With the fish in his ear, Arthur listens to Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz’s announcement: “I see from our instruments that we have a couple of Hitchhikers aboard,” Prostetnic says. “Hello, wherever you are. I just want to make it totally clear that you are not at all welcome. I worked hard to get where I am today, and I didn’t become captain of a Vogon constructor ship simply so I could turn it into a taxi service for a load of degenerate freeloaders. I have sent out a search party, and as soon as they find you I will put you off the ship. If you’re very lucky I might read you some of my poetry first.” When the message ends, Ford tells Arthur that the fish in his ear is a Babel fish, which translates foreign languages into whatever language the listener understands.
Once again, Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz confirms that he is a prototypical Vogon—stubborn and deeply preoccupied with control. Unfortunately, he seems to have no sympathy for somebody like Arthur, who has just tragically lost his home planet. In fact, Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz is so concerned with order and control that he plans to throw Ford and Arthur into space, sending them to die after reading them his poetry.
Arthur realizes that, since Ford is a researcher for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, he must have been gathering information about Earth. Ford confirms that this is the case, saying that he was “able to extend the original entry a bit,” though the edition Arthur is holding is an old one. Still, Arthur is eager to see what the guidebook has to say about his home planet, which he suddenly misses dearly. When he finds the entry, he’s shocked by its brevity—the description of Earth is one word: “Harmless.” Ford tries to justify this, saying that there’s simply not enough room in the book to go into detail. Plus, he adds, nobody ever knew much about Earth. When Arthur asks him how he updated the entry, Ford tells him that he changed it to “Mostly Harmless.” Before Arthur can object to this, Ford hears footsteps outside the door.
Even though The Guide is supposed to serve as a “repository of all knowledge and wisdom” in the Galaxy, the book’s report of Earth is short and rather uninformative. Indeed, it’s hard to think of this single-word (and the new two-word) entry as actual “wisdom.” At the same time, it’s worth noting that knowing whether a planet is harmless or not is probably one of the first and most important things a galactic hitchhiker would want to know. In this way, the entry is rather effective, though it’s understandable that its brevity upsets Arthur, who is suddenly nostalgic for his home planet.