The Tertiary Phase of the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy radio series began airing on 2004-09-21 at 6:30pm on BBC Radio 4 in the UK. I listened to it. Here are my thoughts...
Not great. The oscillating Guide voices at the beginning went on slightly too long. A great shame Peter Jones (the original Guide voice) died... the new guy (William Franklyn) isn't even remotely as good.
Whoever adapted the book Life, The Universe, And Everything into a radio script didn't do a particularly great job. Marvin actually explains that he is "going to take a pause calculated to ten significant figures as being long enough to convey contempt for all things mattressy". Sheesh. Arthur actually talks to trees, and it's not very funny. Have I read the book too many times? Maybe, but I don't think so. A lot of the funnies just don't translate across media very well. This should have been obvious.
Worse is the huge, huge continuity error between this episode and Fit The Twelfth. That finished with Trillian, Ford and Zaphod marooned with Zarniwoop on the same planet as the ruler of the universe, Arthur having stolen the Heart Of Gold after discovering Zaphod to be apparently responsible for the destruction of Earth. This never happened in the books; indeed, a lot of the radio series never happened in the books.
We start, however... on prehistoric Earth, with Arthur still living in his cave, exactly like at the start of LUE, the book. In the radio series, he and Ford have already escaped prehistoric Earth once. It's explained away as a hallucination on the part of Zaphod while he was out partying or something. Which STINKS. There was potential there. I'm happy with different versions of the Guide contradicting each other but even with the rather fortunate catch-all excuse of "it was an improbability field" to fall back on, internal contradictions and lame retconnings of this magnitude are unacceptable.
Besides which, I think it's entirely possible some of the original voice cast have lost their senses of comic timing, and the new guys, e.g. the mattress and the new Eddie CERTAINLY need re-educating in this respect.
Overall, not a good start. But there's plenty more, I suppose. I'm expecting the next episode to be better.
You can find more info about the new series here.