Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

DIRK GENTLY'S HOLISTIC DET... oh I think you got it
Unintelligible, couldn't understand it, made even less sense than the book.

Loved it.

Dirk Maggs and John Langdon have plunged-into adapting another of Douglas Adams' gigantically complex novels, and quite understandably held little of its original narrative sacred. And kudos to them for that. The plot is hard enough to puzzle-out in book form, so the challenge to convey the story easily for Radio 4 listeners had them examining, it seems, every last line for a clearer way of presenting the tale.

And although I'm still fuzzy on the plot, they've done a fine imaginative job of adapting it all.

For example, while the book had Gently investigating Anstey's house on his own, the radio version has given him a police guard to convey his thoughts to. Everyone in this updated version has mobile phones, which again excuses the characters from talking to themselves while alone – instead they just ring someone up and tell them what's taking place.

And musician Richard MacDuff from the first book has been written back in, which is no difficult feat given that this second book partly concerns a pop-group's music contract, so it's now a group that Richard used to be a member of. The reason why this really works though, is because this new aspect of his past was foreshadowed in the dramatisation of the first book last year. And, of course, the fact that Dirk Gently is a man routinely plagued by coincidences only serves to justify the rewrite further.

I was a bit disappointed that a couple of my favourite jokes were missing from this version, but only when I could find no reason for losing them. For example, when a check-in desk at Heathrow Airport suddenly explodes, in the book it's explained away by experts as "non-linear catastrophic structural exasperation", or, that the check-in desk had just got "fundamentally fed-up with being where it was." In the radio version this joke is replaced with "indoor global warming." To my mind, both jokes are as funny as each other, so why was it changed? I don't mind at all – it's new Dirk Gently material, and comes from a team who in recent years have earnt the respect necessary to continue Adams' radio legacy.

That said, there initially appeared to be rather too many homages in this to Adams' more famous work The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. Stephen Moore and Peter Davison are both on the cast, the line "resistance is useless" is in there, and the calculator that Gently buys even makes the Guide's old sound-effect. When Gently rings-up Richard MacDuff for information, he's working in a lab at the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation, with the Vogon flying-saucer room atmos behind him!

And then, rather magically, Marvin walks-up...

Okay, these aren't homages, are they? I think they're actually going somewhere with this, especially since the next series will be based on the book that Douglas Adams never finished writing...

Yes, you can tell what a fan I am. It's so cold at the moment that before listening to the last episode tonight, I actually made myself a really hot cup of tea and put on my dressing-gown.

Roll on the next series next winter!

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