Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency review

I was more than a little wary to see that Netflix had issued an eight-part series 'based on' the Douglas Adams titles Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul, especially as these novels are very British, where this is a US-based series - but with a couple of quibbles, the result was very pleasing, sufficiently so that I've got through the whole thing in a couple of evenings. (It helped I was home alone.) And surprisingly this is because the TV show bears hardly any resemblance to the original books.

There's something very odd about Douglas Adams's output. I'd suggest that each of his fictional series - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Dirk Gently - only properly works in one format. The HHGTTG was a superb radio series, but for me seemed forced by comparison in book form, was so-so on TV and disastrous on film. When it came to Dirk, these were novels of ideas (in part cobbled together from unused Doctor Who scripts). They were far better books the Hitchhiker novels, but seemed flabby when the BBC attempted a TV version.

The reason I'd say that the new Netflix Dirk works so well is that it takes the single, bonkers, underlying concept of the holistic detective plus a dash of the Adams humour, and throws away pretty well everything else. The gap is filled by bolting on aspects of Twin Peaks, Orphan Black and even the brilliant movie, Galaxy Quest. It probably should have been a disaster, but it works remarkably well.

Those quibbles? I don't like series endings that are all about setting up the next series. And, in places, the director would have benefited from reigning in the acting, which is often over the top. But we've got an interesting core group of characters revolving around the eccentric, thankfully still English character of Dirk himself, and a storyline that has some delightful concepts. (A weaponised kitten? Come on!) There is time travel. There is detection. There is quite a lot of gore. And there's the pleasure of a plot that seems all over the place, only to gradually fall into place.

I'm looking forward to the next one (already commissioned)...

Comments

  1. I adored the series. The creator must be a rabid Douglas Adams fan, because he captured the wonderful eccentricity of Adams' writing perfectly - by far the best visual adaptation of an Adams character I've ever seen. It may not be based in fact on the books, but it really, REALLY caught the spectacular oddity of Adams' humor. I'm seriously chuffed that it's been renewed and looking forward to more Dirk Gently!

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