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Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently: How slavishly should a screen adaptation follow the book?

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Stephen Mangan Stephen Mangan | 10:33 UK time, Thursday, 16 December 2010

It's been made very clear to me, mainly through conversations on Twitter, that a lot of people hold the Dirk Gently books in great affection and that they are going to be very upset if we don't get it right.

Dirk is described as "a pudgy man who normally wears a heavy old light brown suit, red checked shirt with a green striped tie, long leather coat, red hat and thick metal-rimmed spectacles".

Well, I'm a man; we got that much right. But I'm not that pudgy and I play Dirk wearing none of the clothes described.

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Does that matter? Should they have scoured the country for a chunkier actor? I believe there are some out there.

Without the red hat is the whole enterprise doomed to failure? Is playing him without a green striped tie tantamount to dancing on Douglas Adams' grave?

There are still people out there furious that James Bond is being played by a man with blond hair.

A blond Bond? The books say he has black hair falling down over the right eyebrow!

It's a thorny old question - how slavishly should a screen adaptation follow the book?

Some people won't be satisfied unless the images they had in their head whilst reading the novel are translated exactly onto the screen.

But what most people want, I imagine, is that they enjoy the screen version as much as, if not more, than they enjoyed the book and that the spirit of the book is preserved - if not the thick metal-rimmed glasses.

In my opinion Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Tea-Time Of The Soul are unfilmable as written.

You couldn't begin to do justice to them in a single hour of television. Too much happens, there are too many ideas.

Stephen Mangan as Dirk Gently surrounded by a wall of paper notes.

So Howard Overman, our writer who knows a thing or two about writing for television, as any of you who watched Misfits will know, decided that if he was going to write an hour of telly then it needed to work as an hour of telly first and foremost.

It sounds obvious but you'd be amazed how often that isn't the priority.

Once that's established and you realise that you can't shoehorn the whole book into that time, you've got some decisions to make, what's in and what's out? What do we need to invent or add to make what's in work?

Once everyone's happy with the script, you cast it. Again, does it matter that I don't look like the Dirk that's described in the books? Is it enough that the actor gets the spirit of the character?

Dirk is one of the most interesting and complex characters I've played. He's charming, irritating, bright, funny, hapless, unreadable, transparent, roguish, chaotic, philanthropic and possibly dishonest.

If I get all that right, am I allowed to be too thin?

Television is a team sport, novel writing isn't. Our film has creative input from Howard, me, the director, the producer, the rest of the cast and dozens of others.

And all the stuff from the books that doesn't feature is still sitting there ready for us to use once the BBC commissions a 58-part series...

I'm extremely proud of how it's turned out. I hope you enjoy it.

Stephen Mangan plays Dirk Gently in Dirk Gently.

Dirk Gently is on BBC Four and BBC HD on Thursday, 16 December at 9pm.

Comments made by writers on the TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.


  • Comment number 1.

    I am a massive fan of the Douglas Adams novels, more so even than Doctor Who which seems like a rather oxymoronic statement to make since I am finishing a 200,000 words plus book based on Doctor Who, there's an inflatable dalek in the corner of my room watching me type this and my attire is not too dissimilar from that of the Doctors but it's true. Oxymoronic or not, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy started just about everything good in my life and it is with some gleeful sense of coming full circle that I write this comment using the very profile and username from H2G2 that started off my life on the internet and gave me the name of my most important literary creation.

    On to the subject of whether it's right for a tv series to deviate from a book I would point out that Douglas never let any one version of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in one format be the same as another in a different format so if anything we should be having a go at Harry Enfield for being too like the literary version of Dirk Gently when he played him on audio and thus bucking the trend by failing to buck it.

    Also I must admit that when I saw the trailer for Dirk Gently I noticed a number of similarities to the new Sherlock adaptation and indeed the way you two (including the man who plays Richard Macduff, wonderful actor) look seems to be a direct parody, even down to the haircuts and there was rather a shot of tweed which seemed to be reflecting the new Doctor but these similarities are no bad thing.

    Even with a cynical mindset having an Dirk and Dick (or Gently and Macduff if you prefer) updated in a manner akin to a new Doctor and Sherlock is no bad thing as it puts bums on seats, allows BBC Worldwide to make rather nice comparisons to aid selling it and means other genius and sidekick shows will be able to start without too much fear of Moffaty vengeance and if said shows occur then a few might run and that can only be a good thing in the long run.

    From an uncynical view parodying or even homaging popular shows is something which Douglas always did and I'm glad to see the trend continues even if, as I suspect, such similarities are largely skin deep.

    Personally I like the idea of a young-ish man playing Dirk as it allows for the potential of an incredibly long running series and however unlikely that might actually be, I'm pleased to see the potential.

    Anyway sorry for the rather essay length comment and some of it not being entirely relevant.

  • Comment number 2.

