Saturday, 26 December 2015
The best-selling mystery novel of all time, apparently. A rather hoary old stage chestnut is now brought to the Boxing Day table with its revised PC title, but most of its other thirties prejudices intact. A group of disparates are summoned to 'Soldier Island' off the Devon coast for a rendezvous billed as a dinner party. In the comfortable but eerily deserted environs of the island's hotel, they hear a recorded broadcast accusing them all of committing (separate) murders. By the end of the hour there were eight of the ten remaining alive.
Just about as perfect a holiday drama as you could wish for, following in the wake of this year's successful play adaptations of classics. Rather darker somehow than the Poirots or Marples, and went down very well with a tipple.
Christmas half-hour gobbets of Dickens seemed to work well on BBC1 with 'Little Dorrit' in 2008, so they've come up with this series of 20 half-hour episodes, airing a bit like a soap over the holidays. This is another of those reboots/reinventions such as all those spin-offs of Austen novels, featuring characters from various Dickens stories in a murder-mystery. None other than Inspector Bucket investigates the murder of one Jacob Marley, partner of Ebenezer Scrooge.
It's all rather fun if you like the Dickensian vibe without being too familiar with the original novels. If you are a die-hard fan you will probably be too busy allocating characters to novels, or being appalled at the licence taken with, for example, the relative chronology. Young Miss Havisham (Tuppence Middleton) is here dressed much as Estella would dress in 'Great Expectations' some years later. And then there's Marley, who here deviates from miserliness just long enough to engage the services of young Nancy, through her pimp Fagin, much to Sykes's chagrin. Meanwhile Amelia Havisham's friend Honoria Barbary is about to disgrace herself with a soldier under the disapproving eye of her spartan sister Frances....
Hopefully it can sustain 20 episodes, because if not it will just look like a lazy purloining of pre-written characters and their stories. It never ceases to amaze us how what is essentially 'fan fic' can suddenly become respectable if commissioned. We hear the new series of 'Endeavour' features riffs on famous tales such as 'The Great Gatsby'. There are masterful reinterpretations, but they are rare, and 'Morse' ran out of good ideas when they'd exhausted Colin Dexter's novels. So there.