In his forward to M.J. Simpson’s Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman offers an apt description of the late science fiction luminary. “No one else I’ve ever encountered could elevate Not Writing to an art form,” he wrote, adding: “I think that perhaps what Douglas was was probably something we don’t even have a word for yet. A Futurologist, or an Explainer, or something.” Yet what he wasn’t, Gaiman stressed, was a novelist — “despite having been an internationally bestselling novelist who had written several books which are, a quarter of a century later, becoming seen as classics.”
These include Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, the 1987 detective novel Adams published almost a decade after The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy made him a household name. Along with a direct sequel (The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul) and an incomplete third entry (The Salmon of Doubt), the Dirk Gently books gave Adams’ readers a title character with an extremely eccentric approach to being a private eye. Specifically, Gently never specifically does anything like look for clues or follow evidence. Instead, he passively follows fate (i.e. the universe) wherever it leads whether or not the destination has anything to do with the case. For, as the hero often says, “Everything is connected.”
Though not as heavily indebted to it as Hitchhiker’s, Dirk Gently gave Adams’ fans another version of Doctor Who, a program on which he worked. It also served as a precursor to BBC One’s Sherlock, which is perhaps why BBC America saw fit to greenlight Chronicle writer Max Landis‘ adaptation of the character for an eight-episode series. Landis’ Dirk Gently is weird. Not just weird, but extremely weird, much like Starz’s cult hit Ash vs Evil Dead, another property adapted from older source material that produces continuously weirder but enjoyable bouts of television. Of course, the Evil Dead team retains much of the original talent who brought the ’80s movies to life. The sole creator of Dirk Gently, Adams died in 2001, prior to a critically maligned BBC adaptation in 2010. Judging by the three episodes made available to critics, it seems Landis and his team have successfully taken Adams’ torch — even if the results are complicated, cumbersome and just plain odd.