Life The Universe and Everything

DOES THE ANSWER TO LIFE, THE UNIVERSE AND EVERYTHING LIE NEAR OLDHAM?

By Martin Hickes

IT’S a puzzle which might well have foxed Marvin the Paranoid android.

Fans of Douglas Adams and his cult Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series have wondered for decades about the location of the final scene of the BBC tv programme.

In such, Arthur Dent and pal Ford Prefect, who have crash-landed on a primordial Earth, wander off to the strains of Louis Armstrong’s ‘What a Wonderful World’, at the side of a stream and idyllic valley.

The finale  - which later features a drop down electronic overlay of the scene with the words ‘Earth – Mostly Harmless….’ as the actual Hitch-hikers guide drifts into space, has become a favourite among Adams fans since the programme was broadcast in 1981.

Arthur, played by actor Simon Jones, in trademark dressing gown, and Ford, played by David Dixon, won a legion of fans in both the BBC’s tv series, written by Douglas Adams, which followed on from the popular radio series of 1978. 

While many fans know the scene to be at the edge of the Peak District, the exact spot has been as bamboozling to many as a PanGalactic Gargleblaster.

But actor Simon Jones, who kept a scrapbook of the filming locations for the series, says he recalls the pleasant spot precisely.

“It was in the Chew Valley, off Banks Lane, Greenfield, Oldham.

“I can even give directions as to how to get there, according to the call sheet for Tuesday, 30th September, 1980:

“Approx 6 miles out of Ashton-under-Lyne, turn right at sign "Dovestone"(Banks Lane).

“Catering was in the Lay-by just before Dovestone Sailing Club on left.

“We filmed there from the 29th September to 3 October and we stayed at the Brookhouse Hotel, Wilmslow Road, Manchester M20 9WA .

“I haven't been there since, but while the hotel may have changed hands, the valley should look the same as ever.”    

The valley lies close to the boundary with the Peak District National Park, Britain’s first national park and an area of outstanding beauty.

In the programme, the time-travelling pair had already been told by the supercomputer Deep Thought that the answer to Life The Universe and Everything is ‘42’.

But in search of ‘The Question to the Answer of Life The Universe’  - at the prompt of Deep Thought - they crash into the dawn of Earth which is populated by scrabble playing cavemen and a race of humanoid like aliens, the latter of which they realise are the actual ancestors of humanity.

In a desperate attempt to find the ‘Question’, having been told it lies ‘embedded’ in Arthur’s brain, they pull letters out of a makeshift scrabble bag, and come up with the phrase: “What do you get if you multiply six by nine?”

Realising the answer doesn’t add up to 42, the pair wander off disconsolately, with Arthur murmuring: “I always said there was something fundamentally wrong with the universe…”

Douglas Adams’s novel – which also spawned The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Life the Universe and Everything, So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, and Mostly Harmless as sequels - has since entered popular culture.

A US backed film was also made in the mid 2000s but many Hitchhiking purists prefer the original BBC TV series, from the early 80s.

Deep Thought’s puzzling answer of ‘42’ has itself has also entered popular culture, many people quoting it when they don’t know the answer to a complex problem.

In the tv series and novel, the supercomputer takes seven and a half million years to come up with the frustrating yet enigmatic answer.

ENDS

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