Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Not so much an adaptation, more of a muse.

Dirk Gently was a series of two-and-a-bit books by the late great Douglas Adams, about a detective who believed that the clues to solving his cases were scattered throughout the entire universe.

Yes, the entire universe. So in searching for his latest clients' missing cat, Dirk isn't so much interested in its trail of paw prints, as what his old friend Richard (Darren Boyd) was getting up to at college twenty years ago.

And yes, that really does help him to solve it.

The spirit of the books is delightfully on display right through this pilot. The whole thing is light-hearted, clever, and cynical all at the same time. In fact, it's a lot like watching a current Doctor Who story, only with more dialogue, and slightly less music over it. After all, the book on which this is loosely based is a reworking of a Doctor Who script, with the eccentric Dirk fulfilling the Doctor-role.

Stephen Mangan accordingly goes his own way with the character, his Dirk being a little more in control of events, and also a little more annoying with it. When he shouts at Richard and straight afterwards hypnotises him, there really needs to be some explanation for his success. After all, how is Richard supposed to relax and trust him now?

In fact, as the straight man, Boyd spends most of this hour deftly upstaging Mangan. There's no mistaking that the two play off of each other very well, in fact everyone turns in a good performance here.

The real let-down about this production is its format, specifically that it's a one-hour pilot. I've read a quote from Mangan that he considers the book "unfilmable", however the recent 6-part Radio 4 serial flatly proves him wrong. You actually could just film the six half-hour radio scripts. (as they did with Hitchhiker) To cram it all into an hour though, well, that's why this was never going to work as a pilot.

And no, the heavily simplified story here doesn't function either, right from the word go. In the very first scene, the presence of something resembling a time-machine pretty much gives away the mystery's solution. That it comes with a self-destruct device, and such a tender and destructive one at that, is utterly stupid.

The swearing is a downer too. Like so many, I got into Adams' work as a teen listening to his radio scripts. What a shame that today's kids are being denied that.

Still, I don't mind a new author riffing on the original at all, so long as it still makes sense. With Adam's legion of contradictory Hitchhiker versions, there's no avoiding that the precedent to change everything was set a long time ago. I do wonder though where they will find material to inspire subsequent episodes, given how rashly the rest of that first book's elements were wasted on Dirk's crammed whiteboard in the background of his office:

Pilots sometimes get the odd scene reshot for the series - perhaps this will be one of them?

One thing which absolutely must go though is the inexcusable "created by" credit:

Oh no you didn't. Please don't try to tell me that it means something other than what it says. Even "co-creator" would be taking too much.

Other than that unacceptable overclaim (have some respect and go uncredited already), I'm looking forward to this fun series.

Review of episode two here.
Review of episode three here.
Review of episode four here.

(available here)


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