This weekend, BBC America’s Dirk Gently series premiered. I was a little nervous about the direction it would take, as Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is my all-time favorite book. The new adaptation, written by Max Landis, stars Samuel Barnett as Dirk Gently as Elijah Wood as Dirk’s unwilling assistant Todd. The world of the new show takes place after the books.
My first impression of the new series is that it is a fun ride that purists will hate. It is nothing like the book series, not in tone nor plot, and lacks the essential commentary Adams masked with his clever turns of phrase. Yet, as its own entity, episode 1 is a gripping mystery filled with time travel, a gang of magical hooligans, and my favorite: a holistic assassin. While these are archetypes, the episode shows real potential at depth with Todd and his sister, who suffers from a nerve disease. We know that Todd has had some problems with hallucinations in the past, and there seems to be some ambiguity as to whether he is completely cured. If you hadn’t read the books (which largely focus on Dirk Gently through the eyes of protagonist Richard MacDuff), you’d be forgiven to think that Dirk is a figment of Todd’s imagination. Are they going to go all Fight Club with this?
This is the second television adaptation of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, and neither version comes close to following Douglas Adams’ portrait of Dirk as a middle-aged overweight man in a stupid red hat. However, both adaptations match the authentic Dirk personality of being a selfish motor mouth whose primary characteristic is being annoying. I agree with Wired, who points out that Douglas Adams mined his Doctor Who episodes for ideas in his novels, and that the first television Dirk, Stephen Mangan, was a Tom Baker sort of Dirk for the Tom Baker (and Douglas Adams) generation; whereas the new Dirk, Samuel Barnett, is a Matt Smith sort of Dirk for the next generation.