    There was the small matter of Zaphod Beeblebrox being described in the book as having "fair tousled hair stuck out in random directions, his blue eyes glinted with something completely unidentifiable, and his chins were almost always unshaven." and BBC television made a dark new-romantic pirate.

  • Comment number 3.

    In the same TV series, the book said "Trillain was slim, darkish, humanoid, with long waves of black hair, a full mouth, an odd little nob of a nose and ridiculously brown eyes. With her red head scarf knotted in that particular way and her long flowing silky brown dress she looked vaguely Arabic", and they cast a platinum blond American.

    Basically, get the story right, and we will forgive the hat and diet.

    Anyway, when we move on, you can now, of course, get pizza delivered to your door (or hospital bed).

  • Comment number 4.

    The hat I can just about get over, but if this adaptation fails to include a horse and a pink monk, I will be furious. That is all.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hate to break it to you Jamie but there is not only an absence of monk but also no Reg.

  • Comment number 6.

    Having now seen the TV version the answer is so it is at least recognisably from the source material.
    Do it again. Get it right casting wise - Sorry Stephen, you're good but you're not Dirk - and try to stay with the original story or be honest and say that its based on characters created by Douglas Adams. This wasn't Dirk Gently Holistic Detective Agency.
    PS - if including the fridge then explain why Dirk is prevented from accessing the one at home. Properly.

  • Comment number 7.

    @AuroratheBlack - it didn't ever say it was Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. It was called Dirk Gently. That in itself should have told you that it was not going to be the book, even if SM's blog post hadn't explicitly done so.

    I love both books and DA's writing generally and I thought that tonight's show did an admirable job of capturing the spirit of both the character and the world of DG without feeling the need to stick to the plots of the books beyond the most tangential moments.

    SM was an unexpected choice when I heard he'd been cast but in fact I thought he did a great job.

    It was simplified Dirk Gently, sure, but it struck the right note for me and I suspect it might encourage people who caught and enjoyed it to read the books - and that's got to be a good thing.

  • Comment number 8.

    As for the monk and the horse, they were semi-included if you looked closely at the whiteboard before it was painted over :-)

  • Comment number 9.

    Well, I just came to post my comment, but someone's beaten me to the punch at getting in first. To AuroratheBlack, I will point out one thing: the programme was simply called Dirk Gently, not Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, nor The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul. The implication is there that this is not an adaptation of either book.

    I enjoyed it, though figured out the explanation just before it was presented in the story; mainly came on here looking to see when the next ep was coming, somewhat saddened to see it's a one-off (at present). With luck we will get to see a commission in the near future for more eps and maybe a chance to adapt the books, mayhap in say four eps each (hmmm, is that a bit too Doctor Who?)?

    I don't fully agree with AtB that you're not suited to the role, I think it would be impossible to match everyone's vision of what he's like, for me I feel he should have been played slightly more buffoonish (not a word I ever really expected to use); he is truly oblivious to how ridiculous his theories appear on the surface, no matter how truthful they actually turn out to be.

  • Comment number 10.

    Just watched the episode. This is a book I read for the first time very recently and I was thinking how good it would be translated to film, especially Dirk's dialogue. On the negative side this did not only omitted the monk and the horse it also left out Coleridge, the whole Cambridge Don thing, the ghost etc etc. It also changed the relationships between some of the characters and of course cut some characters completely. On the plus side it did give a good sense of Dirk's manic amoral character. Always nice to see Helen Baxendale too. I hope it gets another chance to get things right. Stephen Mangan is a good Dirk...but the books have so much more.....please keep trying.
    Much Love

  • Comment number 11.

    It did not capture the spirit of the character, and it was not a good hour of television.

  • Comment number 12.

    It be very unfair to say that this was bad, it was quiet good, I quiet like the different Dirk Gently, bear in mind H2G2 was different in every version in some detail so what's not to say let this be different?

  • Comment number 13.

    To be honest Mangan is right, an hour is not enough. When I read the book I was thinking a full Hollywood blockbuster with maybe someone like Robert Downey Junior - though Stephen Mangan would do just as well! Having seen the recent Harry Potters which slavishly follow the text to a large extent I think that some texts lend themselves to that sort of treatment, especially when written by a genius like Adams.

  • Comment number 14.

    It was a good show, very funny in places, Mangan did a good job with Dirk in my opinion. Hopefully they will film some more.

  • Comment number 15.

    This was, at most, "based on characters inspired by the book" rather than an adaptation.

    As an hour of TV drama it was by turns obvious to the point of heavy handed and weakly tenuous. Is Stephen Mangan what you get when David Schneider is too expensive or was Schneider threatening to gurn just a little too much?

    Still, on the plus side, Helen Baxendale, eh?

  • Comment number 16.

