Zaphod Beeblebrox


Zaphod Beeblebrox

Infobox character
colour = red
name = Zaphod Beeblebrox


caption = Mark Wing-Davey as Zaphod Beeblebrox, from the TV adaptation.
first = Fit the Second (radio)
last =
cause =
nickname =
alias =
species = Betelgeusian
gender = Male
age =
born =
death =
occupation = Ex-Galactic President
title = President Zaphod Beeblebrox I Zaphod Beeblebrox the Nothingth (addressed as by great-grandfather)
family =
spouse =
children =
relatives = Ford Prefect (semi-cousin)
episode =
portrayer = Mark Wing-Davey
Sam Rockwell
creator = Douglas Adams
Zaphod Beeblebrox is a fictional character in the various versions of the humorous science fiction story "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams who based him on his Cambridge contemporary, Johnny Simpson.cite book|title=DON'T PANIC - the official Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy Companion|author=Neil Gaiman|date=1987|publisher=Titan Books|isbn=1852860138]

He is from a planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse, and is a "semi-cousin" of Ford Prefect, with whom he "shares three of the same mothers". Due to "an accident with a contraceptive and a time machine", his direct ancestors from his father (Zaphod Beeblebrox the Second) are also his direct descendants (see Zaphod Beeblebrox the Fourth).

Appearance

This character is described across all versions as having two heads and three arms, though explanations of how he came to receive the extra appendages differed between versions. The original radio version never explained the second head, but did explain that Zaphod "grew" the third arm in the six months between meeting the character of Trillian on Earth, and the start of the series. A common fan explanation is that Zaphod went back in time, and became every male in his entire family history, thus resulting in the name problem suffered by the Beeblebroxes (explained in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe) and acquired the extra limbs through having sexual intercourse with prominent females in his family (his grandmother, mother etc.) The third radio series implies that he had a third arm whilst growing up - the fifth has him offer to Trillian that "I'd grow my third arm back for you, baby", when they first meet. In the novel, he said the third arm was "recently [...] fitted just beneath his right one to help improve his ski-boxing." According to the original "Hitchhiker's" radio series script book, an ad libbed comment by Mark Wing-Davey in the eighth radio episode ("Put it there, and there, and there, and there! Whoa!") would suggest that Zaphod had grown a fourth arm. In the television series, Ford Prefect simply remarks to Zaphod that "the extra arm suits you."

In the Infocom game version of the story, Zaphod blends in on Earth by hiding his second head in a covered bird cage (an alternate Trillian also refers to this in "Mostly Harmless"). In the novel "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe", the ghost of Zaphod's great-grandfather also has two heads. This and other information presented in the narrative prose seem to indicate that having two heads is a common -- possibly even universal -- trait of Zaphod's species (except for Ford, who only has one head). For the 2005 movie, it's hinted that Zaphod "created" the second head himself when shutting off the parts of his mind that contain portions of his personality that "are not presidential." As such, the movie is also the only version that explains the second head. In this filmed version, the second head appears underneath the first, roughly between his chin and the top of his chest, popping up when the first head is flipped backwards. The third arm is hidden underneath Zaphod's clothing, appears to be controlled by the second head, and only appears a few times, such as for tormenting Arthur Dent, piloting the spaceship "Heart of Gold", or preparing a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster.

Zaphod, having been voted the Worst Dressed Sentient Being in the Known Universe for seven years in a row, wears clothes that are unique and contain a mixture of bright and contrasting colours, to make him stand out and be the centre of attention wherever he goes. In the television series, he wears the same outfit throughout each of the episodes, but in the movie his clothes, their style and their colour scheme change several times, although all of them are tasteless and attention-seeking.

Achievements

Zaphod invented the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, and is the only person able to drink more than three of them at one sitting. He was voted "Worst Dressed Sentient Being in the Known Universe" for seven years in a row. He's been described as "the best Bang since the Big One" by Eccentrica Gallumbits, and as "one hoopy frood" by others. In the seventh episode of the original radio series, the narrator describes Beeblebrox as being the "owner of the hippest place in the universe" (his own left cranium), as voted on in a poll of the readers of the fictional magazine "Playbeing".

He was briefly the President of the Galaxy (a role that involves no power whatsoever, and merely requires the incumbent to attract attention so no one wonders who's "really" in charge, which is a role Zaphod was perfectly suited for). He is the only man to have survived the Total Perspective Vortex. However, it was established (in the books and first two radio series) that he survived only because the Vortex he was subjected to existed in an Electronically Synthesized Universe which was created specially for him. This made Zaphod the most important being in it. His brain-care specialist, Gag Halfrunt, also said, "Vell, Zaphod's just zis guy, you know?" He used his position as President of the Galaxy to steal the "Heart of Gold", a spaceship taking advantage of Infinite Improbability Drive, at its unveiling.

As a character

As a character, Zaphod is hedonistic and irresponsible, self-centered almost to the point of solipsism, and often extremely insensitive to the feelings of those around him. In the books and radio series, he is nevertheless quite intelligent, though he sometimes prefers not to make this obvious, and can be briefly shamed into better behaviour. Douglas Adams has said that Zaphod is always desperately trying to appear relaxed. In the movie, however, he is not very bright (in fact, his opponent in the previous Presidential election had appeared to have graffitied a "Vote for Zaphod Beeblebrox" sign into a "Don't vote for Zaphod Beeblebrox stupid") and perhaps even more boorish than his previous portrayals. He is portrayed as a vacuous California surfer-type, and Sam Rockwell, the actor who played him in the film, cited Bill Clinton, Elvis Presley and Freddie Mercury as influences.

