Zaphod Beeblebrox

Zaphod Beeblebrox

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Zaphod Beeblebrox is a fictional character
Fictional character
A character is the representation of a person in a narrative work of art . Derived from the ancient Greek word kharaktêr , the earliest use in English, in this sense, dates from the Restoration, although it became widely used after its appearance in Tom Jones in 1749. From this, the sense of...

 in the various versions of the humorous science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

 story The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a science fiction comedy series created by Douglas Adams. Originally a radio comedy broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1978, it was later adapted to other formats, and over several years it gradually became an international multi-media phenomenon...

 by Douglas Adams
Douglas Adams
Douglas Noel Adams was an English writer and dramatist. He is best known as the author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which started life in 1978 as a BBC radio comedy before developing into a "trilogy" of five books that sold over 15 million copies in his lifetime, a television...

 who based him on his Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

 contemporary, Johnny Simpson.

He is from a planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse
Betelgeuse, also known by its Bayer designation Alpha Orionis , is the eighth brightest star in the night sky and second brightest star in the constellation of Orion, outshining its neighbour Rigel only rarely...

, and is a "semi-half-cousin" of Ford Prefect
Ford Prefect (character)
Ford Prefect 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 entire Hitchhiker's saga.-Name:Although Ford had taken great care to blend into Earth...

, with whom he "shares three of the same mothers". Because of "an accident with a contraceptive
Birth control
Birth control is an umbrella term for several techniques and methods used to prevent fertilization or to interrupt pregnancy at various stages. Birth control techniques and methods include contraception , contragestion and abortion...

 and a time machine
Time travel in fiction
Time travel is a common theme in science fiction and is depicted in a variety of media. It simply means either going forward in time or backward, to experience the future, or the past.-Literature:...

", his direct ancestors from his father are also his direct descendants (see Zaphod Beeblebrox the Fourth).


This character is described across all versions as having two heads
Polycephaly is a condition of having more than one head. The term is derived from the Greek stems poly- meaning 'much' and kephali- meaning "head", and encompasses bicephaly and dicephaly . A variation is an animal born with two faces on a single head, a condition known as diprosopus...

 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
Trillian (character)
Tricia McMillan, also known as Trillian Astra, is a fictional character from Douglas Adams' series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. She is most commonly referred to simply as "Trillian", a modification of her birth name, which she adopted because it sounded more "space-like". According to the...

 on Earth, and the start of the series. 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
Ford Prefect (character)
Ford Prefect 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 entire Hitchhiker's saga.-Name:Although Ford had taken great care to blend into Earth...

 simply remarks to Zaphod that "the extra arm suits you." Eoin Colfer
Eoin Colfer
Eoin Colfer is an Irish author. He is most famous as the author of the Artemis Fowl series, but he has also written other successful books. His novels have been compared to the works of J. K. Rowling...

 wrote and published an official 6th book for the Hitchhiker's series, in which it is implied Zaphod's third arm may have originally been grown so that he would have one hand for each of Eccentrica Galumbits' breasts.

In the Infocom game version of the story and TV adaptation, 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
Mostly Harmless
Mostly Harmless is a novel by Douglas Adams and the fifth book in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. It is described on the cover of the first editions as "The fifth book in the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhikers Trilogy"...

). 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. 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," but he wanted to keep these traits, so he hid his second head under his neck and wears a large collar or scarf to keep it hidden. As such, the movie is also the only version that explains the second head
Polycephaly is a condition of having more than one head. The term is derived from the Greek stems poly- meaning 'much' and kephali- meaning "head", and encompasses bicephaly and dicephaly . A variation is an animal born with two faces on a single head, a condition known as diprosopus...

. 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
Arthur Dent
Arthur Philip Dent is a fictional character, the hapless protagonist and anti-hero in the comic science fiction series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams....

, piloting the spaceship Heart of Gold, or preparing a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. In "And Another Thing...
And Another Thing... (novel)
And Another Thing… is the title of the sixth installment of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy "trilogy". The book, written by Eoin Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowl series, was published on the thirtieth anniversary of the first book, 12 October 2009, in hardback. It was...

