In the book, Ford was described as "not conspicuously tall" and with features that are "striking, but not conspicuously handsome" and skin which "seemed to be pulled backwards from the nose". His hair was described as "wiry and gingerish and brushed backwards from the temples". During the events of the sixth book, he dyed his hair blue while on the Tanngrisnir.According to the book, people around him noticed that there was something "very slightly odd" about him, which could perhaps be "that his eyes didn't seem to blink often enough", or that he "smiled slightly too broadly". It was said that his grin "gave people the unnerving impression that he was about to go for their neck", and on another occasion, his smile is described as one that would "send hitherto sane men scampering into the trees".
In the show, Ford was portrayed by David Dixon, and his appearance was that of a fairly slight, white male, with a wavy mop of brown hair and quite wide, pale blue eyes. Throughout the TV series he wore the same outfit; a red, yellow and navy blue striped blazer, red and blue knitted pullover, a yellow and red floral patterned shirt, a dark coloured tie, black trousers and white shoes. He had a yellow handkerchief tucked into the left pocket of his blazer. He also carried around his ubiquitous brown, leather satchel. In the sixth episode of the series, Ford was seen with a full, bushy beard, after being stranded on prehistoric Earth.Yasiin Bey/Mos Def, and he appeared in this adaption as a quite tall, black male, with shaved black hair and fairly angular facial features. Unlike his TV counterpart, the Ford Prefect in the film was often seen wearing a vaguely rectangular pair of glasses. In the film, Ford wore a beige trench coat and matching baker boy cap, and, underneath the coat, a dark brown shirt, dark coloured tie and beige coloured trousers. Again, he wore his brown, leather satchel, and he also wore his towel during some of the scenes of the film. His accessories also included an Electronic Thumb in the form of a metallic, silver ring on his right thumb. This design was presumably a reference to him being a hitchhiker and the hitchhiking practice of sticking out a thumb to get a lift (or, in Ford's case, an Electronic Thumb).
Personality and traits
Ford was repeatedly described as an eccentric individual, one who was adventurous, broad-minded and bordering on becoming an alcoholic. According to the book, the friends he had made on Earth saw him as "an eccentric, but a harmless one - an unruly boozer with some oddish habits". Occasionally, while on Earth, he would gatecrash university parties, get badly drunk and start making fun of any astrophysicists he could find until he got thrown out. At other times, he would become oddly distracted, staring at the sky as if hypnotised and would tell people that he was looking for flying saucers.
His views on life and the Universe often reflected the philosophical concepts of existentialism and nihilism. He was shown to be intelligent and resourceful, having a lot of knowledge about the universe (which he often imparted to Arthur) likely due to him being well travelled as a hitchhiker, and from studying the guide. Ford was often brave, but was not a coward, nor was he a hero, as he did a mixture of running away from danger and running straight towards it. He often came across as somewhat being self-centred and independent, as there were several occasions when he put himself first, however, he did also attempt to save or protect others. For example, in the book, when the Heart of Gold was threatened by nuclear missiles upon its entry into the atmosphere of Magrathea, Ford tried to save all of those aboard the Heart of Gold by leaping to the controls, despite not knowing how to fly the ship.
Ford often prioritised Arthur, as well as himself, above others. He seemed set on following through with his plan of having Arthur as his companion on his travels ever since rescuing him from Earth, which was evidenced in the novel when, not long after Arthur had agreed to join him, he had no hesitation in saying "we're trying to write a book" to the Vogons.One example of Ford prioritising himself (and Arthur) was in the radio series (Fit the Sixth) when himself and Arthur escaped from the Hagunemnon admiral who has just evolved into the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal. When Arthur pointed out that they had used the only escape pod, and that there didn't seem to be a way for Trillian, Zaphod and Marvin to escape, Ford said: "Arthur, you’ll have to learn it’s a convention in all space-travelling species that if have to ditch someone, you know - a friend, and there’s nothing you can do, you just let it be. You don’t talk about them, Okay?" However, he also added that they could get blind drunk about the others later. Although he could be unaware of others' emotions, Ford did go out of his way to help Arthur, reassuring him or explaining things to him and being more helpful and patient with him than with most others.
Ford often found himself at odds with humans, as he was quite a literal-minded and honest being, and it is stated in the book that they didn't have sarcasm on Betelgeuse, which would explain his inability to notice it (unless he was concentrating). Another example of this was (in both the book and TV series) when Ford told the barman of the pub near Arthur's house that the world was about to end, to which the barman retorted that it would be a "lucky escape for Arsenal if it did", and Ford's response was of genuine surprise and the words: "no, not really."
Much like his semi-cousin Zaphod, Ford spent a lot of time drinking or suggesting drinking alcohol for something to do, as well as looking for a good time. He often tried to match Zaphod's aloof and cool nature, such as when the two are reunited on board the Heart of Gold after having not seen each other for at least fifteen years, when Zaphod acts nonchalant and Ford "was not going to be outcooled" and responds in kind with his own attempt at a lazy greeting. Unlike, Zaphod, however, he was more of a realist and was sceptical of the existence of Magrathea, whereas Zaphod truly believed, and eventually proved, that it was real.
