Thursday, 16 December 2010

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

If you tuned into BBC4 expecting to see an Electric Monk and St-Cedd's College, and perhaps even a horse in a Don's rooms, you would have been disappointed. The Fridge however and the secretary pretending to type are still in. Except for the fact that the entire chain of improbable events that make the hunt for Henry the cat in the book an un-closable read, you still have in essence, Dirk Gently a surrealistic being living in what appears to be a universe of his own making. He believes in the interconnectedness of all things and that by following the clues however improbable, he would find the truth.....Sherlock Holmes on acid. And yet.... this is the same Dirk Douglas Adams created in his 1987 book.

I appreciate the BBC could not possibly recreate the barren bizarre world of the Electric Monk any more than they could possibly spend 20 minutes or more wandering around Cambridge or Oxford, they simply didn't have the budget. Despite this, Steven Mangan who plays Dirk and Darren Boyd who plays Richard McDuff manage to convey the insanity that is Dirk Gently. If you've never read the books, and I strongly recommend you do, you won't have a clue as to why the fridge is funny or why Dirk and his land lady are in a state of protracted war over the fridge, but you will get the sense that despite all you see, Dirk is in fact the only one who's got it right. Then again if you don't get Schroedinger's cat, the entire concept may just go over your head.

What I liked about the hour is the way the story was strung together in the most logical and sequential way possible, without loosing any of the comedic timing and irony of the gags as they are dropped on you one after the other. Did I mention it's a comedy? BBC 4 seems to think it's a crime drama, where they got that idea I haven't a clue , but we'll let that pass. The other character that is omnipresent in this story is Dirk's car. The Doctor has his TARDIS, Gene Hunt has his Quatro and Gently,  welll Gently has his Austin Leyland Brown Princess. A car as dodgy looking as he is and probably just as prone to functioning in the way we recognize the word function about as often as Dirk is to be rational.

This appears to be a one off, which is sad, as there could have been a lot more. I will have to re-read the books to enjoy the full insanity and timey wimey aspects of Douglas Adam's last work. I think I would have made a great Electric Monk, pity they didn't ask me.  If however there will more stories in the future, I would love to see some of the more fantastic elements included this time. The Dodo bird and Valhalla would be nice see as well as the now lost opportunity to have had Gordon Way's ghost trying to make call on his mobile on the side of the M1. I suspect the biggest problem came when they asked themselves the big question; How do you describe the un describable? How do you trim down the effects budget without stripping out the core of Dirk Gently's world? This programme is the answer, not an entirely satisfactory one for the fan who was looking forward to some "Pretty amazing shit" as Zaphod Beeblebrox would have said. For a one hour, low budget, compressed retelling with only the one truly sci fi element in it , it still worked as a taste of what you will expect, if you read the books. If you won't be, which is a really a pity, you will have at least got the essence of the man and his methods. Holistic chaos and the interconnectedness of all things.

I hope there's more to come, but if not, well done as a bit of stand alone comedy.

For full cast details and to watch the programme 

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