The episode opens with the main characters on the black ship. Soon, they receive a transmission from the second-in-command of the battle fleet, who makes a report to Zaphod, believing him to be the Admiral. This is considered confusing as Zaphod was just presumed to be the Admiral, despite bearing no resemblance to the second-in-command, who looked like a leopard.
Shortly afterwards, they receive another transmission, this time with Trillian in the chair. The second-in-command, who now looks like a shoebox, assumes that Trillian is the Admiral.
They look up the name "Haggunenon," spoken by the second-in-command, in the Guide, and discover that they are a race of xenophobic shape-shifters. They realise that the Admiral is in fact on the ship, but had shapeshifted. It becomes a "carbon copy" of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal. The group split up, Arthur and Ford taking one escape capsule and Zaphod and Trillian attempting to take another.
Arthur notices that the other escape capsule is missing - thus the others are trapped on the Admiral's ship. Arthur presses a button in his escape capsule that ends up teleporting him and Ford to a strange spaceship. Meanwhile, Zaphod, Trillian and Marvin are all eaten by a copy of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, with Marvin's leg coming off in the process, and Zaphod's second head is revealed to know French (via an ad-lib by Mark Wing-Davey). This is the last appearance of the character of Trillian until the Tertiary Phase.
The spaceship to which Ford and Arthur have teleported, marked as "Golgafrincham Ark Fleet, Ship B," is filled with bodies, such as frozen telephone sanitizers, hairdressers, and advertising account executives. Whilst inspecting the bodies, they are captured by Number Two, the third-in-command of the ship, who takes them to the bridge.
Here, they meet the Captain (who is taking a bath in an immense bathtub in the bridge and has been for the last several years). He reluctantly grants permission to Number Two to interrogate Arthur and Ford and asks him to find out what they want to drink.
Conversing with the Captain, they discover that the bodies are not, as they believed, dead, but simply frozen. The Golgafrinchans are intending to colonise another planet because their original planet was "doomed." The "A Ark" was supposed to contain leaders, the "C Ark" to contain workers, and the "B Ark" to contain middle-men. It becomes apparent that the stories of impending doom were nonsense, and the A Ark and C Ark were never launched.
The story resumes some months later, with a meeting of the Colonisation Committee. Reports to the Committee include an update on the development of the wheel (it is unclear what colour it should be), and a documentary about the native cave-men of the planet, who have started to die out since the arrival of the Golgafrinchams.
Ford explains that they had done some research on the planet and that it will last only two million years (but not why - because it is the pre-history of the Earth, and is thus due to be destroyed by the Vogons in two million years' time).
Arthur attempts to teach the cave-men Scrabble, in order to try to stop the Golgafrinchams supplanting them. The cave-man spells out "FORTY TWO" on the scrabble board, and Ford and Arthur realise that the program must have gone wrong because of the arrival of the Golgafrinchams. They decide to use the same technique (of choosing scrabble letters) randomly to find out what the question in Arthur's brainwave patterns is, although it might be wrong anyway.
The question in his brain is revealed as "WHAT DO YOU GET IF YOU MULTIPLY SIX BY NINE." The episode ends as they decide to rejoin the Golgafrincham colony, and lament the inevitable eventual destruction of the Earth.
Cast and Characters
- The Book and Narrator - Peter Jones
- Arthur Dent - Simon Jones
- Ford Prefect - Geoffrey McGivern
- Zaphod Beeblebrox - Mark Wing-Davey
- Trillian - Susan Sheridan
- "B" ark Captain and Caveman - David Jason
- Number One and Management Consultant - Jonathan Cecil
- Haggunenon Underfleet Commander, Number Two, and Hairdresser - Aubrey Woods
- Marketing Girl - Beth Porter
- Announcer (uncredited) - John Marsh
Music featured in the fit includes:
- "Oxygène" by Jean Michel Jarre
- "Volumina" by György Ligeti
- "Volkstanz" from Einsteig by Gruppe Between
- "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong
Notes and references
- The arks described are similar to the ark in the 1975 Doctor Who episode The Ark in Space, in which the humans build freeze themselves in an ark to survive the end of the Earth. Douglas Adams wrote several episodes and worked as a script editor for Doctor Who while working on The Hitchhicker's Guide to the Galaxy.