", Colfer's addition to the book series, a photo is mentioned which shows Zaphod with the second head replaced by that of a woman. It is implied that Zaphod may have surgically attached this woman's head to himself, before realising he liked the idea of a second head better than he liked her, and swapping her for a reproduction of his original head.

Zaphod wears unique clothing that contains 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.


Zaphod invented the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. He was voted "Worst Dressed Sentient Being in the Known Universe" seven times. He's been described as "the best Bang
Sexual intercourse
Sexual intercourse, also known as copulation or coitus, commonly refers to the act in which a male's penis enters a female's vagina for the purposes of sexual pleasure or reproduction. The entities may be of opposite sexes, or they may be hermaphroditic, as is the case with snails...

 since the Big One
Big Bang
The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model that explains the early development of the Universe. According to the Big Bang theory, the Universe was once in an extremely hot and dense state which expanded rapidly. This rapid expansion caused the young Universe to cool and resulted in...

" by Eccentrica Gallumbits, and as "one hoopy frood" by others. In the seventh episode of the original radio series
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (radio series)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a science fiction comedy radio series written by Douglas Adams . It was originally broadcast in the United Kingdom by BBC Radio 4 in 1978, and afterwards on global short wave radio on the BBC World Service, National Public Radio in the U.S. and CBC Radio in...

, 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
A president is a leader of an organization, company, trade union, university, or country.Etymologically, a president is one who presides, who sits in leadership...

 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, a role for which Zaphod was perfectly suited). He is the only man to have survived the Total Perspective Vortex, though it was established (in the books and first two radio series) that he survived only because he was in an Electronically Synthesised Universe
Virtual reality
Virtual reality , also known as virtuality, is a term that applies to computer-simulated environments that can simulate physical presence in places in the real world, as well as in imaginary worlds...

 created especially for him, thus making him the most important being in that universe and thus uniquely equipped to survive its version of the Vortex. 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, narcissistic
Narcissism is a term with a wide range of meanings, depending on whether it is used to describe a central concept of psychoanalytic theory, a mental illness, a social or cultural problem, or simply a personality trait...

 almost to the point of solipsism
Solipsism is the philosophical idea that only one's own mind is sure to exist. The term comes from Latin solus and ipse . Solipsism as an epistemological position holds that knowledge of anything outside one's own mind is unsure. The external world and other minds cannot be known, and might not...

, and often extremely insensitive to the feelings of those around him. In the books and radio series, he is nevertheless quite charisma
The term charisma has two senses: 1) compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others, 2) a divinely conferred power or talent. For some theological usages the term is rendered charism, with a meaning the same as sense 2...

tic which causes many characters to ignore his other flaws. Douglas Adams claimed that he based Zaphod on an old friend of his from Cambridge called Johnny Simpson, who "had that nervous sort of hyperenergetic way of trying to appear relaxed."

In (at least) the books, he is, according to screening tests that he ran on himself in the Heart of Golds medical bay, "clever, imaginative, irresponsible, untrustworthy, extrovert, nothing you couldn't have guessed" (Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide, page 98). In the movie, however, he is not very bright, and perhaps even more boorish than his previous portrayals. He is portrayed as a vacuous California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 surfer-type, and Sam Rockwell
Sam Rockwell
Sam Rockwell is an American actor known for his leading roles in Lawn Dogs, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Choke and Moon, as well as for his supporting roles in The Green Mile, Iron Man 2, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Frost/Nixon, Galaxy Quest, Matchstick Men, The Assassination of...

, the actor who played him in the film, cited Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

, Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley
Elvis Aaron Presley was one of the most popular American singers of the 20th century. A cultural icon, he is widely known by the single name Elvis. He is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King"....

 and George W.Bush as influences. Zaphod in the film is very much immature (in contrast to the books where he was immature, but had a lot of power and was smart and devious), acting very eager about everything, eating messily with his hands, throwing temper tantrums, and doing things without reason, such as pressing the Improbability Drive button just because it was large and shiny.

