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20080504

The Restaurant At The End Of The Typewriter

Entry 778 posted in: 2. DNA, 7. Star Trek - The Original Sucker


But keptin, I can't fire up her engine as well! Douglas Adams (DNA) obviously was one of those persons who graduated summa cum laude at the William Shatner Star Trek Unfinished Projects University. An explanation may be needed here.

In the seventies several attempts were made to resuscitate Star Trek at the movie theatres. Three scripts were made for what laughingly was called Star Trek II: The God Thing, by Gene ‘thank god for miniskirts’ Rodenberry; The Planet of the Titans, Kirk going mad and thinking he’s a Greek god – I kid you not!; and an unnamed blood sucking reptiles take over planet Earth story by Harlan Ellison that would have saved Brazil’s rubber production for the production of lizard suits alone. Every time someone uttered Star Trek and movie in one sentence hordes of lawyers, agents and cocaine delivery boys were summoned and gigantesque sums of money were handed over to the actors of the original series, who were begged not to take any other movie role for the time being. (This is valid proof of the fact that movie people are a bunch of ass-eating monkeys; you must be one sick person to even think that anyone wanted to cast the Star Trek actors for another project.)

After these three aborted attempts there were talks for a new TV series called Phase II. Business as usual: the actors got paid - nothing got produced. But the good thing (probably good is not the right adjective here) was that the pilot from the Phase II series grew into that horrific monster called Star Trek: The Motion Picture (ST:TMP). (Also here the choice of the adjective wasn’t really appropriate: the picture did a lot of things but moving wasn’t actually one of those.) Although ST:TMP contained a lot of miniskirts it was rather disappointing and the tagline that this was the most expensive SF movie ever was only true because the production company had added all previous cost of all aborted projects inside ST:TMP’s budget.

Douglas Adams also was one of those people who were extremely busy producing nothing and getting huge amounts of money for it. To quote Steve Meretzky, co-author of the Hitchhiker Infocom game: “Douglas certainly raised procrastination to an art form.” In 1983 DNA signed a contract with Infocom for 6 (six) text-adventure computer games based on his Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (H2G2) books. The first in the series came out in 1984 and sold a staggering 400 000 copies. But problems arose when Infocom politely reminded Adams that is was about time to think of parts 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 of the series. DNA who, according to his own terms, suffered from sequelitis, came with another idea. Infocom didn’t want to kill the goose with the golden eggs and reluctantly agreed to produce Bureaucracy. When that game came out in 1987, already a couple of years overdue, it sold a mere 40 000 copies. Days of text-adventure games were over. (I stole most of the above from M.J Simpson’s biography: Hitchhiker.)

Although attempts were made to create a second Hitchhiker Infocom game Restaurant At The End Of The Universe it was generally believed that the game never left the development stage. But a few weeks ago, so after more than 20 years, it was announced that a playable prototype does exist.

The full story (it is very long, you are warned!) can be read at the Waxy blog. It is also interesting to browse through the comments as well. These contain contributions, explanations and alternative timelines from Infocom people such as Steve Meretzky (H2G2), Tim Anderson (Bureaucracy), Marc Blank (Infocom VP and creator of Zork) and Michael Bywater (Bureaucracy).

The playable prototype has been published on the web and can be tested at the following URL (Java5 needed): Milliways.


If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: The Abandon Earth Kit aka How To Leave The Planet