    Agreed it's not really the book(s) but neither was it claimed to be. Nevertheless an hour was far too short to develop the characters properly for a one-off. Now if it's intended to be a pilot for a future series then that's different.

  • Comment number 17.

    One or two slightly harsh comments here.

    I found it quite enjoyable if a little obvious halfway through as to the punchline - but I think anybody who has digested Adams' work to any great degree will probably also have seen where the plot was going a little bit too soon.

    Okay SM is not playing Dirk religiously to the books but Harry Enfield pretty much did that already for the radio series - I'm happy to see it spun differently.

    I hope this is a tester and some more episodes will be commissioned with one crucial proviso: a much knottier, less fathomable plot.

  • Comment number 18.

    I really enjoyed it. There's plenty of things that should have annoyed me, in particular that McDuff wasn't a "crunch-head" computer programmer, and the missing bits of the story.

    Given the similarity of the original book of Professor Chronotis to "The Doctor", his rooms to "the TARDIS", removing these from a pilot for an ongoing series seems good.

    As any Doctor Who fan will have seen the reconstruction of "Shada" many times, I guess the BBC would not be interested in seeing that again.

    If there are to be more hour-long episodes then there are plenty of stories in the books that could be expanded into an hour-long stories.

    But... where was The Great "virtually everything you decide today will be wrong" Zaganza?

  • Comment number 19.


    Dirk Gentley's Holistic Detective Agency (book) minus Shada minus City of Death equals Dirk Gently (TV show)

  • Comment number 20.

    I watched the show last night and to be honest I'm in two minds. I really enjoyed it visually and the acting was really good. I'm a huge fan of both SM and Helen Baxendale, although I agree with theocupier on David Schneider, he MUST have been unavailable. My issue is that it was a 'based on' job which could have been so much better. With the limited time available as a pilot so much was just touched upon and even more completely omitted. I love the books and I'm sure that if a series is commisioned then they'll put a lot more flesh on the bones.

  • Comment number 21.

    Watched this last night. I have not read the book and as others have said the trailer looked a bit like Sherlock. Overall I did enjoy it and had some very good moments but I came away with the feeling that it could have been so much better. I suspect the writers and producers have been rushed into producing this.

    I watched this on HD and the picture quality was the typical BBC blurry offering. With so many HD channels available now the BBC does stick out like a sore thumb. Once again the it was legacy stereo and could have benefited greatly with surround sound. What ever happened to the sound. I leave my amplifier in prologic mode with stereo. At the begining of the program I got some of the dialogue and sound effects eminating very loudly from the rear speakers. In fact it made me jump. It seems that the BBC had got some of the phaseing wrong on one of the channels. This only went on for a few minutes but was quite disturbing. Fortunatly the sound improved for the rest of the progam but the BBC does need to improve thier quality control.

  • Comment number 22.

    Ok. Just watched this on iPlayer... I'd hoped before hand that it would bear no relation to the images I'd created in my mind and it's fair to say I wasn't disappointed. That's a slightly double-edged compliment, because I actually was a bit disappointed.

    It became obvious whilst watching the show that it wasn't the actors that were disturbing my suspension of disbelief it was general lack of was Douglas Adams - by that I mean the essence of Douglasishness that pervades everything he did.

    Fans of of his work will know what I mean. It has less to do with Stephen Mangan's performance and more to do with the writing behind it. I believe he could do an excellent Dirk rather than an impression of an excellent Dirk if given the script to work from.

    Unfortunately I think that would involve a script written by Douglas Adams... So we're stuffed really.

    As somebody else said, keep trying and eventually you might get there.

  • Comment number 23.

    Huge fan of both the Dirk Gently books, so I always almost ready primed for a fall on this one. Gotta say I actually loved the casting, thought it was pretty spot on.

    Stephen Mangan in my mind was perfect, manic and controversial. You never feel comfortable in his presence, which is exactly as I think you'd feel about Dirk.

    Helen Baxendale is a national treasure, beautifully calm controlled performance as Susan.

    Darren Boyd also made a great clueless MacDuff. Would love to have seen more of Gilks and co.

    My biggest problem was feeling that two of my favourite books have been gutted and shredded for the purpose of an hour's "entertainment". What's the BBC trying to do here? Is this a pilot? Are they trying to garner interest for a longer series? Would said series continue on from this mish-mash of Adams work? Preferably, they should start from scratch and film one or both books properly as written. Being a fanboy is such a drag.........

  • Comment number 24.

    I cant have no complaints over the casting, acting or the way it was put together in general.

    My only complaint would be it was lacking Adam's style.

    It reminded me in some ways of the HHGTTG film, it had all the right stuff, it just didnt click in the same way these things did when Adam's was involved, unfortunatly he was a genius and without him things get cut that possibly shouldnt.

    I must agree on the fridge though, why mention it if you are not going to explain it ?

