sat 18/11/2017

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, Netflix | reviews, news & interviews

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, Netflix

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, Netflix

Douglas Adams's sleuth rises again in a hyperactive US reboot starring Samuel Barnett

A hitchhiker's guide to Doctor Who: Elijah Wood and Samuel Barnett in 'Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency'

Dirk Gently’s shtick as a detective is interconnectedness. Everything happens for an incalculable reason, there’s no such thing as chance, and all neural pathways lead randomly to the correct outcome. It's a philosophy paper gussied up as a whizzbang entertainment. “I will eventually solve the mystery merely by doing whatever,” says Dirk, having introduced himself as a detective.

The history of Dirk Gently as a brand concept is similarly subject to haphazard forces. The not necessarily psychic detective was the less loved (by the punters) second child of Douglas Adams, the creator of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. There were two books in the late Eighties, but Adams died before he could complete a third. Dirk Gently’s afterlife began when Harry Enfield played him on the radio a decade ago; Stephen Mangan was a more plausible clever-clogs in BBC Four’s short-lived version in 2012, which had to compete with Sherlockmania in full spate. Now Dirk rises again on Netflix, having had a preparatory run-out on BBC America.

Where once Gently was connected to a fictional Cambridge college and did his detecting in Blighty, he’s taken ship for America and the only thing in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency that still links him to the source material is his decontextualised, appropriately random English accent. As played by Samuel Barnett he’s a perky pest in a yellow blouson who has a Pollyannaish faith in his personal credo of holistic detection. He is literally clueless in that he tends to detect without resort to clues, relying instead on a unbounded enthusiasm for adventure and blindness to danger.

Showrunner Max Landis has wisely intuited that Gently needs to be partnered with a hacked-off sceptic, and so hooks him up Todd (Elijah Wood), who on the day we meet him has lost his hotel job, all his money, is worried about a sick sister who constantly imagines herself to be on fire and is being threatened with a hammer by his wrathful landlord. Then his flat gets trashed by an unsavoury mob of gothic vagabonds (pictured above). The feds and a shady branch of the CIA are interested in his case. “You’re a person of interest,” Richard Schiff’s cop tells him, “even though you’re not necessarily an interesting person.” He’s hugely interesting to Dirk, who won’t take no for an answer when enlisting Todd as his partner in crime-solving. “I am not your Watson, asshole,” replies Todd. “I am not available for sidekicking.”

Only he is. It takes several episodes to establish who’s who and why. In episode three Dirk exclaims that “absolutely no one here has any idea what’s going on”, and that includes him (and probably you). The dramatis personae include a kidnapped young woman who thinks she’s a dog, an actual dog, a female wingman (Jade Eshete, pictured above), a scuzzy assassin (Fiona Durif) who takes the same holistic approach as Dirk and is on a mission to destroy him, plus a group of hoodlums from the CIA’s Operation Black Wing who have higher than normal sensory perception and live in the bodies of humanity’s higher-ups.

In and among the abundance of cartoon violence there are enough nods and winks and tongue-in-cheek sniggers to sate the palate of the most jaded ironist. This is a script that has ingested a thousand other such scripts and spewed them up in the form of this hyperactive whizzkid high on amphetamines and algorithms. “There must be some kind of unlocky type puzzle to solve,” enthuses Dirk when he and Todd are stuck in a shrinking room (that old chestnut) and quoting Star Wars (and that one). Think a hitchhiker's guide to Doctor Who goes west. Definitely not one to binge on unless you fancy being clobbered by a frenzied pair of inverted commas.

@JasperRees

There are enough nods and winks and tongue-in-cheek sniggers to sate the palate of the most jaded ironist

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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