What Makes the American Dirk Gently TV Series Stand Out From the British Version

Illustration for article titled What Makes the American Dirk Gently TV Series Stand Out From the British Version

The latest stab at adapting Douglas Adams’ detective story comes to BBC America this fall, and it’s a bit more frenetic-looking than the book. In a press event, we talked to the cast, executive producer Robert Cooper, and writer Max Landis about what made them do this show.


“The BBC Dirk Gently didn’t even have supernatural elements. That’s what Dirk Gently is!” said Landis, after saying how much he loved Adams and would leap at any chance to adapt the work.

“At the end of the day, it’s a character drama. That’s what we put front and center,” said Cooper, steering away from the weirder elements of the story.

Samuel Barnett (Dirk Gently) was on the same page, he said earlier in the day, “All the characters in this could be starring in their own TV show. They could all be their own leads.” He continued on to say, “It probably is more of a drama than comedy, although it is really funny, because it’s really, really character led.”

Of those characters, there is Todd, who gets dragged along on Dirk’s investigation. Elijah Wood described his character as “a little mysterious and his world sort of crumbles around him and you start to realize that it’s partially his own fault. So he’s kind of a mess.”

Todd’s sister, Amanda, is played by Hannah Marks. Amanda has a fictional disease which gives her hallucination and has made her agoraphobic. So as much as Todd may be a mess, Marks said that Amanda was “a worse mess” and Todd’s “whole job” is to protect her. Her journey throughout the season is getting back to the “fun girl” she was before.

There is also Farah Black, the security chief of the murder victim, played by Jade Eshete. Eshete described her character as “very by the book, operates by the chain of command” which leads her to butt heads with Dirk. But while she is a more than competent fighter, she also has no filter between her brain and her mouth.


“I felt like the show is a bit of a metaphor for our world in that things are so complicated now. There’s so much noise out there, we’re always so bombarded with information. That what really matters are the connections we make with other people,” said Cooper. “This show is really about a really wonderful diverse group of characters who come together at the end of the season and form these relationships. It’s a character story.”

“You don’t have to understand the intricacies of time travel to be satisfied,” he said, right before Landis tried to walk back the implication that, as in the novel, there will be time travel in the show. In the room, as in the panel, he did it with a wink and a nudge. Plus, in the panel later that day, Landis referenced being inspired by the “1880s technology boom,” which he said was a spoiler.


So, it’s safe to say that as character-driven as this version of Dirk Gently is, there’s still some of the old Adams left in it.

Katharine is the Associate Director of Policy and Activism at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the former managing editor of io9. She writes about technology policy and pop culture.



Max Landis? OH YES :D