    Anyway, I hope the BBC see's enough to commision a complete series, with more than one hour the potential to really go for it is so much greater.

  • Comment number 25.

    Ah well another bbc failure. The book was fascinating, full of original ideas and very funny. The tv adaptation was not. What a waste of a good opportunity, I was bored after the first 10 minutes. The BBC seems to have managed to remove all the charm and humour of the original book and replace it with a story going nowhere while wasting the considerable acting abilities of the cast.

  • Comment number 26.

    Love Douglas Adams' writing, but also enjoyed this very much. It's a different medium, so it had to be changed. Thought Mangan was excellent as Gently, liked the side-kick too.

    re. *I must agree on the fridge though, why mention it if you are not going to explain it ?* - I thought that was adequately explained later on in the programme - as well as not paying his secretary/receptionist, obviously he hadn't paid his cleaning lady either.

  • Comment number 27.

    I love the Dirk Gently books, but I dont mind if you dont wear a hat or a little thinner, if you still capture the character.

    However - what I dont like is when you take the book, skim read it, throw it away, and then write a completely different story, that bears no relevance to the books at all, save for the name of the characters!

    This was not a Dirk Gently adaptation. Have you read the book? Does anything, anything at all, that happened in your tv show happen in the book? Apart from the bit about the secretary? No. After you had removed the basic story line, removed the sub storyline, changed all the relationships, added a load of new ones, and then made up your own inferior story - it may well have just been called "Another Detective Story".

    Yes, the original, as it was written, is probably, without a huge budget, unfilmable. But to change it so completely makes the whole thing a waste of time. The two main leads did a good job, as they always do, but it doesn't excuse the rest.

  • Comment number 28.

    I don't get it. What's the point of adapting a book if you completely rewrite the story. I find it incredibly arrogant that the writer thought he could do a better job than the great Douglas Adams. It seems to me that cost and time were the main drivers of the story.

    All the charm of the book was lost, and as for the cast the acting was ok, but the actual casting was all wrong. Dirk was sooo wrong, he is dark morose and mysterious, not a grinning shouting lunatic. Also he didn't look like Dirk, see Julian assanges lawyer, that's what Dirk looks like but a bit younger.

    Douglas Adams would never have allowed this to happen, shame on the relative who now owns the rights to his beautiful work.

  • Comment number 29.

    It would have been nice if it was longer and had more time to fit into the book story. Not bad though. Is there going to be a series?

    Still trying to fully recognise the bits of Cardiff that I knew in there.

  • Comment number 30.

    Simply put, this was the most enjoyable drama I've seen on TV in the last year. I read the novel within a few hours of it first arriving in my local bookstore and thoroughly enjoyed that too, but only the most monocular fan would demand a TV series be anything other than loosely based on the books. Mangan was brilliant and the rest the cast put in fine performances. More please...

  • Comment number 31.

    Some interesting comments here. One reply says Dirk needs to be more "buffoonish" and another thinks he should be "darkly morose". I think that shows firstly how complex Dirk's character is, and also how we all create our own, often wildly different, versions in our heads when reading the books. My take was that my Dirk has to be the Dirk of the screenplay - it's Howard's script I'm acting, not the Adams novels. But obviously I read the books extremely carefully for clues.

    A novel invariably takes you into the mind of the character and you are treated much more to their inner life. A TV version like this focuses more on the character's public interactions with others. It's an obvious point but the way we're feeling inside and the way we behave when with others can be poles apart. A key phrase from the books for me was Dirk's statement that he tended to behave with "bloody-minded ebullience" and that image of a man being relentlessly upbeat with others stuck with me, even though the novels let you know there's often a very different story going on inside his head.

    Another point to make is that the program was made on a pretty small budget. That inevitably influences what sort of scope a script can have. If the story was mainly domestic and lacked some of the more exotic Adams locations and characters, there was a reason for that - we couldn't afford them.

    I can understand people wanting the electric monk, the Professor or a horse: we want them too and if there are more made they will feature. So I'm sorry, Jamie, that the lack of a horse has made you furious.

    And 'halfawelshman', you may never piece together which bits were filmed where in Cardiff because we shot it in Bristol.

    I genuinely enjoy hearing what people think, the good and the bad. I'm more than aware that some are going to love what we've done and some really are not. That's all part of sticking your head above the parapet, some people are going to want to shoot you. What I don't understand though is when people write things like, "Douglas Adams would never have allowed this to happen". REALLY? HOW DO YOU KNOW?! For the record his wife, his daughter, his brother, his sister, his agent and three of his closest friends have been in touch to say that, in their opinion, he would have loved what we did. But they don't really know either...

    Thanks to you all for taking the time to write.

  • Comment number 32.

    It's all interconnected - although perhaps not in the manner we expect - life's like that sometimes I have found.
    Douglas Adams has been an influence on me for 64.127% of my life and I like to think he would appreciate this adaptation of his thinking. I do

  • Comment number 33.

