Dirk Gently – Dork Review

New last week, tucked away on BBC4, was Dirk Gently, an adaptation of Douglas Adams’ “other” series of novels, “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency”. I admit, I’ve never read the source material, so if you want a careful dissection of where the new TV version differs, you may be disappointed by this review.

However, I was excited by this broadcast despite my lack of expertise, because it is written by Howard Overman. This man is behind the excellent Misfits, the hilarious Vexed and many of the better episodes of Merlin, so he’s picking up a pedigree. Was Dirk Gently another winner?

Gently And MacDuff

When I first reviewed Sherlock, back in summer, I commented on how many shows were currently using the “Holmes formula” of socially useless genius and exasperated sidekick. Superficially, at least, Dirk Gently seems to be another of this type, with scatty “holistic” detective Dirk Gently reconnecting with schoolfriend MacDuff just in time for them both to get embroiled in a case.

But there’s nothing wrong with broad similarity as long as the newcomer has something new to add. I rather enjoyed Stephen Mangan’s duplicitous, self-serving Gently and the uncertainty this produces for other characters and the audience.

The final act revelations were equally unpredictable, and I imagine a lot of viewers would be annoyed by this. The totally incongruous entrance of some science-fiction was a bit distracting, but I enjoy that kind of sudden gear-shift. I like to think Mr Adams might have approved in some small way too.

Pilot Projects

For now, this one episode is all we’re getting, as it is a mere pilot. It’s been implied in places, such as this BBC blog post by Stephen Mangan, that they would be interested in going further, and I hope that commission comes up, as it was a lot of fun.

I don’t get the feeling it particularly resembled the books, which seem more wilfully surreal and obtuse, whereas this is a fairly straight comedy detective show, the main selling points being the eccentric lead character and the strange plot twist. But as a non-fan, this doesn’t needle me as much as it may others.

This may not be Overman’s greatest work, since it’ll take a lot to shake Misfits from that perch. But this is another string to his bow, and a perfectly watchable hour of TV. Check it out in BBC iPlayer, and let me know below whether you’d want to see more.

Nick Bryan

Nick learned to read and write at an early age. This has developed into an unhealthy need to either write stories or consume them for later dissection. He reviews film and TV on Dork Adore and The Digital Fix, lives in London and enjoys a nice white beer.

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  1. says

    I liked it. It was very different to the book (from what I remember – I read it ages ago), but I thought it was good fun. I'm not sure if I'd stick it out for a whole series though…

  2. says

    It was OK, quite a departure from the original characterisation of Dirk but it worked well enough I thought, Mangan's performance certainly one of the best I can remember from him. Obviously had to do quite a bit of rewriting to remove all the loving descriptions of mid-80s apple products that made up a fairly significant portion of the original. Can't really agree that the science-fiction was introduced either at the last minute or was incongruous, it was, after all, set up right at the beginning.
    The first scene in Dirk's office, when he painted over his previous case notes, I noticed those notes all seemed to reference everything from the book they'd cut out. Literally whitewashing over the difficult stuff. If they *do* do more, it'd be nice to see them go back and cover all that, although admittedly that material was stuff Adam's had recycled from his old Doctor Who scripts so it'd have to be fairly heavily reworked.
    Going to have to go an re-read the original now!

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