Today I was talking with a friend about Towel Day and wanting to go to Innsbruck/Austria to celebrate the event in May. It’s where Douglas Adams conceived of the idea for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and every year people carry around a towel in commemoration.
I was also talking about my book too.
I’m about to release my debut novel (March 29th – hopefully) which I’ve almost convinced myself has a little Douglas Adams humour in it (a little) and that’s not just the jokes I’ve plagiarised. Anyway, both of these seemingly inconsequential things meant, when I checked the TV listings – discovering the new series of Dirk Gently was about to start, well, I sort of felt an air of destiny calling.
Of course, Dirk would probably slap me about the face for making such an absurd statement because it wasn’t/isn’t destiny, but just the interconnectedness of all things, oh and the fact I check the TV listings at least once a week or sadly every day?
Regardless, after a year or so of eager waiting, let’s get to episode one of this three part series.
First thing to say is writer and director Howard Overman has based this series on the Douglas Adams’ books and not slavishly adapted them. He has attempted to capture the spirit of the character, building on the madness of Adams’ invention. It’s therefore important to note that this series is not going to be full of electric monks, horses in bathrooms, dead dodos or Norse Gods exploding in airports.
Does it work?
In short, yes and no.
Now, in long.
Yes: – because I really enjoyed the pilot episode and this first episode had elements of what was both enjoyable in the first screening and the books. For instance this version of the novel shows the complex, energetic and devious sides of Dirk Gently’s character re-packaging him as a somewhat dark and grown up Doctor-Who-type with a sinister edge (the titular lead played excellently by Stephen Mangan). There’s also a blunt amusing undertone and honesty in the dialogue - something those familiar with Howard Overman’s creation Misfits will be very used to. The episode, thankfully, also included elements and ideas directly from the books, such as the inclusion of Zen navigation (from The Long Dark Time of The Soul). For me this is when it worked best.
No: – because despite an interesting plot line, one of two cases interconnecting (software to justify the unjustifiable, like invading Switzerland, and a man having an affair due to advice from his horoscope) well, despite all that it still felt a little flat. Not quite possessing the same energy of the pilot episode with cats and time machines or even the fullness of Adams’ weird sense of the absurd.
Part of the problem (with this episode) was it featuring altogether less recognisable/integral elements from the book’s plot and therefore Overman perhaps feeling a need to over compensate with an abundance of minor observations. There was the featuring of Dirk’s dilapidated car – Princess – in several of the jokes, a droll interplay between Dirk and the irked secretary and finally having Dirk constantly reiterating the catchphrase ‘the interconnectedness of all things’ like a curly haired parrot suffering turrets.
These were valiant attempts to ground it in Adams’ image, yet ultimately fell a little short.
Anyway, overall and not nit picking too much, Howard Overman has done more good than bad and though I would still prefer to invade Austria, with me towel over my shoulder, and leave Switzerland well alone, I have to say Dirk Gently is worth a watch!
Review by Tom Conrad
For news on my début novel follow me on Twitter @theindiepedant or @tomconrad1980
You can watch episode one of Dirk Gently on BBBC iPlayer: Dirk Gently – Series 1