Dirk Harder

Without the lynchpin that was Sherlock, it appears that this blog fell into disuse. Sorry, blog. Although most of my traffic still seems to come from people looking at the Sherlock pages on the BBC website. Not that that’s a lot of traffic, but – double figures! Anyway, then I got some new followers, one of them read this blog, made a comment about it, and I felt like I ought to carry on with it. As I’ve mostly blogged* about TV stuff, it seems appropriate that I continue in that vein.

Dirk Gently was the creation of the eternal genius and much missed Douglas Adams, the result of an incompleted episode of Doctor Who called Shada and probably a few dozen missed deadlines. Dirk is a detective, but no normal detective – he is a holistic detective, he solves the whole crime. In many ways Dirk is the anti-Sherlock, in that rather than taking all the clues and forming them into the only possible solution to the crime, Dirk takes hold of a seemingly random thread and, through the principles of quantum mechanics which show the fundamental interconnectivity of all things, pulls on it until the case is solved. After the original Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency followed the (frankly) inferior Long, Dark Tea-Time of the Soul before a final, incomplete outing in The Salmon of Doubt, during the writing of which came Adams’ untimely death ten years ago.

Just before Christmas in 2010 the BBC produced an hour and a half pilot for a Dirk Gently TV series, based on the first book and starring Stephen Mangan, which was pretty good although it didn’t really make clear the more science-fictional elements of the Dirk Gently story. It felt a bit like an episode of Doctor Who, although not as much like one as it probably should have given the book’s origins as an episode of Doctor Who. It was enjoyable and led to me actually reading the books, but to be honest if I didn’t follow Stephen Mangan on twitter I probably wouldn’t have noticed that the series began on BBC four last week.

Prior to the start of the series I discovered that the show was produced by Howard Overman, the man who created the glorious anti-superhero series Misfits. This had led me to think that Dirk Gently has a vital role in our TV schedule, which is to be the anti-Sherlock. It obviously can’t be as sweary or dirty as Misfits, but it can be something other than Sherlock, something a bit more fun and a bit less inadvertently sexist, perhaps. I suspect that I am heaping too many expectations on the show, though.

The first episode of the series was, I thought, fantastic – better than the pilot in that it wasn’t so overwhelmed by source material, fun, interconnected, and entertaining. The second episode, I would say, wasn’t clever enough, which could lead to problems further down the line. There’s a lack of understanding, I suppose, in what makes a holistic detective, and the possibility that he will just become another Sherlock. When Dirk dismisses a case as boring in the first episode, he ends up taking it – but only because it becomes more interesting, rather than because he needs the money. It’s true that Dirk mostly takes quirkier cases (although there are a lot of lost cats) but it would be better if things were a bit more interconnected in less obvious ways. The second episode did have a lot more women in it too, even if they didn’t speak to one another. Better than Sherlock managed….

* I hate the fact that I am using “blog” as a verb here, by the way. It’s not as bad as “text”, but seriously, there are times and places for verbing, and that is only when it weirds language.


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