Doc On The Box – Father Brown Episodes 5 to 7

Father BrownAnd so the journey through the BBC’s new “adaptation” of some of the Father Brown stories continues – see here and here for previous instalments. We’re running out now of the episode’s based on actual short stories – we have The Eye Of Apollo, based on a short story and two original tales – The Bride of Christ, concerning the murder of a nun and The Devil’s Dust, dealing with a radioactive missing girl.

Was there any radiation in Chesterton’s stories? As we’ve established, I’m looking at the show and the episodes as a Father Brown novice and as such, I don’t really know. I kind of doubt it though…

Episode 5: The Eye Of Apollo

Based on a short story, this involves the appearance of a local cult led by seemingly-perennial murderer (on TV at least) Michael Maloney. As Father Brown’s housekeeper Suzie is inducted into the cult, the leader’s wife is thrown from a window from a locked room.

Probably wins the award for “Most Obvious Murderer Ever” but to be fair, it doesn’t really try and hide the killer’s identity, concentrating more on the how. There’s a nice complication added in as well – while part of it is thundering obvious, there is an additional part – the wife screaming when the main suspect is standing next to Father Brown – that throws a little complication into the mix.

I enjoyed this a lot – possibly my favourite of the series so far – in part due to the wonderful Maloney, or the number of times that Father Brown is locked out of the cult building only to climb back in over the same wall. With a decent-if-easy mystery for the armchair sleuth, this is rather engaging.

It’s quite close to the short story too, although Flambeau is missing. The actual locked room bit is rather close to the mechanism from The Wrong Shape short story though.

Episode 6: The Bride of Christ

Very amusing (although not supposed to be) turn by Roberta Taylor as a ludicrously strict nun, this is a decent enough little mystery although you can see where it’s going quite early on. Bonus points as well for Lorna Watson as the rather wonderful Sister Boniface, who has read one too many Agatha Christie books. As I intimated, the solution is telegraphed a little too much, but there’s a real sense of tragedy as the revelations unfold. I suppose that it’s entirely possible that characters such as Sister Paul could actually have existed, but… maybe she could have been toned down a bit.

Episode 7: The Devil’s Dust

A missing girl, a nuclear scare… sorry, got rather bored with this one. Probably the weakest episode so far, with the nuclear threat seeming out of place (although it does fit with the period, I guess.) Not much to say about this one.

So, overall, a couple of decent episodes here. Just three more to go, including The Blue Cross.


  1. The worst one so far has been ‘The Mayor and the Magician’. I don’t know why they bothered writing new stories – perhaps the staff are unable to read?


      • That sounds like a reasonable assumption. The Sins of Prince Saradine and The Sign of the Broken Sword would be a challenge for anyone to adapt!

        I’m pleased they’ve written new stories. I’m just not very interested in seeing mediocre adaptations of mysteries I’m familiar with. A new puzzle is always going to be preferable, even if the quality isn’t great.They were almost onto something with The Face of Death, I thought, but they made some pretty basic errors (who, exactly, was that very clever alibi for?? there was no-one else there!!)

        I didn’t dislike The Devil’s Dust as much as you did, Doc, although it didn’t really add up to much in the end. I thought it might be a nice change of pace, with a sort of House-style mystery. And Geiger counters (and radiation in general) are severely underused in the genre!

        Didn’t stick with The Eye of Apollo. I quite like the original and I missed the lift shaft murder too much. The Brides of Christ was entertaining, although I agree that Roberta Taylor was laying it on a bit thick. (Also I got unjustifiably annoyed that they kept saying MISS Christie)


  2. Weren’t most of the original stories already done back in the 1970s with Kenneth Tynan? Maybe this production company felt it wasn’t worth repeating. I saw only a few of those last year on DVD when I had a fit of nostalgia and I didn’t care for them. They were all videotaped and that look of those UK shows always makes me fell like I’m watching a stage show. It’s distracting to watch TV period pieces on videotape.

    I tried to watch one of these new episodes at the BBC website, but found out that US viewers are barred. Must have something to do with copyright law. Blast those video pirates!


    • Ken Tynan, John? That’s Mr Kenneth Moore to you mate! I agree that tape, which until the late 80s was the norm for UK TV episodic drama, is very theatrical but I actually really like that though it doesn’t suit everything. The 70s shows had some good episodes (I liked THE SECRET GARDEN co-starring an absurdly young Charles Dance) but I agree that they were mostly pretty soporific.


  3. I’ve very much enjoyed reading your mini-reviews of these FATHER BROWN episodes, as well as all the comments. I found the first episode pretty engaging but have grown more disenchanted with the series as it has gone along. The radical alteration of Chesterton’s plots is troublesome, as well as the aforementioned re-shaping of the series to fit the MARPLE mold, but what bothers me the most is the inconsistency of tone. The show seems set up to be a cute, cozy little series, but repeatedly deals with really heavy, tragic stories with little time left for fun detection. I enjoy either end of the spectrum, light fun whodunits and dark, serious procedurals, but combining those two elements comes across as jarring to me. (DEATH IN PARADISE nails the light fun whodunit aspect much, much better.)

    Overall, the show isn’t too bad as drama, it looks nice and has generally good acting, but overall it could have been so much better. I have to disagree with Sergio re: the 70s Kenneth More series, though, which I think is terrific and miles ahead of this new version.


    • I felt the same decline at times but I think it picks up at times. The Eye Of Apollo and The Face of Death were verging on rather good, but I think overall there have been too many missed opportunities. Byt remember, I’m watching through the eyes of someone who hasn’t read the source material.


  4. EYE OF APOLLO annoyed me greatly. Why do a story if you’re going to change it that much? Plus, Brown tells the murder exactly how he did the crime, but doesn’t offer the tiniest bit of proof. Good job that the murderer confessed!

    BRIDE OF CHRIST was…okay. Reasonable little murder mystery, fairly tightly plotted. and Sister Boniface desperately needs her own show.

    THE DEVIL’S DUST rattled about all over the place but never settled down long enough to tell a proper story. Mrs McCarthy’s character changed from amusing old busybody into rabble-rousing bigot and will presumably revert back to amusing old busybody by the next episode, thanks to the selective amnesia blanketing the town. Inspector Valentine never seems to remember that Father Brown is always right, and endlessly tries to chase him away.

    The big problem with the show is that no-one on the writing staff seems to have read a whodunnit in their lives. If they could only get some good scripts, then this might work.


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