One of the plans for the original Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series is that it would sound like a rock album. It was the intention that it would feature lots of music and various sound-processing techniques during the course of telling the story. All this was decided before Douglas Adams actually got around to putting pen to paper and writing the thing.
Dirk Maggs has a similar vision. Though he has produced many radio shows, he specialises in the creation of 'audio movies'. He aims to create radio with the sense of impact and atmosphere available on the big screen. An ambition that has not gone unrewarded, or unawarded for that matter.
These visions are clearly compatible. They must be, as Dirk has been engaged to adapt, produce and direct the Tertiary, Quadrenary, and Quintessential Phases of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy for Radio 4. He was Douglas's preferred choice for the job, and his previous output can give us a picture of why Douglas thought him suitable.
As well as producing episodes of standard radio comedy series such as The News Huddlines, It's Been a Bad Week, and The Russ Abbot Show, Dirk has also been involved in some more unusual comedy projects.
Between 1990 and 1992 he produced three series of Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel, an updated version of the original Marx Brothers shows. The actors were specifically chosen for their ability to impersonate the Marx Brothers, so that an accurate recreation could be achieved. One of the episodes won the Gold Medal at the New York International Festival.
A similar effort needed to be undertaken for Goon Again in 2001. Produced for the 50th anniversary of The Goon Show, and with the blessing of Spike Milligan, it was a project Dirk had been planning since he recorded At Last The Go On Show, a documentary for the 40th anniversary of the Goons. Early on, Dirk realised that Goon Again would not work without Sir Harry Secombe's very distinctive voice. But Sir Harry declined to take part due to his failing health. Fortunately, his son Andrew Secombe was willing give it a go, and so the cast was arranged around him, with the sons of several other cast members getting involved too, creating, in the words of Dirk, 'a genetically-engineered tribute band' to the Goons. The show won the 2002 Best Comedy Award from the Spoken Word Producers Association.
He also produced the Johnny Vegas radio series Night Class in 2002. It was a somewhat darker comedy than Dirk's usual output, and therefore shows the range and the variety of comedy material that he is able to direct. This show won the Bronze award in the Comedy category of the 2003 Sony Radio awards.
Science Fiction Productions
Early in his career Dirk became known for directing adaptations of comic book storylines. He started in 1988 with Superman on Trial, and concluded with Judge Dredd in 1995. Along the way his production of Superman - Doomsday and Beyond won the 1994 Audie Award for Best Dramatisation from the American Booksellers Association and Spoken Word Audio of The Year from US Publisher's Weekly.
For many radio listeners, the last of Dirk's comic adaptations was a revelation. Judge Dredd was recorded in eighty-three minute-long segments, with episodes played daily on Radio 1 in the summer of 1995. It was timed to coincide with the Sylvester Stallone film, but the radio series oozed the atmosphere and fun of the original comic in a way that the movie completely failed to do. Several storylines from the comic were adapted to radio, including, most notably, the Judge Cal saga. It was a fairly faithful representation of the comic, as opposed to the film, which mangled the thing out of all recognition. It won the 1995 Talkie Award for Best Production.
In 1996, he was contacted by Warner Brothers and asked to create a British-based 'parallel-quel' to their summer science fiction blockbuster Independence Day. The resulting programme Independence Day UK took place in the same world, and at the same time as the film, but showed a British perspective on the alien invasion. This also won the 1996 Talkie Award for Best Production. The next year Dirk produced and directed his own adaptation of An American Werewolf In London for Radio One. For this he won the 1997 Talkie Award for Best TV/Film Adaptation.
In 1999 he produced a five-part adaptation of Stephen Baxter's alternative history novel Voyage. The premise is simple. When Apollo 11 reached the moon, JFK (having survived that day in Dallas) set a new target for the space programme: Mars. Voyage is the story of a space-race that never was, but so easily might have been. Dirk's adaptation was presented on Radio Four, and received 1999 Talkie Award for Best Use of Music as well as the 2000 Sony Bronze Award for Best Drama.
Dirk has not worked exclusively in the comedy or science fiction genres, however. He has directed adaptations of several Agatha Christie short stories for Radio Four, and a remake of Bill Naughton's Alfie for the BBC World Service.
Neither is his work to be found solely on the radio. He has directed the sound mixing on three short 3D films that are played in motion simulator capsules. Dirk has also worked on audiotape adaptations of Terry Deary's Horrible Histories books and is audio director for the Animated Mr Bean television series, which means that everything heard in the show has gone through Dirk's hands at some point.
Neither are computers immune from Dirk's work. He is credited as Voice Director on the Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon adventure game, as he supervised all the voice recording used in the game.
Given Dirk's proven ability to adapt and produce award-winning radio comedy and science fiction, it is perhaps no surprise that he is currently hard at work on the remaining Phases of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The Tertiary Phase, an adaptation of the third book in the trilogy Life, the Universe, and Everything is due to appear in February 2004, with the later Phases appearing later in the year.
Also due in 2004 is a feature-length computer animated version of The Magic Roundabout. Dirk voice-directed such luminaries as Robbie Williams, Kylie Minogue, Jim Broadbent and Joanna Lumley for the film.
Or read an interview with Dirk about the work he has done on the new Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series'.