|Poirot (David Suchet) is reunited with Miss Lemon (Pauline Moran)|
Chief Inspector Japp (Philip Jackson) and Captain Hasting (Hugh Fraser)
Saturday, November 16, 2013
Review - "Agatha Christie's Poirot: The Big Four"
"Agatha Christie's Poirot" continues after a fine adaptation of "Elephants Can Remember," which was broadcast in June, with "The Big Four." "The Big Four" is without doubt the most unusual of all Agatha Christie's novels. It reads like a Penny-Dreadful thriller and features none of the tight plotting which have made Christie's novels so beloved by mystery fans. To say that "The Big Four" is a curiosity is an understatement - and it seemed almost impossible to adapt to the screen. So, how was it done?
The answer: change plot details! Usually when an episode of "Poirot" dramatically changes the plot of a Christie novel, it doesn't go over so well with me. But this time things were different. The story is now set in the days before World War II. Poirot (David Suchet) is in attendance at a peace party gala at which a Russian chess master will display his talents in a symbolic act of uniting the two halves of Europe. But, four moves into his match, he slumps over dead - apparently caused by a heart attack. Hercule Poirot isn't so sure and as more unfortunate events begin to surround the peace party, rumours spread that an international group of villains calling themselves The Big Four are involved.
Despite the fact that much of the plot was changed, I am actually quite fond of this adaptation of "The Big Four." Even though its heresy to even think such a thing, I feel like this episode actually improved upon its source material. Christie's book reads like a wanna-be Edgar Wallace or L. Ron Hubbard, and what adapters Mark Gatiss and Ian Hallbard managed to do was to make the story feel like Christie. There's suspects, clues and a last-minute reveal with a typical explanation. What's more, many of Christie's original plot points are retained, so one cannot say that "The Big Four" doesn't have a passing resemblance to the novel.
What excited me most about this episode is that it would see the return of Poirot's friend and colleague Captain Arthur Hastings as well as his secretary Miss Lemon and Inspector Japp. These characters had not been featured in an episode of "Poirot" for nearly ten years, and they were sorely missed. Philip Jackson, who plays Japp, had the most to offer in this little reunion as the inspector acts as Poirot's assistant throughout the episode. My biggest quibble is that Miss Lemon and Hastings have little to do in the episode. I am probably the minority, but I always liked Captain Hastings so his minimal involvement was rather disappointing.
Overall, "The Big Four" was a very pleasant surprise. It surpassed my expectations dramatically and proved to be very entertaining. I only wish that the featured characters from yesteryear had had more involvement in the story. But, I give "Agatha Christie's Poirot: The Big Four" 4 out of 5 stars.