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Dirk Gently Episode 1 TV REVIEW

BBC4’s answer to Sherlock is utter chaos, and that’s its charm

Episode 1
Writer: Howard Overman
Director: Chris Carey

THE ONE WHERE Dirk is convinced there is a connection between the case of murdered software programmer who was being monitored by the Pentagon, and a man who’s convinced his horoscope is running his life.

VERDICT The pilot for Dirk Gently (over a year ago now, believe it or not) was an unexpected pleasure. Possibly one of the least faithful adaptations ever, it certainly didn’t follow the plots of the Douglas Adams books; Stephen Mangan was few people’s idea of Dirk; and in spirit, tone and humour it felt significantly different from the source material. And yet, on its own merits, it was hugely entertaining and uniquely funny.

The first episode of the new three-part series from Howard ( Misfits ) Overman has lost none of that quirky charm. Admittedly the script may not be quite as fizzing with wit and invention as the pilot (though it’s still funnier than most so-called sitcoms on British TV). On the other hand, the cases of the week give a better demonstration of the thinking (or lack thereof) behind Dirk’s holistic approach to detection. He’s like an anti-Sherlock, foregoing ruthless rationale for outrageous leaps of faith, and it’s as fun for us to watch as it is exasperating for his assistant/partner MacDuff to endure. Whereas in the pilot the crime mystery was almost by-the-by, here the procedural elements – as chaotic as they may be – are the core of the story and do unfold with their own crazy logic.

There are moments that jar, usually when Mangan is allowed to be a little too buffoonish; his slapstick with the contraption on the astrologer’s desk seems to have pointlessly wandered in from an episode of Some Mother’s Do ’Ave ’Em . Jason Watkins’ DI Gilks feels slightly wasted, as if he’s only been stuck in the episode for contractual reasons. His appearance feels a bit half-hearted, when you feel his encounters with Gently should have more impact.

The direction, though, is impeccable, and the delightfully idiosyncratic music score helps give the show its curious appeal.

To be honest, there was little in the way of SFX y elements in this episode (though at a stretch you could claim the Total Reason software is the stuff of fantasy… politician’s fantasies mainly), but the trailer for next week’s episode shows that Dirk Gently is still solidly an SFX show.

FROM THE BOOKS Zen Navigation is introduced in The Long Dark Teatime Of The Soul : “... A few turnings later and I was thoroughly lost. There is a school of thought which says that you should consult a map on these occasions, but to such people I merely say, ‘Ha! What if you have no map to consult? What if you have a map but it's of the Dordogne?’ My own strategy is to find a car, or the nearest equivalent, which looks as if it knows where it is going and follow it. I rarely end up where I was intending to go, but often I end up somewhere that I needed to be. So what do you say to that?”

Also, the Pentagon’s details on Dirk correctly identify his real name as Svlad Cjelli, but we have to admit we’ve drawn a blank as to whether there’s any significance to the other two noms de plume that are mentioned: Maurice Brown and Philippe Gascay. Feel free to enlighten us.

ALTERNATIVE GEOGRAPHY The books detail that Gently’s office was at 33a Peckender Street, N1 London, but the TV show completes the postcode: N1 0XD. This is actually the postcode for Elizabeth Avenue near Canonbury, which looks pretty residential to us on Google Maps.


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CHARACTER WITNESS MacDuff's girlfriend, Susan (Helen Baxendale), is not in episode one, but apparently she’s back in episode two.

BEST LINE
Dirk: “Their promotional material clearly states that if a pizza isn’t delivered within the hour, then it is free.”
MacDuff: “It probably doesn’t count when you give them the wrong address.”

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