The starship Heart of Gold was the first spacecraft to make use of the Infinite Improbability Drive. The craft was stolen by then-President Zaphod Beeblebrox at the official launch of the ship, as he was supposed to be officiating the launch. Later, during the use of the Infinite Improbability Drive, the ship picked up Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, who were floating unprotected in deep space in the same star sector, having just escaped the destruction of the same planet.
The design crew had worked secretively for quite a while on the Heart of Gold on Damogran. The engineers and researchers who built it were mostly humanoid, though there was one who was a superintelligent shade of the colour blue. There were also a few reptiloid atomineers, two or three green sylph-like maximegalacticians, and an octopoid physucturalist or two. Most of them wore multi-coloured ceremonial lab coats.
Ship design and appearance
In the first book
The Heart of Gold was described as huge, 150 meters long, and shaped like a sleek running shoe. It was perfectly white and mindbogglingly beautiful.
The cabin was mostly white, oblong and about the size of a smallish restaurant. It was not, however, perfectly oblong. Two long walls had been raked round in a slight parallel curve and all of the angles and corners of the cabin were contoured in excitingly chunky shapes. It would have been a great deal simpler and more practical to build the cabin as an ordinary three-dimensional oblong room, but then the designers would have gotten miserable.
The cabin looked excitingly purposeful, there were large video screens which ranged over the control and guidance system panels on the concave wall, and long banks of computers set into the convex wall. The control cabin was entirely Improbability-proof and had a Tannoy system that could be heard around the whole ship.
When Arthur and Ford arrived in the embarkation area of the ship, it was described as 'rather smart'. This area contained a computer bank, which had an invitingly large red button on a nearby panel. When Arthur pressed this button, a message lit up on the panel saying 'please do not press this button again'.
The entire ship was outfitted with the latest GPP (Genuine People Personalities) utilising technology, thanks to the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation. All the doors in the spaceship had a cheerful and sunny disposition. It was their pleasure to open for you, and their satisfaction to close with the knowledge of a job well done (though in the film, the doors sigh when they open and close). For better or for worse, Marvin the Paranoid Android, who came with the ship, had a very depressing GPP prototype.
In the TV series
In the TV show, the Heart of Gold's appearance was much the same as how it was described in the first novel. The ship seemed vaguely running shoe shaped, with a flat and long design. Inside, the control cabin was very white, with two sleek control panels full of buttons opposite each other in an oval shape, and a long, rectangular screen in front of the main control desk. These control panels were set into a turntable which could rotate 360 degrees to face any area of the room.
The walls were ribbed and curved, and there were plants dotted around, as well as office-type swivel chairs in front of the control panels. The ceiling contained several large panels of light, including a large circular one above the control desks, making the room bright. To one side of the control cabin was a Babel fish dispensing machine fitted into the wall, a tall glass aquarium-looking container full of water (and fish), with a silver dispenser below it. Against the wall opposite the one containing the screen was a black and dark blue processing machine which was almost constantly printing out data, which was the physical representation of Eddie, the ship's computer. The paper printed out from the machine had spilt out into a large pile on the floor.
The undulating curves of the control room's walls gave way to several exits, one of which seemingly led to Marvin's quarters, from which he emerged when he was introduced. Another exit was a wide tunnel, leading to a room containing a white lounge chair, and a table with a gold umbrella, where Zaphod was first seen, enjoying several drinks. The floor of this room was green and the rest of it pitch black, making it unknown how large the room was.
The embarkation area of the ship again was very white with ribbed walls and contained a complex looking processing machine and a line of comfortable looking pillowed seats, which looked up to a raised control deck hanging overhead the seats. The hallways of the ship have the same white, ribbed walls, which curved around a smooth white floor, with light panels and vents overhead. The doors on the ship open outwards, with content and happy noises and phrases.
In the film
The Heart of Gold in the film had a very different exterior to the one from the TV show and described in the book. The ship was a large, smooth orb shape, the back of which was concave with blue coloured lights and processors inside, with Infinite Improbability Drive set within. There were two large lights above this hole, which were shown to be turning signals which flashed red when used. The interior of the ship was smooth and an off-white colour, the design maintaining the 70s/80s style of the television show, but with an upgrade.
The control cabin was large and spacious, with smooth walls, floors and ceilings, and pillars dotted around. Most of the walls had a fitted-together design, looking as though they were cut out pieces set into the wall. One wall had a control panel spread out across it, a long, rounded desk containing a multitude of buttons, levers, and nodules, with a small screen set into the wall above it and a small stool in front of it.
In the centre of the control desk, in front of the screen, was the Infinite Improbability Drive button, a half-sphere set into the control panels that looked somewhat like an eye, blue and white and surrounded with a circle of images that were mainly illustrations of entries in the guide. This blue and white illustration was also on the outside of the main part of the ship, matching with the button. In one area of the control room was a semi-circle seating area, with a window above it which looked outside.
A kitchen area was also shown in the film, a circular room, white and bright with surfaces following the curved walls of the room and an island table in the centre. The walls had brightly lit display cabinets set into them, a stack of mugs, a lemon juicer and a bread-toasting knife which could slice bread into toast.
There were small light panels dotted around the ceilings, and large circular lights set into the walls, with a smaller circle within them, making the design look similar to an eye, complimenting the shape of the Infinite Improbability Drive button and the starship itself. There were what looked like pipes in the corners of the rooms, and the walls seemed raised from the floor an inch or so, lit underneath. The hallways were very similar to those from the television show, white, curved and well lit, and the doors opened outwards with a satisfied sigh instead of words.
In the film, the Heart of Gold also had a shiny, bright red escape pod. The escape pod was an orb-like shape, with one small engine on either side and two on top, which looked similar to the jet engines on aeroplanes. The pod was decorated with black flame decals, with a rectangular window stretched across the front of it, complete with window wipers. The escape pod's exit was a circular opening on the left side, which opened downwards, revealing a padded interior.
The unique thing about the Heart of Gold is that it is powered by the Infinite Improbability Drive, a small golden box at the heart of the ship — hence its name. This is, of course, powered by an infinite improbability generator. As soon as the ship's drive reaches infinite improbability, it passes through every point in the Universe, thus allowing the ship to go anywhere without all of that mucking about with hyperspace and what not.
Notes and references
- Some fans have drawn comparisons between the design of the Heart of Gold and some of the spaceships from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Aries 1B is another round, orb-shaped spaceship, and the head of the USS Discovery is an orb shape connected to a long tail.
- According to Cinesite, the company responsible for the film's visual effects, the Heart of Gold's design in the film was inspired by a teapot. The production team wanted something 'more visually exciting and modern' which ended up being a design that was modelled on 'a spherical porcelain teapot with a blue mural willow pattern.'
- The Ship's name is a nod to Neil Young's song "Heart of Gold".
- From chapter 4, page 34 of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy novel, 1979
- From chapter 4, page 38 of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 1979
- From chapter 11, page 70 of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 1979
- From chapter 11, page 74 of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy novel, 1979
- From Hitchhiking Along the 'CG' Galaxy with Cinesite.