Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

What happens when one of your favourite books, by one of your favourite authors, gets adapted for radio by one of your favourite producers?

Something very special – you go in with high hopes, that actually get met.

Producer Dirk Maggs has certainly taken a few liberties with the original novel of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency… but then he’s entitled to. In fact, I rather hoped that the man who adapted the last three Hitchhiker novels so lovingly, by changing so little and magnifying so much, would give us quite a lot of new Dirk Gently material, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Despite its mixed-up chronology, Maggs’ script comes out much clearer than the original book, although he does sometimes imply things so briefly that it’s easy to miss them. The final episode wraps everything up so casually that it rather robs the moment of feeling like a proper accomplishment. It also didn’t quite make sense to me – being one of those annoying time-paradoxes – but the accomplishments elsewhere were such that I didn’t mind.

Harry Enfield plays the title character rather pleasantly. In the books, Gently always came across to me as quite a clever man but with an apathetically bleak life. Enfield keeps the cleverness, but also gives him quite a cheery outlook, making him someone you’d almost aspire to.

The change I did have a problem with though was relating the actions of Gordon Wey’s ghost by giving Gently a definite psychic ability. In the book, as I recall, this was only hinted at, and it’s a shame that here he didn’t use that great intellect of his to work out what Gordon was saying, in much the same way that Gently’s secretary did. After all, Gently’s great appeal is surely that he has no super-powers at all, enabling any one of us to achieve the impossible things that he does.

Great stuff. More please.

Review of second series here.

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