RogerBW's Blog

Towards Zero 24 October 2021

2010 adaptation of Christie's 1944 mystery, in four half-hour episodes. Lady Tressilian invites her former ward for a summer visit; he insists on bringing both his ex-wife and his current one. And then people start to die.

Of the BBC adaptations I've heard so far, this diverges most from the book: Superintendent Battle is gone, and instead Angus (now Tom) MacWhirter becomes a former detective, plausibly accused of corruption, leading to loss of livelihood and wife and an attempted suicide, and thus we get back on track.

But for me one of the key elements of the book is the magic trick that it plays: it tells you that most mysteries start in the wrong place, and therefore begins as the pieces start to move towards the murderer's desired configuration, but then of course subverts this in a way I'll talk about if I ever review the book. On the other hand this adaptation is prone to flash-forward, with most of the introductions entirely rewritten, and so it removes much of the point of the trick.

Once that settles down and we get back to the core story, it more or less holds together, though the false economy of removing Battle only means that we need to add two new policemen, one to be deceived and the other to be helpful at the end. Julia Ford as Mary Aldin comes over as constantly petulant and childish; it's a thankless part, I grant, but she generates none of the sympathy she should be able to evoke, particularly when her accent slips and she sounds rather too much like Claire Rushbrook as Audrey.

Did Joy Wilkinson want to write her own radio play, but get pushed into doing this adaptation instead? Her 2013 adaptation of Murder Is Easy is more conventional; it also elides Battle, but he has a much more minor role there. (The only other work of hers I know is The Witchfinders in Doctor Who season 11, which I found basic but competent.) For me versions like this fall between the two things I might really enjoy, a faithful translation and an original story.

See also:
Doctor Who 2/11.08: The Witchfinders
Murder Is Easy

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