Throughout the book and radio versions of the story, Zaphod is busy carrying out some grand scheme, and has no clue as to what it is and is unable to do anything but follow the path that he laid out for himself. Zaphod's grand schemes have included, over time, a second hand ballpoint pen business (which may or may not have been established with the help of Veet Voojagig). He was forced to section off the part of his brain that stored the plan so that scans of his mind, which would be necessary for him to become president, wouldn't reveal his plan, which included his being President of the Galaxy and subsequently stealing the prototype Infinite Improbability Drive starship. However, in his altered state of mind he follows the path he left only reluctantly and very much wishes to go off and lie on beaches rather than see the scheme through. In the second radio series and the book version of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, we learn (and so does Zaphod) that the object of his plan was to find the man who "actually" ruled the universe - who turns out to be a man living in a shack with his cat who doesn't believe anything is real or certain except that which is seen or heard by him at any present moment in time.

According to screening tests that Zaphod ran on himself in the "Heart of Gold"'s medical bay, he is "clever, imaginative, irresponsible, untrustworthy, extrovert, nothing you couldn't have guessed" ("Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide", page 98).

In non-print media

In both the radio and television versions of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" Zaphod was played by Mark Wing-Davey. The jokes about Zaphod having two heads and more than two arms were written for the original radio version, where the details could be filled in by the listener's imagination. In the television version Wing-Davey wore a false arm (when the arm was required to gesture it was replaced by the arm of Mike Felt, designer of the animatronic head, standing behind Wing-Davey), and a radio-controlled second head with an eyepatch. Unfortunately, the second head's mechanics seldom worked properly and so for most of the time it just sat on Zaphod's shoulder looking inanimate, although in one scene it manages to have a brief conversation with Wing-Davey's real head. Wing-Davey also suggested to the TV series' costume designer that Zaphod's costume should be made to indicate that the character has two penises. Special padding was thus arranged, though the first attempt was deemed to be "too long" and was "cut back" for the final version. This was referenced in the film version when Arthur Dent says to Trillian "So, two heads is what does it for a girl?...Anything else he's got two of?" This line was in turn appropriated in the "Doctor Who" episode "The Christmas Invasion" after Jackie Tyler learns that the Doctor has two hearts.

Zaphod is played by Sam Rockwell in the film version of the story that was released in April 2005. In that version, his second head occasionally pops out to express the parts of his personality that are (as the main head puts it) "less than Presidential." Rockwell's interpretation of the character, which includes a vaguely Texan drawl and a vacuous, superficially charming manner, was cited by some critics as a thinly veiled parody of George W. Bush. Rockwell himself described the character as starting with "a Bill Clinton impersonation but that didn't really work. [...] Zaphod has to be more aggressive and so we went rock star, Freddie Mercury, Elvis, a little Brad Pitt."

The "The Illustrated Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" has him portrayed by Francis Johnson.

To coincide with the April 2005 release of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" film, a "campaign music video" was released on the Internet. The music, "Beeblebrox for President", comes from the film's soundtrack, though it is not heard in the film itself.

Cultural references

The head male meerkat on the Animal Planet television series "Meerkat Manor" was named after him. [ [http://animal.discovery.com/fansites/meerkat/meet/meet.html Animal Planet] "Meet the Whiskers" page.]

In the punk band NOFX's song "food, sex and ewe" from their 1990 album "Ribbed", lead singer Fat Mike mentions reading about Zaphod Beeblebrox to pass the day between gigs while they are touring. [ [http://www.nofxofficialwebsite.com/albums/ribbed/ribbed.html NOFX "Ribbed"] song list page.]

Zaphod Beeblebrox is also the name of a bar in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, which is noted to serve Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters.

In the Mac game Escape Velocity there is a planet called Beeblebrox in the Zaphod system. On landing the planet has the description "Beeblebrox is a wild world, a world of wild parties and wild people. If you have two heads, three arms, and an ego problem, don’t travel to Beeblebrox; you will be laughed at and considered boring and unoriginal."

A kind of dual head X setup is referred to as "Zaphod mode". [ [http://bugs.opensolaris.org/bugdatabase/view_bug.do?bug_id=6580728 Bug ID: 6580728 Upgrade Xorg Intel video driver to xf86-video-intel-2.1.0 ] ]

The logic behind one of Zaphod Beeblebrox's drinking accomplishments, in which he "sent in" multiple drinks to check on, give support to, or report back on previous drinks he had just drunkcite book
last = Adams
first = Douglas
title = Life, the Universe, and Everything
chapter = Chapter 11
page = 55
publisher = MacMillan
] , has become memorialized as " [http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=beeblebrox%27s+gambit Beeblebrox's Gambit] ", as demonstrated in [http://questionablecontent.net/view.php?comic=183 this] episode of the webcomic Questionable Content, for example.

See also

* "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:"
** Frogstar
** Young Zaphod Plays it Safe

References


*cite book | last = Britton | first = Piers D. | coauthors = Simon J. Barker | year = 2003 | title = Reading Between Designs: Visual Imagery and the Generation of Meaning in The Avengers, The Prisoner, and Doctor Who | publisher = University of Texas Press | id = ISBN 0-292-70927-7
*"The Making of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Kevin J. Davies

External links

* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/hitchhikers/guide/zaphod.shtml BBC Guide Entry]
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A607727 H2G2 Entry]


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