the “In Development” column into the “In Production” one.
But a prior track record isn’t a surefire sign of success. For one, science fiction comedy is hard to do, and while there are certainly funny books and films out there (Galaxy Quest, John Scalzi’s Redshirts, Catherynne Valente’s Space Opera), the 2005 film largely underwhelmed critics and fans. Hopefully, this reboot will charm audiences in the same way that the first radio serial did back in the 1970s.