Dirk Gently’s Casebook – File #5

‘Doctor Who, Dirk, Douglas and me’

Our guest blogger this week is SUP’s very own Dirk, Paul Cresser

I was very excited when I heard that SUP was putting on a production of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. You see, when I was nine years old, I became a fan of Doctor Who and have remained a fan ever since. What my nine-year-old self didn’t know at the time was that the script editor of that series of Doctor Who was one Douglas Adams – just on the verge of achieving huge success and recognition from his most famous creation, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

pirate

Above: The Pirate Planet, from Doctor Who’s 16th season, was also written by Douglas Adams

That year’s series of Who  – the 17th season – included two stories written or co-written by Adams himself: the show’s most viewed (and arguably one of its best) stories City of Death and its least viewed story Shada – least viewed because BBC industrial action at the time meant the story was never finished and it wasn’t broadcast!

There have been many attempts over the years to bring Shada to life in a variety of formats – indeed, a complete version of the story using the existing footage complemented by animation voiced by the original actors is being released on DVD and Blu Ray by the BBC this December!

chronotis

Above: Looks familiar? Professor Chronotis in Episode 2 of the aborted Fourth Doctor story, Shada

The first attempt to salvage material from the ill-fated Shada was by Adams himself when he used several elements in his novel… Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. The story also incorporated elements from City of Death, so the play we are producing is not only in my opinion a distillation of good Douglas Adams, it’s also a distillation of what I consider to be good Doctor Who – and it really excites me to be part of that!

So with all that in mind, I was very keen to get involved – and was obviously delighted to be cast as Dirk.

The role has presented many challenges, not least the sheer volume of of lines to learn and the sometimes tongue-twisting dialogue. Being very familiar with some of the content (as I said, these stories have been with me for most of my life), there is a strong temptation to play things like Doctor Who. But Dirk, although he takes the Doctor-like role, is very much not the Doctor. He is his own character, even when speaking almost identical lines, so I have to avoid that temptation (well, mostly!). However, the character, along with the script and other elements of the production, contains many respectful nods not only to Doctor Who but other popular programmes and films of this genre – as well they should!

city-of-death

Above: Lalla Ward as Romana and Tom Baker in the marvellous City of Death, set mainly in Paris – classic Doctor Who’s highest rated story, not least because ITV was subject to industrial action during its original run in September and October 1979

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