In all versions of the story, Ford carried around his satchel, which contained a variety of useful items. The satchel contained un-Earthly technology: a Sub-Etha Sens-O-Matic, an Electronic Thumb, and a copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. In the book, Ford's satchel also contains a couple of dog-eared scripts for plays that he pretended he was auditioning for, a few biros, a notepad, and a largish bath towel from Marks and Spencer. Ford always made sure he had his towel.
Biography (book series)
Ford Prefect was born on Betelgeuse V. His father (and uncle) was from Betelgeuse VII, which was decimated during the Great Collapsing Hrung Disaster of Gal./Sid./Year 03758. After this, he moved to Betelgeuse V, where he died of shame because his son/nephew was not able to pronounce his name, which wasn't really a surprise because he was named in an obscure Betelgeusian dialect that died out with the planet. Unable to pronounce his name, his friends called him "Ix" which, in English is "boy who is not able satisfactorily to explain what a Hrung is or why it should choose to collapse on Betelgeuse VII".
Work on the Guide
Ford was famous for his article in the Guide about Earth, which he spent fifteen years researching for. He skimped a bit on his preparatory research, leading him to think that Ford Prefect was a perfectly inconspicuous name (according to the film, this is most likely because he believed cars were the dominant species on Earth).
He had originally written a competent article, but the editors cut his verbose article down to "Mostly Harmless", replacing the original entry, which was the single word: "Harmless." When another Earth popped up in their universe from the improbability axis, the Guide reverted to Ford's complete article about Earth. (See Radio Show.)
Adventures with Arthur Dent
At the end of Ford's fifteen-year research of Earth, he was forced off when the Vogons destroyed the planet to make room for a new Hyperspace Bypass. He used his Electronic Thumb to hitch a ride on the Vogon's ship and found himself in the Dentrassis' sleeping quarters. After waking up, he comforted Arthur Dent, a friend of his whom he had made on Earth, and whose house had recently been knocked down just before the destruction of the entire planet. He gave Arthur his copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in an attempt stop him from panicking and tried to formulate a plan. It was at this point that he also gave Dent a fish in his ear to translate the Vogons' language.
The pair were captured by the Vogons and brought to the captain who read them some poetry of his own making. After this torture, Ford and Arthur tried to lie their way out of being killed, with no success. They tried to talk to the Vogon who was ordered to throw them out of the airlock, appealing to his sense of ethics and reason. As Vogons have neither, this tactic didn't work, and they were thrown out of the ship. As it so happened, the Heart of Gold was travelling nearby at that very moment and, in an incredible stroke of luck dictated by Arthur's contact with a certain Islington phone number, picked them up.
At this point, they were taken up to the bridge by Marvin, a manically depressed robot. On the way, Marvin mentioned Zaphod Beeblebrox, Ford's semicousin. This caused Ford to laugh hysterically, because of the long odds involved. Once they reached the bridge, Ford attempted to make introductions, but Arthur already knew Zaphod. Apparently, Arthur had met Zaphod at a party some time prior where he failed to interest one Tricia McMillian. Zaphod, who called himself Phil, picked up Tricia, now called Trillian, who also stood on the bridge. At the end of Arthur's story, Ford expressed anger, not at Zaphod's treatment of Dent, but at the fact that he did not pick up Ford on his way out.
Ford reluctantly joined Zaphod in his quest to find Magrathea, a lost world of extremely wealthy planet-builders. Ford expressed scepticism at the possibility that it actually existed, and that the planet that the Heart of Gold eventually began to orbit around was actually the right planet. As he and Zaphod argued, they were confronted by a recorded message from the Magratheans, who fired guided missiles at them. Arthur turned on the Infinite Improbability Drive, which caused the missiles to turn into a bowl of petunias and a whale. The five made their way to the surface of Magrathea, where Ford, Trillian, and Zaphod went to scout out the planet while Arthur and Marvin remained behind. Zaphod told Trillian and Ford about the fact that part of his brain was burned away. The three were then gassed. Ford and Trillian woke up in a prison and complained until the Magratheans gave them a catalogue to keep them busy. When a planet made entirely of gold came up, they woke up Zaphod.
After being removed from their cell, Ford, Zaphod, and Trillian met with a pair of mice, where they made small talk before Arthur came in. At this point, the mice made their offer of lots of money for Arthur's brain, from which they planned to extract the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. After Arthur's refusal, they attempted to take it by force, after which the group of four escaped, only to be cornered by two officers. As the group had a discussion with the officers from behind a rapidly shrinking computer bank, they heard a strange sound. Ford, in a brief bout of bravery, went out to see what happened. He discovered that the officers had suffocated (they were methane-breathers, and their life support systems had failed) and told the others that it was safe to come out.
According to the book Mostly Harmless, Ford was killed on Earth when the Vogons destroyed it again, as well as any chance of it ever existing in any universe again. However, And Another Thing... reveals he survived and ended up living on the planet Nano.
Ford Prefect, being Arthur's closest friend and the character who serves to connect several elements of the story together, is featured in every form of Hitchhiker's. He is the only character other than Arthur to feature in every adaption.
Featuring Geoffrey McGivern as Ford Prefect
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
- The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
- Life, the Universe and Everything
- So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
- Mostly Harmless
- And Another Thing...
Featuring David Dixon as Ford Prefect
Featuring Yasiin Bey as Ford Prefect
Featuring Geoffrey McGivern as Ford Prefect
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Part Two: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe