dirk gently and co

Dirk Gently - Stephen Mangan

Richard MacDuff - Darren Boyd

Susan - Helen Baxendale

The Hitch-hiker's Guide To The Galaxy

Dirk Gently - first transmitted December 16th 2010

Dirk Gently is a detective, but his methods are unconventional and, some would say, suspect. He believes in the basic interconnectedness of all things, so no matter what he investigates it will always bring him to the conclusion of the mystery at hand. The mystery at hand is what happened to Ruth's cat, but the answer to that will involve exploding warehouses, stolen laptops, hypnosis, time travel and too many biscuits.

Douglas Adams was the creator of the extremely popular THE HITCH-HIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, which went from being one of the finest radio sci fi shows to being one of the finest TV sci fi comedy shows to being, well, a bad film. In the shadow of that towering success lies the not quite so successful brace of books DIRK GENTLY'S HOLISTIC DETECTIVE AGENCY and THE LONG DARK TEATIME OF THE SOUL (one of the greatest titles ever) in which a shambolic detective unearths cases of staggering bizarreness by eliminating the impossible to the leave the utterly inconceivable. Less well known, they are revered by fans of Adams' work, but since they are written as novels and contain huge flights of fancy they become much more difficult to adapt.

Taking on that job is Howard Overman, scribe for hire on MERLIN and creator of the divisive, but unique MISFITS. Unfortunately, he is not able to fully reconcile the dichotomies that lie at the heart of Adams' second most famous creation. The story has funny moments in it and there are some very funny lines and a cast that have no problems with comic timing in delivering those lines, but there is also a sadness in the character and his connection to the universe that here just comes across as being an annoying prat. Stephen Mangan does his best to humanise the detective who is basically a parasite conning a living for himself, but even though some of his schemes have a charming roguishness about them (using schookids to crack computers and faking suicide to gain access to personal psychiatric files), Dirk is a selfish, uncaring, arrogant arse who it is almost completely impossible to care about. All of the other characters are more likeable, which is something of a weakness here.

For a one hour show, the plot rambles about all over the place. Yes, Dirk's initial position is that everything is interconnected and the plot does eventually get around to showing how this leads him to his final, fantastical solution, but too much time is spent in wandering around sharing reminiscences about Schroedinger's Cat (the ultimate scientists' in joke) and slapping hypnotised people for no readily apparent reason.

Adapting the concept more than the actual plots (malfunctioning mechanical monks who will believe stuff on your behalf are not on the agenda), Overman manages to miss the essential charm of Adams' work, leaving this fatally flawed. Whether the occasional incidental pleasures are enough to spawn support for a series remains to be seen.


Episode 1 - first transmitted March 5th 2012

For once Dirk has three clients at the same time. One is a man who believes that his horoscopes are coming true. The second is a woman who believes that her husband is cheating on her and the last one is a man who believes that the Pentagon is trying to kill him. When he turns up dead, Dirk is up against the largest intelligence gathering agency in the world.

The first episode of this three part series following on from the pilot show is a frenetic affair with so much going on that it has to move at a breakneck speed just to fit everything in. This could be because the makers are trying to pay homage to the craziness of Douglas Adams' creation or it could be that the pace is an attempt to make sure that nobody notices that the plot makes not a moment's sense.

Oh yes, the disparate threads of the plot come together into a semi-coherent overarching plot, that is a given when dealing with Adams' holistic detective, but the actual investigation seems to be a lot of running and shouting and not actually achieving very much.

Steve Mangan struggles to make Dirk likeable despite his basically unlikeable nature and Darren Boyd helps as his long-suffering partner MacDuff, who serves mainly as the recipient of Dirk's explanations.

Having found the structure of Adams' work, the show still manages to fail to capture the heart.


Episode 2 - first transmitted March 12th 2012

Dirk returns to Cambridge University to act as a security consultant for his old mentor. When the man's advanced robot goes missing, Dirk learns some painful things about his past and the nature of love.

The pace in this second episode slows right down and allows for some character development as Dirk is faced with his past disgrace and what people he trusted really thought of him. There's also a rather charming romance between the not-quite-completely self-centred Dirk and the quirky student he meets.

She, of course, turns out to be implicated in the plot in surprising ways and it's a fun plot to be involved in. Helen Baxendale returns as Susan, but is then given absolutely nothing to do.

For once, the show has found something of a heart as well as the anarchic nature of Douglas Adams' holistic detective.


Episode 3 - first transmitted March 19th 2012

Someone is killing off Dirk's old clients. The case may involve a man that Dirk framed or it might involve his house cleaner.

There is an insane amount of running around in this episode, something that starts off with fun novelty value, but soon becomes obvious as the time-filling device that it is because the plot is more linear than usual and there is much less investigation required and more running.

The comedy isn't as funny as it thinks it is and the situations neither as exciting nor as surprising as they ought to be.

Though it tries hard and has a little character interplay between MacDuff and Gently, it still fails to get the balance quite right.







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