Dirk Gently Review

There has recently been a surge in popularity of detective series’, with the BBC’s Sherlock being a particular example. So it was no surprise to see Dirk Gently return to our screens after a well-received pilot episode which was aired back in 2010.

The three part series is based on Douglas Adams’ novel Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. First published in 1987, it followed chaotic, eccentric, pizza-eating detective Dirk Gently whose unique approach to crime solving involves everything, quite literally, due to the belief of the interconnectedness of all things. And this week was no different as Dirk was assigned his most serious case yet when he discovers his old clients are being murdered one by one.

Dirk also has to investigate a stalking case in which he is the stalker, is threatened by a foreign gang mob, arrested by Inspector Gilks, and is almost murdered, but it’s all interconnected. There is also a nod to Sherlock Holmes as Dirk becomes a handwriting expert and attempts to solve the case through a more serious, traditional approach to crime solving.

Despite the increasing number of crime dramas currently being aired Dirk Gently has been a breath of fresh air and has certainly stood out. It is a cross between Sherlock and Doctor Who, with unpredictable plots and a whimsical take on reality. The series has the same tone and feel of Sherlock albeit shabbier in appearance, less sophisticated and serious. However, it is that which makes the series stand out. Dirk Gently is not a crime drama, it is a crime comedy. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and it has the unmistakeable Douglas Adams stamp on it. The audience is continuously misled in numerous directions none of which are right and it is not until the very end that everything falls into place.

This week’s episode had a much more reflective tone following on from last week and had some character defining moments, particularly from his easily influenced partner Richard Macduff, who appears to have finally found his voice and confidence. We are also allowed further insight into Dirk’s character, who as it turns out isn’t a bad detective after all, if a little flawed.

The appearance of the show is very distinctive too. Despite the modern setting the whole series looks like it’s trapped in a washed-out time warp. Compared to the lavish production of Sherlock it’s very old fashioned like Dirk himself and his iconic car, the Austin Layland Princess, in 1970s brown naturally. Although the production values vary hugely the script is no competition for Sherlock as it is very rich in language and humour.

Overall the series has exceeded all expectation as every episode feels like a magical mystery tour with no end in sight and no obvious answer to the case. In fact the actual episode plot does tend to disappear in a sea of humour, wit and many subplots only to re-emerge at the end. Credit must go to Howard Overman the creator of the series who leaves you exasperated and shocked at every turn. Overman has captured the spirit of the original books and adapted it perfectly to suit a more visual media.

Credit must also go to Stephen Mangan whose performance as Dirk Gently is simply marvellous. He delivers Gently’s crazed thoughts like a drunken Einstein would and portrays his awkward manner brilliantly while retaining an incredible screen presence. Darren Boyd too is just perfect in the role of dumb and gullible assistant McDuff whose deadpan character strongly contrasts with Mangan’s erratic performance creating some fantastic comedy.   

Overall the series is witty, clever, complex and mind-bogglingly confusing all at the same time. It stands alone in the crime category separate from the modern Sherlock and is much more fun than Scott and Bailey and other detective dramas. One has to hope there will be a third series of further interconnectedness. But until then all three episodes are avaliable on the BBC iplayer.

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