    Just to clarify, if anyone takes it the wrong way: when I said "buffoonish" most people probably take it to mean clown-like, which is far from it. A buffoon is someone who is very much bluster and swagger, acting with a resolute sense that they are right and the rest of the world is wrong; normally we see people like that and secretly laugh at them, because we know they're in the wrong. In Dirk's case, however, whilst everyone might be laughing at him it's proven time and time again that he is correct, no matter how preposterous his assertions.

  • Comment number 34.

    Just watched the adaptation. Dirk Gently has been my favourite book since I first read it (in 1987) and I am more than happy with this adaptation. The casting was spot on. Clearly the book can't be done in one hour. The fact that it was different from the book actually made it more interesting for me (I already know how the book ends!). Please tell me this is the first of many Dirk Gently episodes!

  • Comment number 35.

    I was surprised and interested to see a Dirk Gently adaptation but, I must confess, expecting to be a little disappointed. I think that any commenters expecting a faithful adaptation of the originals were being optimistic, bordering on fanciful.
    I liked the way that the characters were portrayed and I liked the plot changes - in fact, the only thing that I really didn't like were the nods to the plot of the book. Why bother including them if only to diminish them? So much was changed that surely it would have been better to write an entirely original story. Some of the characters from DGHDA could have been included, along with references to the original plot (much in the way that Dirk's whiteboard alluded). I guess that if this was gauging interest for a series, that's what will happen and, on the evidence, I'd like to see the results.

  • Comment number 36.

    I enjoyed the programme. No, it wasn't a true adaptation but I wasn't expecting one. I thought Stephen captured the essence of Dirk rather well. Overall, it was an entertaining hour of television and showed potential. I really do hope that the Beeb gives it another go - perhaps a series - as there are so many gems in the books - both of them - which would be fun to play with.

    But I have one little plot hole that I find very hard to excuse - Gordon's phone. Batteries on those things don't last a week. 16 years? I think not.

  • Comment number 37.

    @ AliBaba I saw a very good reply to a battery "plot hole" such as you mention http://twitter.com/StephenMangan/status/15909470680915968

    Still not going to forgive Stephen Mangan for being too thin, but that has nothing to do with the portrayal of Dirk Gently which shows promise for the next 58 episodes.

  • Comment number 38.

    I've always thought that one of the problems with adapting Adams' work to the screen in any format is that you immediately lose one of the funniest characters - the narrator. It's a goldmine of brilliantly ludicrous phrases and exposition, all delivered with wonderful, deadpan self assurance. Sort of like Karl Pilkington, with better vocab. Okay, you sometimes get it on Hitchhikers with some of the guide entries, but that's it.

    With this version, I think they did a great job all things considered. Dirk's brilliance isn't based on his red hat or his portly stomach as Stephen said, it's because of his ridiculous behaviour, the stuff he comes out with, his insane ideas, the fact that he's always right! Whether you think of him to be a buffoon or a brooder is irrelevent (can't quite picture the brooder version myself...), that's your reading of the character that's unique to yourself. He's an excellent creation for that reason - his essential qualities can be funny in a number of different ways. As long as you don't contradict that central nature, it can be perceived (and performed) however you'd like it to be.

    With regards to the plot - this is an area where I think Adams really was a genius, he could seemingly just pick random words out of thin air, mix them with a few overall concepts and knit together a seamless plot. Either of the books would take a good series to cover adequately, and then, do we really just want to watch a transcript of what we've already read? Well...yes, from an obsessive point of view, but won't it also be nice to watch Dirk and Macduff in a few nice new scenarios, too? The books can essentially provide some themes and happenings, like the missing cat, the fridge and the time machine were in this episode, and we'll see, no doubt (assuming the series gets made) the electric monk, the horse, Reg, maybe a few norse gods.

    It was a great starting point from my perspective, a great cast and Overman is a really good writer. The pretending to be dead bit was very Adams-esque, as was the painting over the whiteboard (can't remember if this was in the book right now, but it was good!). The only change I was slightly disappointed with was Dirk having given out the wrong answers whilst at Uni. I loved the idea of getting arrested for doing basic exam revision.

    Thanks for posting anyway, Stephen, hope a series is commissioned!

  • Comment number 39.

    Bravo BBC4! yet again the ONLY channel on TV which has the brains and gall to try something as iconic as Dirk Gently - AND get the spirit of the original RIGHT! Stephen Mangan was brilliant as Gently - indeed the whole cast were fantastic. This is the sort of TV that the BBC gets RIGHT...will there be a series - please don't water it down...it must stay at this level of genius!!!!

  • Comment number 40.

    I watched the show: it might be not close to the original book series, but what a fun! I liked every moment and wanted more at the end of it: and all of this from someone hating police/investigation comedies.

