Richard MacDuff is having one of those days. His couch is stuck in the stairwell, there’s a horse in the bathroom, and his old school pal Svlad Cjelli has invited himself back into Richard’s life on some kind of interconnected detective case. Penned by The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is filled with ghosts, time travel, aliens, robots, and a bit of abracadabra. The 2007 radio dramatization of this novel is superb and available on CD and Audible.
The plot is twisty-turny with no real sense of direction, but that’s Adams for you. The humor makes up for it, and like H2G2, the satire is sharp. For example, the electric monk (responsible for the horse in the bathroom), which is programmed to believe things for you, looks exactly like a human. When you listen, don’t expect some Doctor Who-esque, timey-wimey space travel epic. Instead, the story stays very grounded with hapless Richard MacDuff and money-grabbing trickster Dirk Gently (formerly named Svlad Cjelli), two humans with no means of time travel, alien contact, or speaking with the dead. These paranormal events happen in the spaces between the cracks of action and behind the characters’ backs (until the climax, at least), making it an accessible comedy story for even the biggest sci-fi skeptics.
This is a Dirk Maggs production, and he does, in my opinion, do the best radio dramas of our age. You couldn’t ask for a better cast: comedian Harry Enfield as Dirk Gently, The Lord of the Rings‘ Billy Boyd as Richard MacDuff, Fawlty Towers‘ Andrew Sachs as Professor Reg Chronotis, the versatile Olivia Colman as Dirk’s criminally unpaid secretary Janice, and The Golden Compass‘ Jim Carter as DS Gilks, the combatant LeStrad to Dirk’s Sherlock. Other roles played by Doctor Who‘s Peter Davison, Rupert Degas (as thundergod Thor), H2G2‘s Stephen Moore, Michael Fenton Stevens, and Philip Pope.