Saturday, 10 March 2012

Dirk Gently is on TV

Douglas Adams is one of those writers who it is really difficult to get onto the screen. It's probably because he spent so long writing for radio.

The BBC are broadcasting three episodes based on the character of Dirk Gently, from Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency.

While I am a massive fan of the Hitch Hiker's Guide series, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency is my favourite piece of fiction by Adams. The way he goes off on his usual tangents to present funny or absurd situations is beautifully done, but not as beautiful as they way all these tangents turn out to important to the main plot in one way or another.

Another advantage Dirk Gently has in book form is that readers can re-read sections of the complex plot several times until they get everything that's going on before moving on to the next section. This is a luxury not afforded to TV viewers. 

But the BBC have done a fine job adapting this excellent book. Steven Mangan as Dirk Gently really captures the annoying-but-charming side Dirk, as well as the ambiguity between Dirk as someone who genuinely believes in the principles he's selling, or as a balls-out con-artist who luckily stumbles upon the situation.

I love the little winks to fans of the books that are spread around, too - the words "Electric monk" written on Dirk's web, for example, or the rhinoceros from The Salmon of Doubt. That said, some elements feel a little forced - "Zen Navigation", for example, worked perfectly for Dirk in Long Dark Teatime of the Soul but in last week's episode he claimed it worked but it didn't really work the way Dirk (or the writer) claimed it did.

The ending also felt a little out of place. Without spoiling it, the script did very well to get everyone into the right place but wasn't quite sure what to do with them once they got there.

Fans of the books may be disappointed that the TV series isn't staying close to the books. They shouldn't be. The plot of the books wouldn't work well on film. Much better to take the characters and the feel of the books, and put them into situations appropriate for TV, like this series does.

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