Dirk Gently, Episode 2 REVIEW

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Episode 1.02
Writer: Matt Jones
Director: Tom Shankland

THE ONE WHERE When Dirk returns to the College from which he was expelled, his old professor is murdered, a gynoid – a robotic female – goes missing and a mysterious young girl takes a shine to the detective.

VERDICT As the episodes go by (if you include the pilot), Dirk Gently seems to be becoming less of a comedy with procedural elements and more of a procedural with comedy elements. That’s not to say this latest episode doesn’t have its hilarious moments. The bizarre love triangle among the homosexual online gamers and Dirk’s method of procuring his beloved chips without paying for them are among the chortlesome moments on offer, while a seemingly pointless subplot involving Susan’s job application turns out to be an elaborate set-up for one hell of a final gag.

But there are fewer out-and-out bizarre moments of surreal comedy and more of a reliance on gentle comedy, as the central plot becomes a more important element in the mix. The crucial question is, then, does the case of the disappearing gynoid and the murdered professor draw you in? Answer: yes, even if the major twist – that Jane is Max reincarnated – is pretty obvious from the moment she starts acting weirdly. Oddly, while the plot doesn’t work as a whodunnit, it does work as a whydidtheydoit? On the other hand, it’s slightly disappointing that after last week when you could clearly see the crazy logic behind Dirk’s insistence on holistic detection, this time a lot of his deductions seem to be either more prosaic, conventional leaps of logic, or lucky guesses.

It’s also a very sweet episode that makes both Dirk and MacDuff more sympathetic characters. The flirting between Jane and Dirk is all too believable (if a bit weird), while MacDuff convincingly voices his reasons for sticking by Dirk when his boss… er partner, treats him like dirt most of the time. (Though once again the Sherlock parallels arise as MacDuff urges his wife not to make him chose between her and Dirk… you half want Susan to go, “Oh, get a room !” ).

Yet for all its affable watchability and great performances you can’t help wishing there was a bit more of the manic inventiveness of Adams’s imagination that was more to the fore in previous episodes. It’s still here in the details and the occasional line (“there has been a deficit of fleeing, which we must rectify immediately”) but it’s a shame the show is losing a little of its unique edge. But taken on its own merits, still a great way to waste an hour.

TRIVIA St Cedd’s College, Cambridge was the fictional college created by Douglas Adams for his Doctor Who story, “Shada”. In the Dirk Gently books, Dirk did attend St Cedd's, but he wasn’t only expelled, but sent to prison, accused of copying an exam paper. The line, “70 years – it's neither one thing nor the other” is from the brilliant Julian Cope track “Elegant Chaos”. A shout out to St Julian of Avebury? That’s worth an extra star in itself.

BEHIND-THE-SCENES Writer Matt Jones is probably best known to SFX readers as the writer of Doctor Who ’s “The Impossible Planet”/“The Satan Pit”.

MUSIC Not sure whether it’s on purpose or not, but at one point, when Dirk is having a revelation, the music sounds very much like Paddy Kingsland’s score for The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy .

DID YOU SPOT? A new brand of computer?

MacDuff: “Do you believe him?”
Dirk: “That this house is haunted? Or that the real David Cho has gone to live with a homosexual homonculus in Humberside?”

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Dave Golder
Freelance Writer

Dave is a TV and film journalist who specializes in the science fiction and fantasy genres. He's written books about film posters and post-apocalypses, alongside writing for SFX Magazine for many years.