Dirk Gently is the first TV adaptation to Douglas Adams Dirk Gently book series, which included Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul. After Adams’ death, his unfinished draft of the third book was published in a collection called The Salmon of Doubt. Do not confuse the TV show Dirk Gently with the American adaptation Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. This one stars Stephen Mangan and Darren Boyd. You’ll be happy to know that the 4-episode series is available on DVD in US format (region 1, NTSC), as well as in the region 2/PAL format. You can get it on Amazon Instant.
Dirk has made Richard his new assistant, and today they suspect that the bomb that just arrived through the mail has been mailed to Dirk by the bomb squad. This is the first clue. Well, the viewer’s first clue that people don’t like Dirk Gently, anyway.
Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently is a podgy tornado in a terrible red hat. Stephen Mangan doesn’t fit the book’s description, so you can imagine a purist’s skepticism upon seeing the cast list. But Mangan, a true Adams fan, embodies the whirlwind that is Dirk. He is annoying to everyone around him but is likable to viewers.
“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” –Dirk Gently
Dirk Gently is a holistic private detective. This means he believes in the interconnectedness of the universe and investigates cases tangentially by using zen navigation. His secretary can’t stand him and is always quitting. He gets in the way of the police. And he’s always trying to make a buck.
The plot is in the spirit of the books, but they don’t really match up. The pilot episode pre-dates the rest of the series by about two years. It has similar elements as the first book, such as Richard MacDuff’s girlfriend Susan looking for her missing friend Gordon Way (in the book, Gordon is her father and becomes a ghost), while Dirk is investigating an old lady’s missing cat. He exploits her kindness so he can buy a new fridge but ultimately does locate the cat. The funny thing about the show is that by the time Dirk solves the case, everyone’s so tired of him that no one is astounded when the conclusions are things like “It was time travel” or “It was a human-looking robot.”
Stephen Mangan is an actor who has starred in Green Wing, Episodes, Houdini and Doyle, Free Agents, and Adrian Mole. He has presented at the Douglas Adams memorial lectures and was a Douglas Adams expert on a game show. @StephenMangan
Let’s take a moment to talk about the setting. Dirk Gently takes place in Islington, just like the books (though it isn’t shot in Islington). I once took a copy of the paperback through Islington and followed Dirk and Richard’s stroll down the canal (you know, the moment where, by hypnosis, Dirk gets Richard to jump into the water). Unfortunately, the actual road that Dirk’s office is on is fictional. Time-wise, the TV series takes place before the books. We know this because in the TV series, Dirk means a horoscope writer. Dirk makes such a terrible impression that as Dirk walks out, the writer tells him, “Has anyone ever told you you’re a prick?” By the time we get to the novels, we discover that there is a newspaper horoscope writer who writes terrible things in Dirk’s star sign just to be mean. These horoscopes are something like, “You look ridiculous in your silly red hat.” One wonders if the series would have made it past four episodes if, like Sherlock acquiring the deerstalker cap later in the Sherlock series, Dirk would have eventually picked up an ugly red hat.