Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

The second episode of the BBC and ITV's joint attempt to make a TV series based on the Dirk Gently books without basing it on the Dirk Gently books is better than the first.

In fact for me its biggest problem was still that preceding pilot show. When I watched that a year ago, it held together so badly that this morning I found myself reluctant to believe in any scene in this one, in case it similarly turned out to not logically follow through afterwards. How's that for interconnectedness?

Not that there seemed to me to be that much interconnectedness on display here. Maybe I failed to pick up on some of the story's subtleties, but as I understand it, in this episode Dirk deals with three separate storylines, which remain separate right to the end. Neither his psychopathic secretary, nor the couple whose marriage is breaking down, turn out to have any connection to the murdered software writer. (that I picked up on)

Although I must agree with Dirk, that software itself does turn out to be a work of genius.

Gently: "Most computer programs help you arrive at decisions by ordering and analysing all the relevant facts so that they then point naturally towards the right decision. But! What if the decision, which all the relevant properly organised and analysed facts point to, is not necessarily the one you want?"

MacDuff: "Then the one you want's probably wrong."

Gently: "Since when did anyone care whether a decision was right or wrong? Mr Edwards knew that. So he developed a piece of software that allowed you to specify in advance the decision you wish to reach! The program's task was then to construct an irrefutable set of logical-sounding steps to link the premise with the conclusion! It justifies the unjustifiable! Don't you see MacDuff? If this software were to fall into the wrong hands, then no people or nation would be safe from tyranny. Not even the Swiss. [whispers] The very existence of the free world is at stake."

Alas, the script itself has a few moments that my poor brain likewise requires some justification for, including:

- why, at the start, Dirk believes his package to be a bomb,
- why Dirk speaks with such loud derision about his client in their own home, surely knowing he is likely to be overheard,
- how Dirk - believing all things to be interconnected - can also believe that he will not be able to solve any case from inside a cell,

- some acknowledgement of the deceased's use of a huge whiteboard mindmap just like Dirk's,
- the police's failure to follow their own basic non-holistic practices, eg. fingerprints, footprints etc., and
- why the British MacDuff at one point refers to Dirk's trousers as his "pants".

But I have to concede that these nitpicks are relatively minor. On the whole I followed this, was drawn in by it, and genuinely enjoyed it. Even the music was low and unobtrusive, despite the actors being quite quiet.

For me its one big fail was the writer's attempt to rationalise horoscopes. Dirk sends one of his clients a fake horoscope outrageously suggesting that he will have an encounter with a rhino today. Within hours, a woman randomly throws a toy rhino past him into a skip. Dirk seems to think that this proves him right, and goes onto explain how the guy is merely twisting his own perception of ordinary life to fit his horoscope.

Sorry Mr Author, but that flying toy rhino actually is too unlikely be our believer distilling order out of chaos. Dirk's argument requires an ordinary event, not an unlikely one. What happened there was foreseen, and indeed predetermined, by YOU. :)

I thought a better solution here would have been to adapt that whole probability of a street light blowing as you walk underneath it piece from The Long Dark Tea-Time Of The Soul. This episode had already established that two million personalised horoscopes were being sent out by the computer each day, so statistically our man could just be the one individual for whom they are all, by chance, correct this week. Probability already foresees this.

All this and lead actor Stephen Mangan has to swerve to avoid walking into the camera at 34:41.

Just as well, such a collision might have proved a bit too much interconnectedness…

(available here)

Review of episode one here.
Review of episode three here.
Review of episode four here.


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