  • Comment number 41.

    Stephen, congrats on a good show, the small budget was obvious, the writing I feel tried to convey too much of the original in too short a time and thus suffered, the lack of details like the history of the fridge is a good example, hopefully if more episodes are commissioned then more of DA's original flavour can be retained and it will flesh out the characters a bit more and make for a better production.

    Good luck with it :-)

  • Comment number 42.

    It seems to me that there are a lot of people loving the program, maybe I'm completely wrong. As a one hour television program it was better than most of the tripe you see nowadays. My point is simply this, why do it if your main priorities are time ie length of show and budget. Why not try and tell the story, even if you had failed I would have loved you to have tried.

  • Comment number 43.

    Thoroughly enjoyed the show; looking forward to seeing more.

    One question though.... when did Helen Baxendale get so gorgeous?

  • Comment number 44.

    I don't think the book is even close to being film-able as written but this was as close a stab as you are ever likely to manage. A two-hour effort (two episodes or a tv-movie version?) might have let you slide in more of the subtlety and maybe a few more of the asides included in the original story but I think as a one-off in a one-hour format it was about as effective a telling as you are going to see on screen.

    I don't think a buffon-ish dirk will play on TV as viewers have much less sympathy and engagement than readers so I think your balance in the role was just about perfect.

  • Comment number 45.

    It's been over 15 years since I read the books - but I think the TV adaptation caught Dirk's pursuit of the interconnectedness of everything, and his ability to manipulate people to feed his crazy ideas. So, I enjoyed it. Looking forward to three or four more episodes perhaps?

  • Comment number 46.

    Hi Stephen- I haven't read a DA book for 15 years, and looking through the comments above I can see why I have not commented on sites such as this before, however I will now break the silence. I watched this show more through curiosity than anything else, I didn't know who the author was... I had this feeling of deja vu, and suddenly everything snapped into place. GREAT!!! When is the next one???
    Loved it and well done.

  • Comment number 47.

    Awesome stuff, loved it!
    Very well done
    More please

  • Comment number 48.

    I haven't been able to comment since my original pre-viewing response as my faithful computer of some years kicked the bucket shortly before the episode aired and it is perhaps a testament to the show that within minutes of watching my woes were soon forgotten, before I get on to the review proper though I'd like to address some points.

    I loved the books and I'd love a tv series based on the books but there were only two and a fifth and Adams is dead so excuse me if I ask those demanding the book to just go and read the thing.

    TV is what I love and I want this series to run as long as Doctor Who but that's not gonna happen if they stick to adaptations because even if perfect adaptations were possible and Eoin Colfer (the man who continued the h2g2 series of books) wrote pitch perfect sequels for them to adapt it would be a painfully slow process and needlessly expensive.

    I was immensely relieved when I saw that this was a Moffaty update akin to Sherlock and Doctor Who, whereby it references the past and its origins but doesn't linger, prefering instead to stride opnwards intop fresh challenges and situations. The monk and Chronotis will come but first we need two series within which the show can develop its own unique style.

    Stephen you were brilliant and Macduff was spot on!
    My dad hated it, my mum loved it and I laughed like a dying sock puppet.
    Commision another series of this please!

  • Comment number 49.


    Bring on the mini series please BBC!! Its great that we are getting programs like this and I don't really care that it was on a small budget. Perhaps if the pilot is successful, they will get a few extra pennies to play around with.

    Can't wait .......

  • Comment number 50.

    Sci-Fi, brown Austin Princess and murderous old ladies - takes me back to my childhood. Love to see a series - but only if we get the Electric Monk (and horse).

  • Comment number 51.

    I'm banging my plate with my spoon... More!

  • Comment number 52.

    I have to start off by saying that i've never read the books, so i obviously cant comment on already mentioned differences in characters and story details. But i have to say that i really enjoyed the episode. I respect any programme created that isn't some reality show or another form of thoughtless cheap television. I thought the acting was great and i liked the light hearted fun of it all. I understand how precious the books are to fans but i could count on one hand the amount of faithful book to TV/Film adaptations there has been. Some books are just unfilmable. Thats the beauty of books and everyones individual imaginations. I thought it was a good bit of TV and hope to see more of them made.

  • Comment number 53.

    I think the BBC should have another crack at HitchHikers - I can see Stephen Mangan as Ford Prefect, with Jack Dee as Arthur, Emma Watson as Trillian and David Tennant as Zaphod. Oh, and Adrian Chiles as the voice of Marvin...

  • Comment number 54.

    Just signed up, as after watching it I thought I needed to put into words some of how I was feeling.

    Distugsted springs to mind. Whilst I applaud the BBC for comissioning this I have to say I wish you hadn't bothered. If you are not going to do it properly then don't bother. You have completely and utterly ruined two (I say two, because really it wasn't either) of my favourite books.