Throughout the book and radio versions of the story, Zaphod is busy carrying out some grand scheme, 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
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is the second book in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy comedy science fiction trilogy of five by Douglas Adams. It was originally published by Pan Books as a paperback. The book was inspired by the song "Grand Hotel" by British rock band Procol Harum...

, 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.

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
Mark Wing-Davey
Mark Wing-Davey is a British actor and director.-Early life and career:The son of actor and actress Peter Davey and Anna Wing, Wing-Davey went to school at Woolverstone Hall School, before studying at Cambridge University where he was a member of the Footlights from 1967 to 1970.He had a featured...

. 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
Doctor Who
Doctor Who is a British science fiction television programme produced by the BBC. The programme depicts the adventures of a time-travelling humanoid alien known as the Doctor who explores the universe in a sentient time machine called the TARDIS that flies through time and space, whose exterior...

 episode "The Christmas Invasion
The Christmas Invasion
"The Christmas Invasion" is a 60-minute special episode of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It is Christmas, but there is little cause for celebration as planet Earth is invaded by aliens known as the Sycorax...

" after Jackie Tyler
Jackie Tyler
In "Rise of the Cybermen" and "The Age of Steel" Coduri plays a parallel Earth version of Jackie. In this universe, she is still married to Pete, but they have no children, although she has a Yorkshire terrier named Rose. Despite Pete's success, which has led to Jackie becoming a celebrity, they...

 learns that the Doctor
Doctor (Doctor Who)
The Doctor is the central character in the long-running BBC television science-fiction series Doctor Who, and has also featured in two cinema feature films, a vast range of spin-off novels, audio dramas and comic strips connected to the series....

 has two hearts.

Zaphod is played by Sam Rockwell
Sam Rockwell
Sam Rockwell is an American actor known for his leading roles in Lawn Dogs, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Choke and Moon, as well as for his supporting roles in The Green Mile, Iron Man 2, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Frost/Nixon, Galaxy Quest, Matchstick Men, The Assassination of...

 in the film version
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (film)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a 2005 comic science fiction film based on the book of the same name by Douglas Adams. Shooting was completed in August 2004 and the movie was released on April 28, 2005 in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and on the following day in Canada and the United...

 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
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 drawl and a vacuous, superficially charming manner, was cited by some critics as a thinly veiled parody
A parody , in current usage, is an imitative work created to mock, comment on, or trivialise an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation...

 of George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

. 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
Freddie Mercury
Freddie Mercury was a British musician, singer and songwriter, best known as the lead vocalist of the rock band Queen. As a performer, he was known for his flamboyant stage persona and powerful vocals over a four-octave range...

, Elvis
Elvis Presley
Elvis Aaron Presley was one of the most popular American singers of the 20th century. A cultural icon, he is widely known by the single name Elvis. He is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King"....

, a little Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt
William Bradley "Brad" Pitt is an American actor and film producer. Pitt has received two Academy Award nominations and four Golden Globe Award nominations, winning one...


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.

Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster

Zaphod is the inventor of the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster, a fictional cocktail based on Janx Spirit. The series describes the drink as "the alcoholic equivalent of a mugging - expensive and bad for the head" and states that the effect of one "is like having your brain smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick". In the television series, two Gargle Blaster drinkers collapse in open-eyed unconsciousness after drinking while the spilled drink burns a hole in the floor; in the film, after the Guide is done explaining what the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster is and its effects, Ford and Zaphod yell in pain. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy gives the recipe as follows:

"Take the juice from one bottle of that Ol' Janx Spirit.
Pour into it one measure of water from the seas of Santraginus V
Allow three cubes of Arcturan Mega-gin to melt into the mixture (it must be properly iced or the benzene
Benzene is an organic chemical compound. It is composed of 6 carbon atoms in a ring, with 1 hydrogen atom attached to each carbon atom, with the molecular formula C6H6....

 is lost).
Allow four litres of Fallian marsh gas to bubble through it (in memory of all those happy Hikers who have died of pleasure in the Marshes of Fallia).
Over the back of a silver spoon float a measure of Qualactin Hypermint extract, redolent of all the heady odours of the dark Qualactin Zones.
Drop in the tooth of an Algolian Suntiger. Watch it dissolve, spreading the fires of the Algolian suns deep into the heart of the drink.
Sprinkle Zamphour.
Add an olive.
Drink...but very carefully."

