Sunday, October 13, 2019

About Stephen Moore

The actor Stephen Moore has died. He enjoyed a varied and successful career but for me (and, I suppose, many others of my vintage) his greatest achievement was providing the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android in the radio and TV versions of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. As a teenager, I usually claimed that Morrissey was my spirit guide, but in reality it was Marvin, with that terrible pain in all the diodes down his left-hand side. And of course, it was Marvin who provided a title to the first single for a certain Radiohead album about which I wrote a book, blah, blah, blah...

Confession time, now. When I wrote the book, I blithely asserted that the OK Computer title itself was also a direct quotation from the Hitchhiker’s canon, but didn’t check at the time. Many times since I’ve seen this connection regurgitated, and often I’m quoted as the source. I suppose I could have gone back to the scripts or the novels or the towels or whatever, but I rather liked it being a sort of Schrödinger’s fact, neither true nor false, only ultimately verifiable if anyone could be arsed.

For some reason, Mr Moore’s demise encouraged me to finally open the box, and I found this line in an interview with Thom Yorke marking the 20th anniversary of the album (or indeed the 10th anniversary of my book):
At one point in 1996, the band was killing time in the bus by listening to an audio version of Douglas Adams’ classic 1979 sci-fi-comedy novel, A [sic] Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Midway through the book, a spaceship computer says it’s incapable of fending off incoming missiles. “OK, computer,” responds galactic president Zaphod Beeblebrox, “I want full manual control now.” Yorke scribbled down the phrase – which marked the point in the narrative when humans saved themselves by reclaiming control from machines – in his bulging notebook of lyrics.
So I was right after all. Unless of course Yorke has retrospectively constructed his initial inspiration based on the meme that I coughed up a dozen years ago and we’re all implicated in some kind of paradoxical time loop between Douglas Adams and Radiohead and me.

What I don’t know is whether Stephen Moore ever expressed an opinion on ‘Paranoid Android’ the song. I think I’ll write another book, claiming he bloody hated it.


Anonymous said...

"a spaceship computer says it’s incapable of fending off incoming missiles."If I remember rightly, the reason the spaceship computer is incapable of fending off incoming missiles is because it's using all it's systems to find out why Arthur Dent wants to drink boiling water with the dried stalks of a bush in it.

Tim F said...

That's right. Eddie the Shipboard Computer, with his GPP (Genuine People Personality).