    I appreciate that you had a limited budget but you might as well have wasted the money on another lavish christmas party, for all the enjoyment I got out of it.

    I didn't think there could ever be a worse adaptation of a DA book than the Hitchikers movie. Congrats BBC, you have managed it.

  • Comment number 55.

    I completely agree with SM in the fact that the books as written are unfilmable. There are intermingling plot-points and charecters that just simply would not trace well to either big or little screen. A simplification was entirely justified.

    A programme like this has to appeal to a wider audience to be commissioned for a full series (hopefully on a different BBC channel, 2 perhaps?), and to do that, it needed to be grounded in reality. Whilst the time travel aspect needed the suspension of disbelief, adding in a ghost and an alien monk on horseback would be more than the average viewer could take - not to mention it being prohibitively costly in production.

    Whilst I guessed at the actual occurence pretty early on (please work on making the plots slightly more twisty!), I don't think that impaired any of my enjoyment of the final programme, and i can only say it is wonderful to see it in the public eye, even if we do only get the one outing.

    Congratulations, to all involved. Especially SM, though - lovin' ya work! ;)

  • Comment number 56.

    As a life long fan of Adams, from when my father encouraged me to listen to the Hitchhiker's radio plays as a boy, I was intrigued to hear about the adaptation of Dirk Gently for television. I must confess I was somewhat disappointed when I learned that Stephen Mangan was cast as the eponymous detective, despite being a fan of his work in Green Wing.
    That said; I thoroughly enjoyed the pilot, and thought Mangan was great. It's very difficult to adapt such a popular work of fiction in a way that pleases everyone, and although this particular work took quite a few liberties I think Adams would have enjoyed it. As others here have already stated the differences, not just in appearance, between all the different versions of the Hitchhiker's guide show just how much a thing can be changed but stay true to the spirit of the source.
    Good work, Mr Mangan, I look forwards to more.

  • Comment number 57.

    I'm a big fan of the books and I have seen all the Douglas Adams related film & TV over the years.
    Initially I was surprised by the departure from the original and I was smugly picking out the differences and enjoying the details like the reference to the electric monk on the 'white board' as though I belonged to some special insider club, but once I relaxed out of that mode I enjoyed the program in it's own right.
    I found this a very enjoyable episode, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to produce the script - I think you've done a pretty decent job of it.
    Good script, great casting & acting, continuity a bit dodgy :-) Overall, very well done.

  • Comment number 58.

    I'm with Sebastian on this just watched and enjoyed it. Theres just too many ideas in the books to expect some faithful re-telling.

    There was just enough homage to the character and the original story and hopefully if theres a series we'll all get to see an electric monk turn up in some form or other!

    I might point out that Adams liked some story/character variation in all the formats he authorised for Hitchikers.

    I've seen too many tv shows and films over the years with directors and screen writers trying to appease die hard fans of the original material, only to fail (watchmen anyone? - faithful but dull!). I think the BBC did a good job with this and a little positivity from fans could see a bit more money thrown at it and a decent series which compliments the books but will never replace them.

  • Comment number 59.

    Well, it isn't the book(s) and Stephen isn't the book version of Dirk but it was very, very watchable. I enjoyed it immensely (more so than the HHG movie which was good but...) and I'm left wanting more. We all know that the books each need about nine hours of air time to do justice to them due to the number of ideas in there. Possibly something on a scale of the Brideshead Revisited mini-series?

    Anyway, I thought it was a cracking piece of television with a clever story and excellent performances all round.

    Is this being made into a full series? I imagine it would be like the x-files but funnier and infinitely more watchable.

  • Comment number 60.

    After re-reading through the reviews again, I had to assume that it was just me who thought that this show was a waste of licence payers money. Was I so wrong? Was it the wine I had drunk prior to watching, causing me to overreact?
    I felt it necessary therefore, to give an objective review. I watched again this morning, in a mood of complete sobriety, calm and relaxtion.

    Ok, I'll be honest, the wine definately had affected my original viewing; it must have, because god knows how I managed to watch it through to the end. There is no way in a million years, could I watch through that sober. This second time of viewing, I didn't make it past 20 minutes. I had to turn it off for fear of throwing something through my nice new monitor.

    I used 'disgusted' as a summation in my original review; the wine had certainly mellowed me, as this is nowhere near vitriolic enough to how I feel about it now. As somoene who is slightly aspergic, I don't deal well with change. If you've watched this, then you will appreaciate why I am ready to explode.

    They say you learn something new every day. I certainly have. I will never watch anything adapted by Howard Overman ever again.

  • Comment number 61.

    This was a wonderfully charming programme. so what if it isn't a strict adaptation... It possessed the wit and absurdity of the original source material.
    Really hope this is commissioned.

    More of the same please

  • Comment number 62.

