In many ways, it appears that BBC America’s new Dirk Gently series is a gift that keeps on giving. Last week, it was announced that Frodo himself, Elijah Wood, had signed on to be Dirk’s reluctant assistant, Todd. This week, the part of Dirk Gently was announced, and many people experienced a collective “huh?” moment.
The newly cast Samuel Barnett first appeared on my radar at the Globe Theatre in the 2012 production of Richard III, which starred the award-winning Mark Rylance and featured an all-male cast. Johnny Flynn (most recently at the National Theatre in Hangmen) played Anne in that production and Barnett Elizabeth, and between the two of them, theirs were names I took note of.
Barnett will likely be the most familiar to people who saw The History Boys around 10 years ago (at the National Theatre, followed by an international tour) or own the film adaptation of the Alan Bennett play. He also played the young Stuart in Vicious last season (and he absolutely needs to come back because it was SO much fun!), was in Jupiter Ascending, and had a recurring role in the BBC satire Twenty Twelve.
He’s an incredibly likable type of actor, a two-time Tony award nominee, who always conveys much earnestness in the characters he plays, and this will come in handy for his next project, one I’m really excited about.
Fans of the original books (Douglas Adams’ ‘other’ series: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency) might cry out: he’s not pudgy, and will he wear the coke-bottle glasses Adams’ character wore? Judging by all who are attached to this project, their cries might be warranted. Let me elucidate.
The TV show’s co-producers, Ideate Media and IDW Publishing, launched a comic series based on Douglas Adams’ original character in 2015, but they changed a whole whack. For one, we’re not in London anymore. Dirk up and moved to San Diego in this comic book outing. I’m not familiar with the comics, but I imagine this is how we now have the sidekick who isn’t a sidekick, and not Richard MacDuff, which means that Elijah Wood doesn’t need to dust off his English accent from LotR, but can use an accent made in the US of A.
What about the stories, you query? Again, I think that they will be based on the comics leaving the canon wide open for new stories and new adaptations. I’m sure it is beginning to dawn on the purists (and you know I adore you) that this Dirk Gently will have as much in common with the original as the TV show Lucifer does with the character Neil Gaiman created many moons ago. It will also not be in the same ballpark as the BBC’s adaptation from around 2010, which starred Stephen Mangan (from Episodes) over four episodes and did not receive a continuing series order. Using stories from the comics might actually work, though, because the source material is seriously limited. Douglas Adams only completed two Dirk Gently books (Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and the The Long, Dark Tea-Time of the Soul), plus bits from The Salmon of Doubt that Adams had already written by the time of his death in 1989, but was on the verge of binning.
Where this project has more than a glimmer of hope is in its showrunner Robert Cooper (of Stargate SG1 distinction) and the fact that Dean Parisot (who directed the wonderfully weird Galaxy Quest) is going to direct the first two episodes. As far as I’m concerned, they are the safeguardians of the spirit of Adams’ humour and the character of the quirky, matter-of-fact, very British, rambling bumbler, who has to look at the whole case from all possible angles in order to find the whole perpetrator, expenses be darned. The words from the mind of Douglas Adams whose comic-fantastical stories more-or-less conditioned me to devour the works of Tom Holt (look him up!), this time in the hands of Max Landis.
To ease fans of the comic, fans of the books, and any other kind, BBC America will be making eight episodes, focusing on one mystery for the entire season, so we’ll get a chance to get to know Barnett in the role and see for ourselves how Gently’s long leather coat/jacket (which appears to have made the transfer to the comics) suits him, and you know what? I have a feeling it’ll suit him just fine.
What do you think? Will the oddball Dirk Gently make the grade with BBC America’s adaptation?
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