DVD Review: Dirk Gently

Douglas Adams struck gold when he wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The five book trilogy gained a cult following and became a beloved TV series. But what was he going to do for an encore? He wrote Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul which featured a Dirk Gently as a quirky private investigator. Adams called the first book a “thumping good detective-ghost-horror-who dunnit-time travel-romantic-musical-comedy-epic.” He put a lot between those pages that most people considered unfilmable. While Adams spent the final years of his life getting Hitchhiker turned into a feature film, there was little word of Dirk going beyond the page before his death in 2001. Nearly a decade later, Dirk would finally get his day on the small screen when BBC Four adapted the character for a series. Dirk Gently contains the four episodes that aired.

Stephen Mangan (Showtime’s Episodes) plays the detective who believes in the “fundamental interconnectedness of all things.” This philosophy is what makes him solve the most impossible of cases through the most random of approaches. This approach also applies to way the first book was semi-adapted into “The Pilot” episode. Characters and elements were used, but this is not like the book. Turns out Dirk’s business isn’t doing so well, but things are looking up. Well not so much luck as an evil plot to get his pal Richard MacDuff (Darren Boyd) to invest his unemployment money into the business. MacDuff’s girlfriend Susan Harmison (Helen Baxendale) get wrangled into helping on cases. Dirk’s receptionist Janice Pearce (Lisa Jackson) isn’t much of a help since she hasn’t been paid in a while. Dirk lands a case involving finding an old lady’s cat. But the trail to the missing kitty crosses a double homicide. “Episode 1” has a client upset that their horoscopes are coming true. “Episode 2” brings Dirk and MacDuff to their old school in order to provide security for a robot. This leads to them being their own clients when the robot vanishes and they’re the prime suspects. “Episode 3” has prior clients turning up dead. Is someone coming after Dirk? Or are they just connected in a way that doesn’t put a target on Dirk’s head?

Mangan does a fine job as the anti-Sherlock detective. He has a natural disposition that makes you think he’s a complete con man when he gets things right. The items he needs the old lady to buy before hunting for her cat does come off as a scam in progress. It’s hard to admit he’s a genius of deduction like when Benedict Cumberbatch breaks a case wide open on Sherlock. Nobody seems safe when Dirk Gently is on the job. Most of the time they seem in fear of Dirk screwing them over with his strange processes. Mangan comes off as a tornado of intellect with his disheveled approach to life. The series wasn’t renewed by BBC Four so this boxset is complete. Dirk Gently is significant since after it was canceled, BBC Four announced it was going to focus on importing shows instead of producing dramas.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The transfer look fine so you can see the odd details in Dirk’s life including his car. The audio is Dolby Digital Stereo. The mix isn’t overpowering. The episodes are subtitled for those who want to read the logic of Dirk when he solves a case.

No bonus features.

Dirk Gently brings the quirky detective from Douglas Adams’ novels to the small screen. While the show only last 4 episodes, it should have at least had a few more go arounds. Stephen Mangan understands how to connect a sleuth who is all about the oddest of connections involving his clients.

Acorn Media presents Dirk Gently. Starring: Stephen Mangan, Darren Boyd, Lisa Jackson and Jason Watkins. Boxset Contents: 4 episodes on 2 DVDs. Released: April 2, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.