It’s always a bit sad when you find a new TV series to watch, only to have it finish a mere 8 episodes later and leave you waiting churlishly for the next season to start – if there even is to be a next season at all. Nothing is set in stone and favourites get killed off all the time (just ask any writer – George R R Martin I am looking at you). I discovered the new BBC America interpretation of Douglas Adam’s Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency quite by accident. On Instagram. I can’t say I am truly in the loop these days when it comes to new TV shows. I don’t watch a lot of it, and I don’t like a lot of it, but this had me excited. From the photos and sneak peaks it looked as though the producers were going to be doing Adam’s creation some justice, but I still didn’t know what to expect. I was pretty sure that a corgi was never mentioned in the original books, though there was a cat… well... a metaphysically lost cat, and then half a cat...
If you’re not familiar with the books, here’s a quick rundown. Dirk Gently is a private detective of the holistic variety who believes in the ‘fundamental interconnectedness of all things’. He believes that once on a case, it doesn’t matter what happens or what he does, it is all connected to the case somehow and this will help him solve it. As he solves cases he tends to get caught up in the lives of those around him, and the cases he works on are inevitably of the supernatural variety. Or just plain weird. He's irritating and a bit of a scoundrel really.
The BBC America series launched late October 2016 in the US, but try as I might I wasn’t able to find it online (well legally anyway – I don’t thieve content). So I waited and waited, and then finally Netflix came through with the goods and I could reward my eyeballs with the new series. And it was nothing like I expected, which in a way was perfect. The series kicks off unsurprisingly with a bizarre murder, quietly dripping with Edgar Alan Poe undertones. The murder weapon, a shark. And why not. There’s also a tiny, unexplained kitten on the scene. All of this is discovered by the most pitiful character I have come across for a while. Todd the bellhop. Played by Elijah Wood, who makes good use of those amazingly expressive eyebrows of his to look lost, downtrodden and just plain sad. Seriously don’t you just want to give Elijah a hug and let him know it will all be OK? Dude has some serious sympathy game! Anyway – Todd’s life is a bit of a shambles and it’s not going anywhere nice. Aside from being the bellhop in a hotel where a bunch of people have just been heinously murdered in the penthouse, a whole bunch of other odd things are starting to happen around him, and let’s just say Todd’s not enjoying it at all.
Then Dirk Gently enters, literally through his apartment window. Played by Samuel Barnett, Dirk is as irritating, manic and ridiculous as you would expect him to be based on how Adam’s had originally written him. He is immediately annoying, endearing and frustrating. Just how I envisaged him (though in my imagination, and in the books, he is definitely not quite as good-looking as Samuel). Dirk reveals he was engaged by the murder victim, Patrick Spring, before his murder occurs to investigate the murder after it happens, as you would be, even though Dirk can’t seemingly prevent said murder from actually occurring. Oh and while Todd is losing his shit at Dirk for breaking into his apartment, in the flat above his, Patrick Spring's bodyguard Farah Black (who has been looking for Patrick Spring’s missing daughter, Lydia - and is herself another a brilliant character) is being held captive by some freaky guys. Isn't that enough for the first episode? No I didn’t think so. Enter the Rowdy Three – of whom there are four (just like the 5 books in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy trilogy). A crew of crazy arse psychic vampires who seem to help as much as they hinder in equal measure. Plus, did I mention Todd’s also trying to look after his sister who has a strange psychological disease causing her to suffer from horrific visual hallucinations? Oh and then there’s that holistic assassin on the loose looking for Dirk in order to kill him. All this and I haven’t even gotten to the full story yet, who the freaky guys holding Farah hostage are, or really given you any spoilers. This show is like ingesting a large chocolate cake without it even touching the sides!
So how much of the books is actually referenced in this series? The answer is little to none, which I think work’s to its advantage. There’s no comparing the show to the books directly. No real room to be disappointed. The only true thread is Dirk himself, and even then he’s been morphed and updated. There are some literary nods for the mad DNA fans like myself out there, little lines of dialogue borrowed straight from the books, which was a lovely touch, but in the end not really necessary. The story here stands on its own. As happily strange as anything Adam’s would have written.
By the time I got to the end of Season one I was hanging to get stuck into season two, which is apparently being filmed at the moment. Now I don’t normally trust the American’s to do justice to British stories, but in this case the American Beeb has created a new Dirk Gently series that is at once everything and nothing Douglas Adams. Rather than simply reproducing the characters they have tried to write like Adams. It’s been fascinating to watch it. I highly recommend it. The kitten is my favourite. Oh that deadly kitten.