BBC America, the network that brings you Doctor Who and Orphan Black, is once again trying to bring the fanboy magic with their potential new cult series Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. The series is written and executive produced by Max Landis (Chronicle) and is very loosely based on the beloved book series of the same name by Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams.
Elijah Wood (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) stars as Todd, an aimless bellhop middling through life, who has everything flipped upside down when he’s dispatched to the penthouse at work that has just been the scene of the horrific murder of millionaire Patrick Spring. This brings eccentric Brit detective Dirk Gently sniffing around Todd’s life where he becomes certain Todd was meant to assist him in solving this murder mystery.
This all might sound like a pretty straight forward plot premise, but I assure you, dear reader, that the previous description is boiled down to the absolute basic element of the show. BBC America was kind enough to provide us with the first three episodes of the series and they are big goofy, confusing, bizarre and instantly obsessable hours of television brimming with content for fans to dissect and theorize over.
Samuel Barnett co-stars with Wood as the title character of Dirk Gently with the same exuberance and eccentricity that made fans fall in love with Matt Smith as The Doctor. Gently believes that everything is connected and literally just follows the signs the universe gives him to attempt to solve mysteries. Barnett has the unbridled enthusiasm of a puppy and shouldn’t take long to endear himself to audiences.
Elijah Wood is in many ways just playing his character Ryan from Wilfred – the exasperated lonely guy that gets an injection of adventure from an unconventional new friend. Wood has that role down and brings his big screen credibility to the show – something much of the rest of the rather unknown cast lacks.
But the show isn’t just about this duo – it actually has quite a wide and varied cast that thus far, after three episodes, still have yet to cross paths and only have minor connections revealed to the main investigation.
The most memorable of which is the show’s other duo: Ken (Mpho Koaho) the hacker who finds himself the target of crazed assassin Bartine “Bart” Curlish (Fiona Dourif) who mistakes him for Dirk Gently, while employing the “holistic” approach (i.e. letting fate guide her) to direct her murdering. The two are a dark reflection of the dynamic between Dirk and Todd and Dourif is particularly fascinating as the blood soaked killer with a gruff, silly New York-style accent.
The other threads of the show are too numerous to breakdown in just this review, but consist of Todd’s sister Amanda (Hannah Marks) who suffers from Pararibulitis (look it up, it’s a terrifying condition), a quartet of four psychic vampires hilariously called the Rowdy 3 (led by Wynnona Earp‘s awesome Michael Eklund), Farah Black (Jade Eshete), a security officer assigned to protect the murder victim’s daughter, and Gordon Rimmer (Battlestar Galactica‘s Aaron Douglas), a bumbling cult leader with a temper (and another silly accent/voice) that is searching for his missing corgi dog that is tied to the case.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency won’t be for everyone, for a large part due to the intentional slow burn of how everything fits together in the narrative. The series also walks a line of silliness and camp, mixed with some dark tones and moments of horror that create an odd dynamic that might turn off some. Most importantly, if the show doesn’t nail the dismount on the payoff of all these bizarre story threads, the ride to that point will be an even more frustrating one.
But cults, vampires, aliens (?), government experiments? I’ll just come out and say it – this show is just really, really, weird. But genre fans looking for the next LOST-style show to obsess and theorize over, mixed with a little Doctor Who-like eccentricity then Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency might just be the show fate has led to you.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency premieres Saturday, October 22 on BBC America