The Guide also implies that there are multiple voluntary organisations available to rehabilitate those who would try the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster. Real versions of the drink have been made available at some stage shows of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, as well as bars such as Zaphod Beeblebrox
Zaphod Beeblebrox (nightclub)
Zaphod Beeblebrox is a Byward Market nightclub in Ottawa, Canada featuring live band performances.It is themed after The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, with drinks like the Pan Galactic Gargleblaster and other cocktails, and the Zaphod Beeblebrox style, which is described as "...the worst...

 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Recipes for these "Earth versions" can be found at Wikibooks.
In an interview, Douglas Adams stated that there are a number of environmental and weapons treaties, as well as laws of physics, which prevent the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster from being mixed on Earth.

Cultural references

The head male meerkat on the Animal Planet
Animal Planet
Animal Planet is an American cable tv specialty channel that launched on October 1, 1996. It is distributed by Discovery Communications. A high-definition simulcast of the channel launched on September 1, 2007.-History:...

 television series Meerkat Manor
Meerkat Manor
Meerkat Manor is a British television programme produced by Oxford Scientific Films for Animal Planet International that premiered in September 2005 and ran for four series until its cancellation in August 2008...

 was named after him.

In the punk band NOFX
NOFX is an American punk rock band from Los Angeles, California .The band was formed in 1983 by vocalist/bassist Fat Mike and guitarist Eric Melvin. Drummer Erik Sandin joined NOFX shortly after. In 1991 El Hefe joined to play lead guitar and trumpet, rounding out the current line-up...

's song "food, sex and ewe" from their 1990 album Ribbed
Ribbed is the third studio album by the American punk rock band NOFX. It was released on March 26, 1991 through Epitaph Records. It was their last album to feature Steve Kidwiller on guitar, who was replaced by El Hefe...

, lead singer Fat Mike mentions reading about Zaphod Beeblebrox to pass the day between gigs while they are touring.

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."

In the PC
Personal computer
A personal computer is any general-purpose computer whose size, capabilities, and original sales price make it useful for individuals, and which is intended to be operated directly by an end-user with no intervening computer operator...

 game The 7th Guest, the name "Zaphod Beeblebrox" is a cheat code which gives the player direct access to all the rooms and puzzles in the game.

A kind of dual head X
X Window System
The X window system is a computer software system and network protocol that provides a basis for graphical user interfaces and rich input device capability for networked computers...

 setup, multiseat configuration, is referred to as Zaphod mode.

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 drunk,
has become memorialised as Beeblebrox's Gambit, as demonstrated in this instalment of the webcomic
Webcomics, online comics, or Internet comics are comics published on a website. While many are published exclusively on the web, others are also published in magazines, newspapers or often in self-published books....

 Questionable Content
Questionable Content
Questionable Content is a slice-of-life webcomic written and drawn by Jeph Jacques. It was launched on August 1, 2003. Jacques currently makes his living exclusively from QC merchandising and advertising, making him one of the few professional webcomic artists...

, for example.

A nightclub named Zaphod Beeblebrox exists in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, billed as "the nightclub at the end of the universe."

A quest in World of Warcraft titled "Four Heads are Better than None", a player must collect four heads – "Za" "Phod" "Beeble" "Brox".

See also

  • Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
    • Frogstar
    • Young Zaphod Plays it Safe
      Young Zaphod Plays it Safe
      "Young Zaphod Plays It Safe" is a short story by Douglas Adams set in his The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy universe. It is included with several collections but has never been released as a standalone work. It first appeared in The Utterly Utterly Merry Comic Relief Christmas Book which...

External links