[Review] - Dirk Gently Series 1 Episode 1 - "Sometimes It Takes Multiple Attempts To Achieve True Randomness"

Photo courtesy of the BBC

Ever had one of those days that would make even Mother Theresa kick babies? Dirk Gently (Stephen Mangan) has.

But something just isn't right. I don't mean in the film, I mean with the film. Since we last saw Dirk, and his partner (assistant) Macduff (Darren Boyd), something has gone off. Perhaps it was the somewhat unexpected pressure of building an entire series around these characters, even if it is only three episodes. But some of the paint is pealing off this Austin Princess, and I'm desperately hoping it gets a fresh coat.

Dirk is more Clouseau than Sherlock, and comparisons to the infinitely enjoyable BBC One are unfounded. In fact, they operate nicely as the antithesis of one another. Sherlock's world is one of order, of detection and determination, where hard, emotionless reason can widdle away motive and humanity until all that is left is bare fact. Watson is his counterpoint, a warm, gentle man seeking a place in a world that he left behind, and returned to changed, but looking to make a connection to anything. Creator Steven Moffat languishes in sharp, precise dialogue, filled with a delicate Stephen Fry sort of wit.

Dirk, on the other hand, imbues his world with chaos. If follows him like the wafting scent of brie, amoung the least controversial of cheeses. Dirk's world is one that falls apart when touched, where reason means nothing, where the untenable, the unreasonable is preferable to the obvious. Dirk operates under the assumption that everything is interconnected, that he is always drawing closer, even when it feels he is moving further away. He is given MacDuff to work against, an empty man, unable to assert himself, no more meaningful than Dirk's only approach. Howard Overman, while obviously able to write copious amount of dialogue, does so with a hard bluntness, that can descend into obscenity to illustrate a point. He does this with greater effect, and I believe greater joy, on his superior series, Misfits.

There is one comparison between them, and that is neither cares for the people they work for. Sherlock cares only to solve the case, not for the benefits it might serve to others. Dirk is a selfish prick, taking cases for the money, or, should it come his way, fame and glory. Sherlock knows he's great. Dirk's just a liar.

For more of this review, hit the jump.

This episode finds Dirk employed by a man whose paranoia Dirk proved by following him. This client almost immediately ends up dead. He thought the pentagon was after him, or rather, a computer software system he developed that could take any event, and any conclusion, and generate a perfectly sound and reasonable justification for the actions required to create the result. He's also hired to find said software, to follow a cheating husband, and to find out why a man's horoscope is coming absolutely true.

No comparisons can be made to the books, nor should they be. The stories there were too complex, or absurd, or used already by Doctor Who in the seventies to be adapted in any straight forward way. Ironically, the Dirk Gently books were Douglas Adams most straight forward books. So, elements were picked over, and distributed throughout.

And perhaps that is what is missing the most. While the books were heavily marinated in science fiction, the pilot only dabbled, teasing us throughout with a will-they-won't-they feel until getting cold clocked upside the head at the end, to great effect. Here, we're left in the stark, realistic, over populated world of police procedural. And saying that, the fantastic Jason Watkins as DI Gilks gets only a walk on role. The computer programs and spy stuff may seem outlandish, but would fit in better with Bond than Blake's 7. And Dirk needs that sci-fi element, to keep him from just sounding mad. His holistic approaches can only seem logical, and work out, in a world where stewardess can be turned into coke machines.

But there is something else missing. The pilot seemed manic at time, but it also seemed like it was on purpose. The Gilligan cuts were used to great effect, as were moments of slow insanity. Here, they seemed forced, like they're putting on a show, to prove to us this can work, and by doing so, proving it cannot. The hugging scene, clearly meant to be one of those moments, had potential, but just didn't work. Gone too is Dirk's larger world. This episodes feels very claustrophobic, as if Dirk and MacDuff are the only ones left. Janice, the unpaid secretary is still about, but gone are his network of school children and various informants and Susan is no where to be found, though some may prefer it that way.

The only thing that did work was the ending. All hanging plot threads were nicely tied together, and was genuinely funny. It seemed as though that they worked too hard through the rest of the episode to get those threads dug in, so at the end, we could all sit back and go "ahhh." It's just a pity that they didn't put as much work into the rest of the plot.

Still and all, I'd rather have some Dirk that works than no Dirk at all. The actors gave it they're all, and Mangan is still very impressive in the title role. They've got two more episodes to go, and next episode promises Cambridge and robots, and that leaves me hoping for something good.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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