Hitchhikers
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For the film character, see Slartibartfast's Touchstone counterpart

Perhaps I'm old and tired, but I always think the chances of finding out what really is going on are so absurdly remote that the only thing to do is to say hang the sense of it and just keep yourself occupied.
—Slartibartfast to Arthur Dent[src]

Slartibartfast is a Magrathean traveller and former designer of planets who specialised in fjords. An often tired and confused man, he was most unhappy with his work, but continued it anyway in the hopes that it would someday lead to happiness, eventually leaving Magrathea to travel the universe in the Bistromath.

Biography[]

Early Career[]

Slartibartfast was a Magrathean planet designer. During the planet's societal height, he constructed the coastlines of continents on planets manufactured by Magrathea; in particular, he specialised in fjords, especially what he called the "little fiddly bits" around them. He helped build the Earth, a planet-like supercomputer with organic life as part of its computational matrix commissioned by the mice to calculate the Ultimate Question of life, the universe and everything, to which the answer was 42. He won an award for his work on Norway, on which he even signed his signature.

As the Earth was completed and began its ten million year program, the galaxy went into recession and no one could afford to buy custom built planets anymore, so Slartibartfast and the other Magratheans went into cryogenic hibernation to sleep through the financial crisis and wake up when it was all over.[1][2]

Awakening and Rebuilding[]

When Slartibartfast finally awoke with the other Magratheans ten million years later, they discovered the Earth had been destroyed by a Vogon Constructor Fleet to make way for a hyperspace bypass, a mere five minutes before it could calculate the Ultimate Question. The frustrated surviving mice ordered the Magratheans to start over and build the Earth Mark II so they could wait another ten million years for the Question. Slartibartfast was given Africa to work on, which he decided to cover with fjords because he liked them, and he felt they gave a "baroque" feel to the continent.

However, two of the surviving mice, Frankie and Benjy, were travelling with the last survivors of Earth's dominant species, the human race, one of whom, Arthur Dent, had been on Earth until seconds before its destruction. Thus, they manipulated Arthur and his companions into making their way to Magrathea so they could simply extract the Question from his brain. When Arthur, the mice, and their companions landed on Magrathea, Slartibartfast was ordered to bring Arthur to the mice to extract the Question.

Arthur-slartibartfast-magrathea

Slartibartfast meets Arthur Dent (TV: Episode 3)

Slartibartfast found Arthur on the surface of the planet, having been abandoned there by his companions who went to explore without him, and leaving him alone with Marvin, their chronically depressed android. Taking Arthur to the planet factory at Magrathea's core, Slartibartfast showed Arthur the historical records to explain to him the story of the Ultimate Question and the Earth's creation, which Arthur thought explained his paranoia, only for Slartibartfast to quickly point out that it was perfectly normal.

He then took Arthur to meet Frankie and Benjy, who were having a feast with the rest of his companions, and was about to go back to work on Africa's fjords when the mice told him they wouldn't need the Earth Mk II anymore, for they had Arthur and therefore the Question. They suggested Slartibartfast take a skiing vacation down his glaciers before they were dismantled, but Slartibartfast complained that they were works of art, and so he sulked off and wasn't there to witness Arthur and his friends' great escape that soon followed.[1]

Battle with Krikkit[]

Slartibartfast also later assisted Arthur and Ford, through the use of his starship Bistromath, in combatting the menace of the Krikkiters.[3]

Appearances[]

Appearances of Slartibartfast

Notes[]

  • Slartibartfast was modelled on actor John le Mesurier.[4]
  • Douglas Adams wrote in the notes accompanying the published volume of original radio scripts that he wanted Slartibartfast's name to sound very rude, but still actually be broadcastable. He therefore started with the name "Phartiphukborlz", and changed bits of it until it would be acceptable to the BBC. He came closer to achieving this goal in the following episode, with the double-act Lunkwill and Fook.
    • Regarding Slartibartfast's name, Adams was quoted in Neil Gaiman's Don't Panic: The Official Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Companion as saying, "One thing I don't think I explained in the script book was that I was also teasing the typist, Geoffrey Perkins's secretary, because ... she'd be typing out this long and extraordinary name which would be quite an effort to type and right at the beginning he says 'My name is not important, and I'm not going to tell you what it is'. I was just being mean to Geoffrey's secretary."
    • It should also be noted that "Phartiphukborlz" may have been somewhat of a misdirection to keep the BBC off base; "Sharty Fart Blast" rearranged into "Slartibartfast" is much more plausible, and causes both Slartibartfast's behavior and Arthur's reaction to make sense, as well as a later comment about Slartibartfast's mother during his birth.
  • Life, the Universe and Everything was reworked by Adams from a rejected Doctor Who serial he wrote called "The Krikkitmen". Slartibartfast and his ship, the Bistromath, replaced the Doctor and his TARDIS in the story.

References[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (novel)
  2. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
  3. Life, the Universe and Everything
  4. Cook, John R. (2006). British Science Fiction Television: A Hitchhiker's Guide. I.B. Tauris. p. 231. ISBN 1-84511-048-X.
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