[The Vl'hurgs]

Imperial Address

Vl'hurg Dinner, 3 March 1984, Wadham College, Oxford.

My Type Alpha Vl'hurgs, Type Beta Vl'hurgs and Type Gamma Vl'hurgs. No doubt you are all puzzled about the strange fascination that the high command seems to have with planet Earth. Such a feeling is not entirely unfounded, but although it appears superficially to be a rather boring planet, and arguably the planet in the third sector of the western spiral arm that is least worth visiting, there does seem to be reason to be a little careful before we dismiss it completely.

To justify this strange and apparently unreasonable suggestion, let me recount an event which occurred between the last meeting of the VI'hurg war cabinet and the winter solstice of Sirius-Beta-III: Captain Paret'zk' had been detailed to place life-sensors in the stellar system of Arcturus because some of our scientists believed that it was possible that the fourth moon the the second planet might possess some kind of amoebic life development. However there was a clerical error which led to it being sent to the wrong stellar system, and the monitoring equipment ended up being set up in and around planet Earth.

Of course the postal clerks who were responsible for these errors have been executed, but by the time the error was discovered, a good deal of information had accumulated about this planet. It seemed to be so obvious that Earth did not have intelligent life that much of the information was erased from the memory banks, however not all of it was destroyed, and careful analysis seemed to show that the apparently random behaviour of the carbon-based life forms who populated the planet, showed astonishing regularities. Of course, one kind of carbon-based life form, which we designate by the term "wallies", and who build cities and the like seemed almost completely random in their behaviour, and it appeared unlikely that the quality of "intelligence" could be associated with them.

But there were other candidates: "penguins", a life form who live near the southern pole, this being on the basis that it seemed very unlikely that beings who actually had intelligence would live in the inhospitable regions between 85S and 85N. "Dolphins" were another candidate, and "white mice". These choices, although hard to justify were nonetheless the most convincing examples of hypothetical use of intellect that we could find. I am therefore asking VI'hurgs present here tonight to suspend disbelief and consider that the notion that there could be intelligent life on this planet is not entirely preposterous. Our debate is entitled "This house believes that there could be intelligent life on planet Earth", and I can assure you that our speakers have considered the facts most carefully.

Vl'hurgs here may be puzzled as to why the Wadhamcollege co-ordinate was chosen for this meeting of the war cabinet. Altogether confusing since the Oxford Wallies classification scheme known as the "Norrington table" does not show that Wadhamcollege is pre-eminent in any sense. The reason is that the high command were fascinated by an event which took place approximately half an Earth year ago which may bear on the question of the presence or non-presence of intelligent life. This event involved a neighbouring institution known as Rhodeshouse; there is a kind of primitive material partition between the two institutions which chemical analysis shows consists predominantly of silicates.

Resisting the temptation to speculate on whether or not this could be related to the possibility that silicon-based life is beginning to evolve on this planet, let me just say that the Wallies dismantled a part of this silicate-based object, and then reassembled it - this sounds unremarkable, but tantalisingly, X-ray analysis showed that the reassembled structure was almost identical to the original one.

Of course, as you all must be thinking, how amazingly similar this ritual is to the fertility rite of the Gritvikkans of the young star cluster of Ugger, where in the course of four days of drunken, orgiastic celebrations, they dismantle a Vogon landing craft and then reassemble it exactly as it was before. Could this mean that Wallies are developing in the same way as the beings of Ugger? As we all know, the parallels in the development of cosmic life forms are numerous, so could this be one of such? This problem has been discussed by some of our scientists, and although the answers to these questions are by no means certain, yet some points are clear:

(1) This dismantling and reassembling must be a mystical or superstitious ritual. Such a conclusion is inevitable because this clearly cannot possibly have a utilitarian purpose - what could be more futile than this activity?

(2) Although tempting to associate the two, it is clear that this activity is not the same as the Vogon Wall Game (wherein five Vogons will be put in a room with a wall in it: Vogons are such callous and unkind beings that sooner or later one of them will get in a huff because of something that one of the others says about him, and will climb the wall to get away, thereby losing the game).

This is certainly an enigma, and it may be some time before we have a satisfactory explanation. It is a pleasure to introduce Captain Paret'zk', who will propose the motion "This house believes that there could be intelligent life on planet Earth".

Note added (February 2004): If you are wondering what the last bit is about, there was a garden party on 28 June 1983, to celebrate 80 years of Rhodes Scholarships at Oxford University which the Queen and Prince Philip attended. To make room, a wall separating the Rhodes House garden from Wadham College Fellows garden had to be knocked down and rebuilt after the event at a cost of 10,000. See, for example here: