The mission of the SETI Institute is to explore, understand and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of life in the universe.
it began as a BBC radio program. Then came the books, the records, and a TV show. Inexorably and inevitably, Douglas Adams’ raucous Baedeker for the Milky Way has now found shelf space at your local cineplex.
“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” isn’t really about where to book a cheap, but clean, hotel in the Perseus Arm, or how to avoid dicey neighborhoods like the galactic center, where you risk being fricasseed by radiation or dismembered by a massive black hole.
No, this movie is about coming to grips with the immensity of space, and making it psychologically accessible. In the near future during which the story is set, the tractless wilds of the galaxy are not so alien, in a manner of speaking. What’s out there, spread among the stars, is an out-of-kilter version of contemporary earthly society.
The Milky Way has a president (a part-time job), and the extraterrestrials are far more prosaic than the robotic, slime-packed killing machines that Hollywood usually orders from Central Casting. Instead, they’re hunched-over shleppers called Vogons, with mouths that twist and pucker like Charles Laughton’s, stuffed with bad teeth. The Vogons are officious civil servants who make the local Department of Motor Vehicles look good. Their most odious offense is to inflict awful poetry, the third-worst in the galaxy, on agonized listeners. They occasionally go into attack mode, but not to worry – they’re bad shots.
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