A sort of cross between Fox Mulder and Arthur Daley. That’s how I see the character of Dirk Gently. Unfortunately, this show seems determined to place him as somewhere between a low-voltage Sherlock Holmes and a watered down Clouseau. The Clouseau stuff is new: a bit of physical comedy when he tries to bring himself down to eye height to flirt with the client he’s stalking (reminiscent of kind of awkwardness of Sellers or Steve Martin, rather than the fluid brilliance of a Cleese or a Keaton); and instead of Kato’s ambushes, it’s the cleaner leaving booby traps.
And yes, I’m grumpy because there’s no Baxendale in it again. It’s not just because it offends my Baxendale-worshipping sensibilities, it’s also because Susan Harmison is a far better foil for Dirk than this version of MacDuff. Dirk needs someone who is sceptical – event a bit cynical – to puncture his reckless optimism, and also his ego (just as Kate Schechter did in the second novel). Boyd’s puppy dog MacDuff is just faithfully seeking approval, which would be tiresome enough even if Cumberbatch and Freeman hadn’t already done this far better in Sherlock.
The plot was a bit thin, too, almost a subplot masquerading as a storyline – once again, nothing supernatural, and therefore nothing that needed Dirk to solve. Jason Watkins is entertaining enough as Gilks, but even I’m starting to wonder why he tolerates Gently (in The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul he lets Gently take some of the victim’s cash in exchange for a plausible explanation why an impossible murder could be suicide). It would have been acceptable as a mid-series episode, but since there are only three, this was in effect the series finale, and felt like a bit of a let down.
All of this complaining, of course, is by way of saying: PLEASE, BBC, PLEASE make some more Dirk Gently. The pilot was sublime, and one of the three episodes this series was nearly totally wonderful. This is a show with a huge amount of potential, and I don’t want this to be the last of it.
And please have more Helen Baxendale in it, too.