First Look: Dirk Gently on BBC America
BBC America takes over.
BBC America took over Madison Square Garden Theater for half a day at New York Comic Con this past weekend, and I only found myself in that dark theater because I needed to get away from the emails, texts and calls threatening to derail my day off. BBC America made a big commitment to the con this year previewing their upcoming shows, bringing out cast and producers for Doctor Who, Class (the Who-niverse YA spin-off) and best of all showing the complete first episode of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. When I left several hours later, it was with a new care-free attitude and brighter outlook on the rest of the day.
Dirk Gently was created by the late Douglas Adams. Yes, that Douglas Adams, best known for the Hitchhikers Guide series and much beloved for his Doctor Who contributions. Much less known were two novels about a detective who “solved” bizarre mysteries by unraveling chaos and revealing the inter-connectedness of the universe. Most of Adams’s work had a touch of darkness and a ton of cynicism with a lot of humor and characters you didn’t especially love where he explored the events around the characters more than the characters themselves. Dirk Gently was a different set of work, optimistic and engendering wonder at the not-random happenings around the world of his characters. And that’s what is front and center in this new television series, not an adaptation of the novels but a continuation.
The star of the program isn’t Dirk Gently (played enthusiastically by Samuel Barnett) but rather innocent bystander Todd Brotzman (a wonderfully down-trodden Elijah Wood) who is having the worst day of his life. Starting with a horrific and more-than-a-little-strange murder scene, for the next 45 minutes of the pilot we are on a whirlwind tour of people, places and events all over Seattle as we struggle to make sense of the story or understand if there even is a coherent story:
- The afore-mentioned murder scene, the victim’s missing daughter, an ape mask and a stolen hotel pass key
- A serial killer on a mad spree with the young computer hacker she has abducted for the ride
- A (second) mad murderer and his captive victim-to-be
- A crazed drug-dealing landlord
- The CIA, FBI and local police (two departments– missing persons and homicide) colliding on separate cases
- A rampaging berserker gang
… and there’s more. In fact, when Dirk Gently does show up and implores Todd to embrace the chaos, trust that everything is connected and let the universe reciprocate his trust, you start to wonder whether this show will just be a quirky and funny series of random happenings and a deus ex machina wrap-up at the end.
But it won’t. Because the first episode closes with a beautiful moment that shows you that hope, that optimism Adams had intended in a fleeting glimpse of the connectedness behind it all. With that, I am hooked for the whole series.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency premieres October 22 on BBC America.