Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency Worth a Second Look

BBC America’s science fiction show Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is based on a pair of novels by Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Science fiction author Tom Gerencer loves the idea of Dirk Gently—a detective who trusts in fate and leaves everything up to chance.

“He’s not a brilliant detective,” Gerencer says in Episode 281 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, “but in a way he’s making these other brilliant realizations that step completely off logic and go into the realm of ‘let go of all that stuff and get into the flow of things, and you’re going to find that things work out a lot better for you that way.’”

The show has a lot going for it, including an original voice, brilliant writing, and complex characters, but it’s failed to connect with many viewers. Writer Leah Schnelbach loves how the show’s many mysteries slowly come together, but acknowledges that Dirk Gently can be a challenge for newcomers. “It’s sort of a slow burn,” she says. “Because it is so dense, and so tightly packed with stuff, it can be a little difficult for somebody to just sort of dip into it.”

Dirk Gently has also failed to connect with many Douglas Adams fans, who are put off by the show’s many deviations from the source material. But science fiction editor John Joseph Adams thinks that if those fans stick with the series, they’ll find themselves enjoying it more and more.

“Douglas Adams is not one of those writers where you can really 100 percent faithfully adapt one of his things to a different medium and expect it to work the same way,” he says. “Even he himself changed things when he wrote something first as a radio play, and then when he turned it into a book, or then when he turned it into a game or whatever. He understood that.”

Gerencer feels that the show does a good job of capturing the most essential aspect of Douglas Adams—the idea that the only way to survive in an incomprehensible universe is to just stop worrying about it so much.

“It has that feeling of somebody who’s looking at the universe and saying, ‘What the heck is going on?’ And then confronting the answer that you can find out what’s going on, but it’s going to make less sense than if you never asked the question at all. But just have a good time with it, it’ll be fun. That seems to be the underlying theme of his entire body of work,” he says.

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