Ford Prefect (character)

Ford Prefect (character)

Infobox character
colour = gray
name = Ford Prefect


caption = David Dixon as Ford Prefect in Episode One of the BBC TV series.
first = Fit the First (radio)
last =
cause =
nickname = "Ix" in childhood
alias =
species = Betelgeusian
homeworld = Betelgeuse Five
gender = Male
age =
born =
death =
occupation = Researcher for the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"
title =
family =
spouse =
children =
relatives =
episode =
portrayer = Geoffrey McGivern
David Dixon
Mos Def
creator = Douglas Adams

Ford Prefect (also called Ix) is a fictional character in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by the British author Douglas Adams. He is the only character other than the protagonist, Arthur Dent, to appear throughout the "Hitchhiker's" saga.

Biography

Ford is a good friend of the main character, an ordinary Earthman named Arthur Dent who has known him for several years and believes him to be "an out of work actor from the town of Guildford" in Surrey. (In the novel, Ford reinforces this impression by carrying around scripts of plays he is supposed to be auditioning for, such as "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and "Godspell"; when the Earth is about to be demolished, he finally throws these scripts away.) However, Ford is actually an alien from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse, and had originally only come to Earth to do some research for an article he was writing on it for the "Guide".

Ford came to Earth for a week, and got stuck there for fifteen years, departing only when a fleet of Vogon constructor ships appear in the first episode, taking Arthur Dent with him. Ford is the source of much explanation of the weird universe that Arthur finds himself in; for example, the importance of knowing where your towel is, sticking a fish in your ear, and why the greatest cooks in the universe cook such bad food on Vogon spaceships. Ultimately, however, his personal mission is to find a nice party and get incredibly drunk.

Ford's life story diverges into alternative versions in the radio series, TV series and books. In the original radio series he finds himself dangling from a mile-high statue of Arthur Dent suspended in the air, and after surviving a fall from the statue he ends up stranded on the planet of the Ruler of the Universe when Arthur steals the Heart of Gold. At the end of the TV series, he is marooned with Arthur on prehistoric Earth. In the books, he survives a series of adventures including a present-day invasion of Earth by aliens and almost being choked to death by a severed hand in a sleazy bar, only to (presumably) perish along with all the other characters when all the alternative Earths are finally destroyed. However, the radio adaptation of the books holds out the hope that the characters have only been transported to Milliway's, and therefore have survived the final destruction of Earth.

Name

Although Ford had taken great care to blend into Earth society, he had "skimped a bit on his preparatory research", and thought that the name "Ford Prefect" would be "nicely inconspicuous". Adams later clarified in an interview that Ford "had simply mistaken the dominant life form". The Ford Prefect was, in fact, a line of inexpensive automobiles manufactured in the United Kingdom in the 1950s. This was expanded on somewhat in the film version, where Ford is nearly run over when trying to greet a car, an actual Ford Prefect. He is saved by Arthur and, in the film version of events at least, this is how the pair meet. The graphics in the TV series provide a similar explanation by listing director John Ford, psychic Arthur Ford, news reader Anna Ford, carmarker Henry Ford, the Ford Anglia car, the Ford Consul car and finally Ford Prefect.

Adams later observed that this joke was lost on U.S. audiences who assumed it was a typing error for "perfect". In the French version, "Le Guide Galactique", [Le Guide Galactique, Denoël, ISBN 978-2207249147] Ford's name was changed to "Ford Escort". The joke is also now largely lost on younger audiences because of the disappearance of the Ford Prefect from frequent use. In the film adaptation, his last name was never actually stated on-screen, but it is given in the film's credits as "Prefect".

Prior art for Adams' satirical point – that humans attach such importance to automobiles that a visiting extraterrestrial might reasonably mistake them for the planet's dominant life form – can be found in a widely reprinted article from "The Rockefeller Institute Review" titled "Life on Earth (by a Martian)" by Paul Weiss. The idea was also expounded by Carl Sagan, though this may have postdated Adams' creation of the character of Ford. The 1967 Oscar-nominated animated film "What on Earth!" from the National Film Board of Canada is based on this premise.

First birth name

In the novel, we are told that Ford's original name is "only pronounceable in an obscure Betelgeusian dialect" which was almost wiped out by the "Great Collapsing Hrung Disaster of Gal./Sid./Year 03758", a mysterious catastrophe which took place on the planet of Betelgeuse Seven and which Ford's father was the only man to survive. Ford never learned to pronounce his original name, which was a matter that caused his father to die of shame (which is still a terminal disease in some parts of the Universe). At school, he was nicknamed "Ix", which translates as "boy who is not able satisfactorily to explain what a Hrung is, nor why it should choose to collapse on Betelgeuse Seven".

Despite all this, his semi-cousin (they share three of the same mothers) Zaphod Beeblebrox calls him "Ford" the first time they are reunited in all versions of the story except for the film, where Zaphod addresses him as "Praxibetel Ix", then introduces him by saying "This is my semi-cousin, Ix...Excuse me, Ford". While not explained in the book, a footnote of the original radio scripts explains that "just before arriving (on Earth) he registered his new name officially at the Galactic Nomenclaturoid Office, where they had the technology to unpick his old name from the fabric of space/time and thread the new one in its place, so that to all intents and purposes his name had always been and would always be Ford Prefect." [http://www.zootle.net/afda/faq/e.shtml#2-4]

Portrayals

In the original radio series and subsequent LP adaptation, Ford was played by Geoffrey McGivern. On television he was played by David Dixon, and in the film he was played by Mos Def. In "The Illustrated Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" he is portrayed by Tom Finnis.

References


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