Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Respect the Queen of Crime

Agatha Christie is the world's best-selling author behind the Bible and Shakespeare. She is regarded as one of the greatest authors of our time, crafting some of the most ingenious and intricate plots of the mystery genre. Everyone acknowledges her brilliance, and yet she doesn't deserve the respect which she deserves.

The most disrespect towards Christie seems to come from those who should be the most fond of the Queen of Crime. In the ITV series of "Agatha Christie's Poirot" and "Agatha Christie's Marple," the adapters have done a wonderful job of reworking Christie's greatest plots. I will try to sort this out logically, but this is something of an angry rant against those adaptations which have twisted Christie's works dramatically.

On the plus side, the early adaptations of "Poirot" were excellently done. Of course, these episodes did have to change some things to make the story fit the screen, but for the most part these stories were loving recreations of the original novels. One felt the ground begin to rumble a bit with "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd," which changed details unnecessarily and botched the ending of the story entirely, but this little misstep was rectified by "Lord Edgeware Dies," which I think is one of the show's best adaptations. However the greatest changes to Christie's novels were made during the next few seasons. Novels like "Sad Cypress," "Death on the Nile" and "The Hollow" were needlessly being changed around. "Death on the Nile" is a real disappointment since it had already been adapted - quite well in the 1978 theatrical version.

"Agatha Christie's Poirot" reached a horrifying crescendo when the show failed to adapt "Murder on the Orient Express" convincingly. "Murder on the Orient Express" is arguably Poirot's greatest novel, and surely the most famous one. I love the 1974 version of the book - it's one of my favourite movies and it shows how a mystery should be adapted. Instead of trying to create a worthwhile episode, this shows gives us a Poirot who is a religious fanatic, who would rather discuss theology than sink his teeth into a mystery. This played no part in the book at all, so one wonders why were given this at all?

Perhaps Poirot can solve this one...
However, what's been done to Poirot is hardly anything compared to the poor things they've done to Miss Marple. At the time of this writing, "Agatha Christie's Marple" is entering its sixth series. Many of the stories for this show are in fact not Miss Marple stories. A large number of these episodes were novels which did not feature any series detective, and Miss Marple is fitted into the story. For the upcoming sixth series, Miss Marple will appear in "Endless Night" - which is not a Miss Marple novel.

So one has to wonder why it's done. No matter how hard I try, I cannot understand what would make the adapters of Christie's books change them so drastically. Perhaps these adapters still labour under the assumption that Christie's stories were "cozies" and are not serious enough to contend with the likes of the overly dark and melodramatic "Law & Order" and what not. If that's the case then Agatha Christie shouldn't have to contend with other shows. Changing the details of the story and pointing the finger of guilt at another character entirely for the sake of making things more serious or risque is a terrible excuse to change the works of the undisputed Queen of Crime. What's more, I continue to watch these shows. At times, I feel like I should not seeing what a travesty to her original stories they can become, but some Agatha Christie is better than no Agatha Christie.

Do you have anything to add to this growing controversy? Is there a specific instance in any of these recent adaptations which really get your goat? Leave a comment, and perhaps we mystery enthusiasts of the Internet can come to some formal conclusion to the mystery of the unsatisfying adaptations.


  1. I agree, I've stopped watching Marple because of this. Hope the last five Poirots are faithful. Especially looking forward to Curtain!

  2. Poirot has always been religious and he was no fanatic. It was more he's devoted to laws and given that everything else he has has left its natural he cling to his code. It wanted to do a different take so the focus was on the dilemma (ratchett was a bastard but the people took the law into their own hands. Poirot is forced to ask what is justice.


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