Quick Answer: Dirk Gently is a character created by author Douglas Adams, who is known for writing The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and his work on Doctor Who. Dirk is a “holistic detective” who solves crimes based on the idea that everything is interconnected. This, simply put, means that Dirk believes that everything is related, so no matter what he does, he will always end up solving the mystery through random chance. Following a failed BBC adaptation in 2010, BBC America is releasing a new adaptation of the series this fall with Max Landis as the showrunner.
During this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, BBC America released a new trailer for Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (2016). Based on the book series by Douglas Adams, the television series (created by Max Landis) will follow the misadventures of Dirk Gently (Samuel Barnett), a time-travelling holistic detective, and his reluctant sidekick Todd (Elijah Wood). But who is Dirk Gently and what exactly is a “holistic detective”?
In 1987, author Douglas Adams published Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. Although not as well known as Adams's Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy BBC radio series and novels, Dirk Gently was inspired by Adams’s work on the massively popular television series Doctor Who (1963 - ). The story and characters of Dirk Gently were derived from Adams’s unaired six-part Doctor Who story “Shada” that was never completed due to the 1979 BBC strike. The cancelled episode introduced a character named Professor Chronotis (Denis Carey), who also appears in Adams’s novel Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. In both “Shada” and Dirk Gently, Professor Chronotis is essentially a time lord with a TARDIS-like time machine.
Professor Chronotis (Denis Carey) in Doctor Who
Due to the cancellation of “Shada,” Adams used much of the episode’s plot and removed the Doctor Who trademarks to write a new novel about a time-travelling detective named Dirk Gently. As a “holistic detective,” Dirk Gently solves crimes using a peculiar method based on the “fundamental interconnectedness of all things.” This, simply put, means that Dirk believes that everything is related, so no matter what he does, he will always end up solving the mystery through random chance. It also helps that he’s a bit psychic, too.
Samuel Barnett as the new Dirk Gently in the upcoming BBC America series
This isn't the first time Dirk Gently will be adapted for television. The pilot for the first TV adaption of Dirk Gently was broadcast on BBC Four in 2010 and was later renewed for three more episodes that aired in 2012. The series, however, was not a direct adaptation of the source material by Douglas Adams and reviews were mixed due to the changes made. While ratings were high, the series was eventually cancelled.
Stephan Mangan (left) as Dirk Gently in BBC's 2010 adaption
Max Landis, creator and writer for the new BBC America adaption, admitted that his adaptation will also differ from the Douglas Adams series. In an interview with Collider, Landis said, “Dirk Gently is unadaptable. Trying to adapt it is a fool’s errand. To try to do a direct plot adaptation of either of the books will inevitably lead to failure.” Instead, Landis hopes to capture the spirit and style of the original source material. In an interview with Gizmodo, Landis promised that his adaptation will preserve the supernatural and science fiction aspects of Adams’s series.
Elijah Wood as Todd and Samuel Barnett as Dirk Gently in the new BBC America series
Since Dirk Gently is an eccentric time-travelling detective, the new series will likely be a sort of mix between Doctor Who and Sherlock (2010 - ). We’ll see how closely it captures the spirit of Douglas Adams’s original series when the show premieres on October 22.