In addition to his best-selling Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, author Douglas Adams also wrote a couple of detective stories. Similar to its more famous sibling, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency has us following the travels and travails of another odd couple. In Hitchhiker’s there was everyman Arthur Dent and his resident alien Ford Perfect. In Dirk Gently’s the title character has the impresario role and Todd is his Doctor Watson.
I read the two published Dirk Gently’s novels years ago and was pleased this week when I learned that they had been made into a television series. Produced by BBC America and Netflix, but not available in America on Netflix. I had to stream it on Hulu. I’ve watched the first season, which is set in Seattle, but was filmed on location in Vancouver. These production related contradictions only serve as overture to the many other contradictions that comprise the meat of this show. In which we are introduced to an ensemble cast of oddballs, each of whom seem to be powered by their very own personal infinite improbability drive.
Elijah Wood of Frodo fame is the most recognizable actor in the cast. He plays the hapless Todd, who as we first meet him is having a very bad day. Dirk Gently (Samuel Barnett) soon introduces himself to Todd and things go from bad to worse. Todd is making do as a bellhop and has just witnessed the aftermath of a massacre in the penthouse and then subsequently fired for finding it, when he meets Dirk. Talk about shooting the messenger. How much worse can it get? Dirk is on a case, searching for a kidnapped missing heiress. Her father, the man who hired him, was one of the massacre victims. After some convincing Todd agrees to help Dirk solve his case and get the girl. The game is afoot. Through the subsequent eight episodes of season one, we follow this duo as they investigate crimes and navigate a world where steampunk time travel, psychic vampires and government conspiracies are all too real.
With multiple storylines and plot twists that can turn on a dime and the just plain weirdness of the whole show it is sometimes difficult to follow along with what’s happening. And frankly, although it was a while ago, I didn’t remember any of this story from reading the books. As it turns out there is a good reason for my amnesia. The show’s creator Max Landis only loosely based this series on the Douglas Adams books and these stories are supposed to occur after the events described in those novels. Call it fan fiction or whatever, it is certainly a strange brew or simply a different cup of tea, depending upon your tastes.