That’s a quote from Dirk Gently TV creator Howard Overman (the creative genius behind the super(anti)hero series Misfits.) from a recent interview. You have to take these sort of things with a grain of salt, because, of course, no one can squeeze a whole novel into 45 minutes, whatever budget they have. Nonetheless, Overman did a fine job of whittleing down the storyline to the case of missing cat Henry and pullling together Douglas Adams’ concept of the disconnectedness of everything for a storyline that is quite faithful to the central ideas.
While I personally couldn’t get into the first Dirk Gently novel, I loved Long Dark Time Of The Soul, thought it succeeded in it’s themes where Gaiman’s American God‘s bloated presentation failed and couldn’t help but spot a strong current of it in last years Thor Movie (and lucky for Hemsdale’s god of thunder that he was just punished the way he was, and wasn’t compelled to count all the stones in New Mexico.)
And while Stephen Mangan comes across a a little more Tom Baker’s Doctor by way of David Dixon’s Ford Prefect physically, he manages to easily capture the wonky character Adam’s so deftly created. And when he’s on the screen the pilot shines. Not so much the relationship-disaster of a romantic subplot between Darren Boyd’s McDuff and girlfriend played by Helen Baxendale. Even her scenes with Mangan are rather offputing, but this is a pilot and no-one expects a TV pilot to be perfect. On the other hand, in leiu of a full reproduction of the first Drik Gently novel, we do get a great number of visual nods to what’s been left out, which means, of course, a second or third watching is required to spot everything.
And another plus, is that Overman hasn’t ‘cutified’ the character of Dirk (noting he does himself view the character as part detective, part conman). This is a relief, since one of the major drawback to watching modern Doctor Who (and the 2005 Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) is the need the producers put on the audience finding the lead character (and companions) utterly adorable and *must be loved by the audience* (as opposed to the rather anti-hero nature they were originally written to be.)
The episode starts with Dirk being hired by the elderly Mrs. Jordan to find her missing Cat. Mangan’s scenes with old pro Doreen Mantle are golden throughout the ep, less so are his scenes with the depressed McDuff and, as noted less so with Baxendale’s susan. And we are treated to several repetitions of Dirk’s detective style, to the point where, like DI Gilks, we might be willing to invoke ‘The Terror Act’ to get him to shut up about it. On the other hand, we get to see Dirk play with the less than with-it McDuff, which is often amusing and get treated to Dirks supposed origin as a Holistic Detective (the most literal Schroedinger’s Cat story ever.)
What we learn over the course of the episode is that, ultimately, the cat is not missing, as it traveled in time with Susan’s college boyfriend who was on a quest to relearn his love. Susan is witten as a bit of a strange character. Her lackadaical responses to McDuff’s depression have lead him to write her a very nasty breakup email. She allows her obsessed billionaire ex-boyfriend to meet her every once in a while so she can tell him that they will *never* get together again. And she waste time to humiliate Dirk then tells him she doesn’t have time to waste on him, as she has real patients to attend to (apparently she’s a doctor).
But over all, the pluses by far outweigh the negatives, and I am eagerly awaiting the three new follow up episodes, hoping that he and his fellow writers keep up with what I saw in the pilot.
Rating: 4 out of 5 (-0.5 for the Mcduff/Susan poorly realized relationship subplot)
Additional Note: I did, however, find something that Overman also said in his recent interview a bit disturbing:
“If you just do a straight adaptation like The Hitchhiker’s Guide film (referring to the rather earnestly witless 2005 iteration of the story), people are always going to be quite brutal about it because it’s never going to live up to their expectations.”
Did Overman actually see the 2005 movie. If he had sone so, he would have noticed that it was hardly a ‘straight’ adaptation of the previous three versions (radio, book and TV mini-series) and repeatedly missed the point in favor, rewriting it’s core into a rather conventional, if tepid romantic comedy (the fact that that may have been drawn from Adam’s own hand made that even more depressing.) The whole McDuff/Susan romantic arc was also similarly tepidly written. Hopefull the series corrects that lone piece of crappiness in an otherwise decent pilot.)