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Time is an illusion. Lunchtime, doubly so.
—Ford Prefect to Arthur Dent[src]

Ford Prefect is an adventurous, eccentric, and existentialist Betelgeusian field researcher for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy who travelled across the universe with Arthur Dent on many bizarre adventures, primarily as a crewman on the Heart of Gold and the Bistromath.

Biography[]

Early life[]

The Betelgeusian who would come to be known as Ford Prefect was born on Betelgeuse V to his simultaneous father and uncle from Betelgeuse VII. He was named in an obscure Betelgeusian dialect that died out when Betelgeuse VII was destroyed, and so he could not pronounce it, causing his father and uncle to die of shame. As such, his friends called him "Ix", which in English translates to "boy who is not able satisfactorily to explain what a Hrung is or why it should choose to collapse on Betelgeuse VII". Over time, he developed a close bond with Zaphod Beeblebrox, his egotistical and curt two-headed semi-cousin.[1]

Field Research for the Guide[]

Eventually, he grew up to be a field researcher for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the famous travel guide. He traveled across the Milky Way Galaxy researching for new entries in the Guide, and eventually found himself on the planet Earth, of which the initial Guide entry was simply the word "Harmless". Taking the name "Ford Prefect" to hide among the Earthlings undetected, he studied the planet and its seemingly dominant species, the humans, for many years, which proved easy seeing how he closely resembled them.

Arthur and Ford TV

Ford and Arthur Dent[2]

Ford wrote a competent and lengthy article about Earth and its culture, but the Guide reduced it down to a two-word entry: "Mostly harmless", tossing away much of Ford's hard work. He spent fifteen years trapped among humanity, frequently getting drunk and trying to locate passing spaceships to hitch a ride on to get back home. In his last six years on the planet, Ford met the friendly but simple-minded human Arthur Dent, and the two became fast friends, with Ford finding value in Arthur's kind demeanor.[1]

Escaping Earth[]

In the 1980s[3], Ford detected a Vogon Constructor Fleet approaching Earth to demolish it with his Sub-Etha Sens-O-Matic. When they arrived, Ford decided to take Arthur with him, using his electronic thumb to signal the Dentrassi cooks on board one of the Vogon ships, who hated the Vogons and loved to irritate them by bringing on hitchhikers, and teleport them up as the Vogons destroyed the planet. He explained where they were, giving Arthur his copy of the Guide to stop him from panicking and a Babel Fish to help him translate the Vogons' language.

Jeltz reads his poetry to Arthur and Ford (TV)

Enduring Vogon poetry [4]

Unfortunately, soon after the pair were captured by a Vogon guard and were brought before the captain, who subjected them to a torturous reading of Vogon poetry, the third worst poetry in the universe. When the captain asked what the pair thought of his poem, they tried to compliment it to get on his good side, but it backfired and he threw them out the airlock into the vacuum of space.[1]

Search for Magrathea[]

Marvin and Ford and Arthur (TV)

Ford and Arthur following Marvin to the control cabin on the Heart of Gold[4]

By insurmountable odds, mere seconds before they suffocated in the void, Ford and Arthur were picked up by the Heart of Gold, a spacecraft fitted with a new Infinite Improbability Drive, and rescued from their demise. They spent a few minutes returning to normal, with Ford having a brief stint as a penguin, before they were approached and taken to the bridge by Marvin, a manically depressed robot who seemed to endlessly to complain about his depression to those around him.

By another staggering coincidence, Ford and Arthur discovered that the ship had been stolen and was captained by none other than Zaphod Beeblebrox, who had become President of the Galaxy since last seeing Ford, and Trillian, an intelligent and polite human woman who Arthur once met at a very nice party in Islington that he totally blew it with. Zaphod explained that they were searching for the legendary planet of Magrathea, the fabled home of a race of custom planet manufacturers that became the richest planet in existence, and Ford and Arthur joined him on this quest, despite Ford's skepticism of its existence.

Tossed about the cabin (TV)

The crew is tossed around the cabin while evading the Magratheans' automated missile attack[5]

When the Heart of Gold came into orbit around the lost planet, Ford continued to argue with Zaphod that it couldn't possibly be Magrathea, before being forced to help him and Trillian take evasive action to avoid the guided thermonuclear missiles launched at them by the planet's automated defense systems, leading them being tossed about the cabin and one of the crew members sustaining a bruise to the upper arm. They narrowly avoided destruction by Arthur's quick move to turn on the Infinite Improbability drive and turn the missiles into a bowl of petunias and a very surprised looking sperm whale, and so made their way to the planet's surface to explore it.

Upon landing the Heart of Gold, Ford, Trillian, and Zaphod went to scout out the planet, investigating an underground tunnel opened up when the sperm whale splattered against the ground, while Arthur and Marvin stayed behind (partially as lookout, partially to avoid them). While investigating the caverns, Zaphod revealed to Ford and Trillian that parts of his brains had been burned away and some of his memories were missing, and that he was trying to figure out why. Before they could ponder this anymore, the trio were gassed and imprisoned by the Magratheans. When they woke up, Ford and Trillian complained until the Magratheans gave them a catalogue to keep them busy, and when a planet made entirely of gold came up, they woke up Zaphod.

After leaving their cell, Ford, Zaphod, and Trillian met a pair of mice named Frankie and Benjy, Trillian's pet mice she'd brought back from the Earth. The mice offered them a feast and explained that they were a race of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings who commissioned the Magratheans to build the Earth, which was really a giant supercomputer, to calculate the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything, to which another supercomputer, Deep Thought, had determined the Ultimate Answer was 42. The Vogons had destroyed the planet five minutes before the moment of readout, and so they wished to scan the brain of the only surviving human on Earth who was there right up until the moment of destruction: Arthur Dent.

Ford turns down the mice (TV)

"Sorry, mice, old mates, I don't think we've got a deal."[6]

Soon after, the Magrathean Slartibartfast brought in Arthur after explaining all of this to him as well, and the mice then offered a great sum of money for Arthur's brain, as they would need to remove it and dissect it to get the Question. They even offered to replace it with an electronic brain (which Zaphod found quite reasonable, seeing how Arthur barely used his organic brain anyway), but Arthur refused, and the four quickly escaped, only to be cornered by two galactic police officers who had arrived to arrest Zaphod for stealing the Heart of Gold.

As the group pleaded with the officers from behind a computer bank, the officers complained about the moral dilemmas involved in being a cop, until the life-support systems that gave them the methane they needed to breathe suddenly failed and they suffocated. Ford, Arthur, Trillian and Zaphod ran back to the Heart of Gold where they discovered Marvin, who had been speaking to the officers' ship's computer, until it got so depressed it committed suicide. Shrugging this off, the group piled back into their ship and got off Magrathea as fast as they could.[1]

Visit to Milliways[]

To be added

Later Life[]

It was thought that 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, he actually survived and ended up living on the planet Nano.[7][8]

Personality[]

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 Prefect

Ford Prefect attempting to reason with Mr. Prosser in the 1981 BBC series.

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.

Possessions[]

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.

He also seemed to have a good amount of spare money on him (Earth currency) which he used to buy six pints of bitter for himself and Arthur at the beginning of the story, and also some peanuts.

Appearances[]

Appearances of Ford Prefect

Trivia[]

  • Ford chose his Earth name because he skimped on his preliminary research and thought "Ford Prefect" would be an inconspicuous name.[1]
    • In the film, it is implied he chose his Earth name "Ford Prefect" because he saw cars as the dominant species on Earth.[9]

References[]

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