Review - 'Dirk Gently', Series 1

'Dirk Gently', available from Amazon

4 stars for 'Dirk Gently'

For most detectives, the accepted method for solving crimes is one that is based on analysis and the gathering of clues – with the clear intent that this analysis, and these clues, will lead the detective toward the correct solution. You know - detective work. It seems straightforward, really – yet, these methods aren't quite good enough for private investigator Dirk Gently. For Gently, the only acceptable method of crime-solving is one that is based on the 'Fundamental Interconnectedness of All Things' – or, in other words, coincidence and random chance. According to Gently's methods, anything that he does after taking a case will lead him inevitably toward that cases solution – even if that were to involve a few days spent relaxing on a beach in another country. And, of course, since everything he does is a part of the case, it can all be charged to the client as an expense.

Gently's methods could easily be dismissed as little more than a bizarre and elaborate scam, except for the strange fact that he often seems to be absolutely right.

Based on the other series of novels by Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently sees the intrepid private investigator employing his unique methods in a series of increasingly bizarre cases. All while trying to milk his clients for as much money as possible, and dodging the long list of people who want money from him. Alongside Gentle is his long-suffering assistant(/partner), MacDuff, whose attempts to make the business profitable and earn back the money he was tricked into investing are constantly thwarted by Gently's bizarre behaviour. Together, the two take whatever work comes along as they struggle to keep their business afloat. The cases that come their way are impressively strange, throughout. They even, on a few notable occasions, drifting into the area of overt science fiction – though, it would spoil the fun to discuss the ways in which it does so, here.

In the pilot, originally aired back in 2010, Gently's latest case, to find an old lady's missing cat, promptly leads to him and MacDuff barely escaping a bomb set in a nearby warehouse, and quickly leads to the discovery of a double murder which seems somehow connected. The first of the three new episodes aired earlier this year sees Gently employing his own theory of Zen Navigation (if you're lost, just follow someone who looks like they know where they're going), which leads to a chance meeting with a man who believes that the Pentagon are trying to kill him – while, at the same time, another case involves a man whose horoscope predictions all seem to be coming true. The second episode involves Gently being called back to his old university, from which he was expelled for cheating – while there, his old mentor is murdered, a valuable robot goes missing, and Gently and MacDuff become the prime suspects. The final of the three new episodes reveals that a spree of recent murders are all connected by the fact that the victims are all previous clients of Gently's. Learning this, Gently decides to take action by promptly fleeing the country – though, he is constantly prevented from doing so.

To an extent, Dirk Gently seems to be trying to mimic some of the style of the popular series Sherlock – the series which brought the characters of Sherlock Holmes and his assistant Watson into the modern world. Of course, the very different tone between the two makes this seem to be more of a case of parody. The surreal absurdity of the cases that Gently is presented with, and the complete lack of anything resembling logic in his approach to solving them, may be a source of frustration for anyone that enjoys a detailed portrayal of the rigours of good detective work – but, go into the series prepared for the fact that it is anything but a serious crime drama, and this same absurdity becomes a large part of the fun. Though, of course, the true appeal of the series lays with the characters of Gently and MacDuff, themselves. Played by Stephen Mangen and Darren Boyd, respectively, the two quickly settle into the classic comedy double-act roles of eccentric and weary straight-man. Dirk Gently, himself, would potentially be a difficult character to manage, and could easily have been extremely unlikable – though, Stephen Mangan manages to manages to make him an entertaining character. He's not the type of person you would ever want as a friend – though, he is a lot of fun to watch. Also, while the 'straight-man' role can occasionally be a thankless task, and is often overlooked, MacDuff makes for a particularly likable one. Though, it also helps that he is occasionally a source of humour in his own right.

Fans of the original Dirk Gently books, by Douglas Adams, may take some issue with exactly how faithful an adaptation it really is – with it being possible to comment on the character of Gently himself, and on the details of the world he lives in. Though, one thing to keep in mind here is that Adams himself, before his death, had always been a big fan of altering and re-imagining his own work, whenever it was adapted to different forms. It's worth keeping in mind that each of the variety of different interpretations of his better known Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series included any number of additions and alterations intended to set it apart from the others. A direct, and truly faithful, adaptation of his work was something that Adams himself felt to be a waste. While any changes made here obviously couldn't have been made with Adams' involvement, it is difficult to imagine that he would have disapproved.

Unfortunately, it seems as though Dirk Gently has recently been cancelled – meaning that these four episodes will be all there ever is to this bizarre and entertaining series. Dirk Gently is probably one of the best science fiction detective drama comedies you're likely to see anytime soon. There may only be four episodes, but they are well worth seeking out.

© 2012 Dallas Matier

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