    I understand the idea of distilling the book/s down into an hour of television. I can even appreciate the book/s being the source of a television series. But it failed to translate the laugh out loud or giggle moments from the book onto the screen. I would have settled for one giggle, but none were forthcoming in this disappointing display.

    I read the books back in the 80s as a teenager and can remember numerous scenes from the book that made me laugh, in the same way as HitchHiker's did. The writer failed to include the clever humour of Adams but instead resorted to slapstick and visual gags of the lead characters.

    The writer failed to understand and deliver on the basic premiss of the book. There has to be an event that happens early in the programme that can only be explained by time-travel. Such as a sofa being stuck in a staircase, which is later revealed as only being possible because the time-machine door was opened to allow the delivery men to get it up the stairs. It's the play on the Sherlock Holmes line.

    On the positive side I hope the show gets commissioned because their is still potential in the characters and source material. Perhaps if the writer watched Warehouse 13 they could get some ideas as to how to tell the type of story necessary to do justice to Douglas Adams work.

  • Comment number 63.

    I've never read the books (as I've got a girlfriend) but I really liked this show. Though some of the jokes fell flat & bits of the dialogue were clunky I think it's a really promising start. I especially liked the Edgar Wright style cutaways.

  • Comment number 64.

    I am very familiar with and love both the Dirk Gently books and the two Doctor Who storylines that the first one was adapted from ("City of Death" and "Shada" in case you weren't aware). I mildly disliked the change of setting in the radio adaptations as I felt that the period setting contributed to the tone of the stories and Douglas Adams was obviously revelling in the state of computer technology, the music and various other aspects of British life in the late 1980s when he wrote the books and that updating them simply to include references to mobile phones and the internet was pointless. In all other respects I think it was an enormous success and extremely faithful.

    Judging from Misfits - one of my favourite TV series of all time - I have to say I love the writing of Howard Overman. He's a brilliantly funny writer and I love his characters.

    I agree that you can't cram everything from either of the books into a one-hour TV pilot which is why I question the entire point of the exercise. Why not turn it into a mini-series and do it properly?

    And I'm sorry but if the appearance of the central character of the book is unimportant then why did Douglas Adams bother describing him in such detail? Having said that I like Stephen Mangan a lot, and he portrays Howard Overman's version of the character brilliantly, and I appreciate the regard he has for the original text and the passion with which he defends this "adaptation".

    It was a funny one-off TV event and I literally laughed out loud a lot at one point (quite rare for me), but it wasn't Douglas Adams's Dirk Gently. I am torn. On the one hand I would really like to see a more faithful adaptation of the original Dirk Gently stories dramatised and set in the perpetually twilight/nocturnal world of grimy, neon-lit late 1980's north London that the books invoke in my head but on the other hand I really like this pilot and I am looking forward to seeing it developed into a series to see how Howard Overman extracts and develops the various other strands of the Dirk Gently storylines.

    Very good luck to everyone involved in getting this turned into a series, congratulations to the brilliant Howard Overman and thanks Stephen Mangan for coming on here and hearing out the die-hard fans. Don't take us too seriously, that's our job!

  • Comment number 65.

    I have just watched this and loved it. Dirk worked just right. Story was quick, intelligent, quirky. Perfect. I was worried it would try to stick too close to the book and fail. It didn't and I hope this means we'll get a series soon. Thanks.

  • Comment number 66.

    Having watched it a second time, with my towel, to make sure; I must say it was as good and enjoyable as I think a pilot of a TV adaptation of a DA book can be. As already observed- stop complaining about it not being a direct 100% accurate adaptation as Adams himself changed stories and characters as he moved from one medium to another. It's the essence that's important and I felt it was captured well. Can you imagine a commisioning editor greenlighting a BBC4 pilot which included time travel, electric monks, ghosts, alien ghosts and the fundamentally interconnected expense of bringing it all to screen? People are too ready to strangle a new show at birth if it isn't perfect nowadays and it's a shame. Give it a series, give it a chance to grow and breathe and mature and if you don't like it there are 500 other channels- most showing asanine pap with no imagination- to entertain you, or you can go and read a book.

  • Comment number 67.

    I think that to try and cram this story into a 60 minute TV show was a mistake. An extra 30 minutes could have fleshed out the characters a bit and include the monk.

    What we got was an 'Adamsesque' show which was enjoyable in it's own right, but not really satisfying to the legions of fans. I thought that Stephen Mangan's performance had a bit too much of the modern Dr Who about it in terms of eccentricity, but each to their own.

  • Comment number 68.

    Only one thing: we want more!

  • Comment number 69.

    Loving the series and your portrayal. Could care less about the costume or the pudginess. And I am a huge fan of the books since I was young.

  • Comment number 70.

    A great show just begging for a series. Love the portrayal, and as a fan of Douglas Adams it's fantastic to see it being broadcast to a wider audience.


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