“Sherlock Holmes observed that once you have eliminated the impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the answer. I, however, do not like to eliminate the impossible.”
That quote, from Douglas Adams’ novel Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency does not actually make it into Howard Overman’s pilot for Dirk Gently, but it perfectly encapsulate Gently’s approach as portrayed by Stephen Mangan.
Overman has not so much adapted the novel as cannibalise it to fit a one-hour drama series format, and he has done so superbly. The plot for the episode is a satisfying combination of the logical and the completely impossible, even though it is far removed from any part of the the intricacies of the story that inspired it. The reveal was a surprise even though I’m very familiar with the book. It’s hard, and perhaps rather irrelevant, to make comparisons with the book, so here are a few thoughts on the episode itself:
Things I liked:
- Stephen Mangan as Gently manages to confound and confuse with an air of confidence and an unrelenting supply of apparent nonsense. He’s nothing like I imagined him visually, but he nails making the apparently irrelevant impressively urgent.
- Helen Baxendale. Like, wow. All over again. Wow.
- Baxendale’s character Susan is a significant upgrade upon the way Adams wrote her. She’s funny. And fierce.
- Dirk shovelling bourbons into his pocket caused me to exhale wine through my nose.
- An Austin Princess (of COURSE it’s a classic car).
- Gently’s account of Schrödinger’s cat through flashback – and his not being called on it.
- Making the case all about Mrs Sauskind’s cat (or whatever she is called in this).
- Taking pure Douglas Adams and blending it in seamlessly (eg. Dirk phoning MacDuff mid-burglary and giving him a lesson on housebreaking).
Things I didn’t like so much:
- MacDuff being a bit… stupid. I can see the intention is to give Dirk a sidekick who needs everything explained. But I found this version of the character rather unlikable. What happened to the intelligent but absent minded programmer? Well, obviously he became Gordon Way in this, but… I liked MacDuff in the book.
- Also, I’d have like Dirk to make him jump in the canal under hypnosis because I love that sequence, but I’ll let that one pass.
In summary: absolutely brilliant and it will be a travesty if a full series isn’t in production by Monday. More please!