Doc On The Box – Jonathan Creek Series Two – The Scented Room

Jonathan Creek 2On to series two of Jonathan Creek, in preparation for the return of the series next Friday. You can see my thoughts on Series One, and The Reconstituted Corpse in particular, here.

On to series two, consisting of six episodes, two of which make up a two-part story. There’s also a ninety minute Christmas special. The cast is basically as in series one – Alan Davies as Jonathan Creek, Caroline Quentin as Maddie Magellan and they’re joined now by Stuart Milligan as Adam Klaus, Jonathan’s boss who had appeared in the first episode played by Anthony Head but then disappeared (as if by magic) for the rest of the series. The comments on the first post seem to indicate that it’s downhill hereafter – but let’s take a look at this series first.

The episode I thought I’d take a look at is The Scented Room. A priceless painting vanishes without trace from inside a watched and impregnable room. Jonathan solves the case in record time, but because he doesn’t like the person who it belonged to – a theatre critic who has slammed Adam’s shows in the past – he decides to torture him by keeping the solution to himself.

Didn’t really mention Alan Davies in the last post – that was silly of me. While it seems that Renwick didn’t intend him to be the star of the show, despite his character being the title of it, I personally think he steals it from Caroline Quentin from the first episode. For someone who was basically new to straight acting, it’s a great understated performance. And now he’s being given a little more to do – the addition of Klaus (who, by the way, is never given anything remotely worthwhile to do – it’s a wonder Stuart Milligan stuck around for three series and a special) gives someone for Jonathan to react to without Maddie being around.

In this episode, we see him revelling in confounding the critic, even when the truth is revealed, and, more importantly, the developing relationship between Jonathan and Maddie. By the end of the series, it’s clear that they both care about each other, even with the various obstacles that get in their way. Maddie’s character seems to have had her excesses toned down in this series, although that may be due to Jonathan’s influence, rather than a character re-write.

The mystery here is pretty clever, although it’s not really clued – Jonathan’s ham sandwich remark notwithstanding. Although… I’m not convinced that in the time available, the SPOILER could be safely inserted into the SPOILER without it falling out again. Is that nitpicking? Unlike some episodes, it would seem that the impossibility was put in to service the charactes’ stories, rather than the impossibility coming first and the plot following. Overall, it’s a really good episode, much better than I remember it being.

The other episodes in the series are:

Danse Macabre – a proper locked room vanishing, fairly clued and suitably dark. A great start to the series.

Time Waits For Norman – an original set-up where a man, obsessed with time and clocks, is spotted almost simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Problem At Gallows’ Gate (2 episodes) – one of the best whodunits in the series, but it is unfortunately one episode too long. The impossibility bit is a little on the prosaic side though.

Mother Redcap – a double mystery concerning an old pub where people dropped dead in the middle of the night over the years and a judge is stabbed through the heart despite being surrounded by police and barred windows. A highly atmospheric episode that scared the pants off me when I first saw it.

Black Canary – Christmas Special – despite only one real mystery, it holds the attention over the full running time. A complex tale concerning an apparent suicide and a tramp who walks on air, leaving no footprints in the snow. Highly enlivened by Rik Mayall as Inspector Pryke, who delights in revealing bits that Jonathan tends to keep to himself. ADDENDUM: Just rewatched this and points off for the horrible selfish thing that Maddie does at the end.

So, another strong series. Let’s see what I think of series three soon.


  1. Scented Room doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny, but it’s fun and I like the attempt to fiddle with the formula. It’s nice to see something other than a murder, and Renwick comes up with a great way for Jonathan to solve the mystery straight away (as you’d expect him to) and still keep the solution secret until the end. Great wildcard casting of Bob Monkhouse, I always think.

    Danse Macabre is great, although it marks the beginning of a tradition of the police being rubbish at their jobs in Jonathan Creek.

    Loved Mother Redcap when I first saw it. On rewatching, I’m not sure it’s a classic. Solid working of an old trick though.

    Black Canary is really very good. I’m not sure it makes enough sense in the end to oust Jack in the Box as the best one (it has an obliquely similar to problem to Murder in Mesopotamia), but it’s a very strong 90 minutes, especially in showing the few ways that Maddie can outwit Jonathan. For some reason I didn’t much like it when I first saw it. I don’t think thirteen year old me liked being baffled!

    But can’t we just leave it there, Doc? With the exception of Gallow’s Gate, which I agree is a bit of a drag, all of Series 1 and 2 are highly watchable and rewatchable. Let’s just pretend that’s it 🙂


    • As for the addendum. I like that Maddie’s quite selfish like that. Not a trait you get to see much in female leads. And I don’t much need my detectives/sidekicks to be likeable.

      What hasn’t dated well is their competition about the police sergeant… eeeugh.


      • The competition is very One Foot In The Grave, Renwick’s other great work. And there’s more to come in Series 3 concerning the overall shallowness of both characters, in fact.


    • Nope. In for a penny, in for a pound. Any requests on which of Series 3 to watch. IRRC, Miracle In Crooked Lane is the best but I remember it pretty well. I think the Eyes of Tiresias is OK, and the rest… Ghosts Forge maybe? No intention of going anywhere near the other three…


      • Miracle in Crooked Lane is probably the best, but, compared with the previous seasons, none in the third really hold up. They have their moments, but even the abysmal fourth season had one good (The Tailor’s Dummy) and one decent (Angel Hair) episode.


  2. Yes, I always thought that there wasn’t enough time to get the effect in place either, but it is highly entertaining all the same.

    Ah come on Rich, plenty of goodies yet to come! Black Canary is wonderfully entertaining and the impossible crime is a beauty – from the run of six episodes I might pick Mother Redcap as my favourite actually.


    • Did you mean Satan’s Chimney? The Doc included Black Canary in this series.

      Satan’s Chimney got a wonderful setup in the castle, but the pacing’s completely out of whack. The first impossible crime isn’t mentioned for the entire middle hour (in terms of the details of how it might have been worked) and there’s so much that goes on between leaving the studio and the final reveal that I think viewers might genuinely have forgotten the details surrounding the first murder.

      There are good things to say about Miracle in Crooked Lane, but again things are a bit wonky there. I honestly might give both episodes up to just have 13 brilliant episodes.


      • No, I was distinguishing between the six-part series 2 and the Christmas special. I really like Satan’s Chimney though and the pacing never bothered me at all – but like you would probably single out Crooked Lane from season 3 (well, a bit of a milestone for the two main characters of course). Clearly I am much less critical than you on these Rich!


      • Oh well then I agree. As I said in my comment, Black Canary is great. Probably the second best episode of the whole show.

        I just can’t find anything to recommend in something like The Clue of the Savant’s Thumb. It’s pure nonsense from start to finish, made worse because mysteries are presented as nonsense with the promise of making sense at the end.

        But for me there’s such a thin line between a very contrived mystery (as impossible crimes almost always have to me) working and falling completely flat. That’s why I find it hard to recommend more than a handful of Carr’s mysteries.


  3. The first episode Danse Macabre is very good. A clever mystery. However, the scene in the plane towards the end seems stupid. A person is carrying SPOILER as hand baggage. Is this really possible? Wouldn’t it have been detected by the Xray scanner?
    I did not like the second episode Time Waits for Norman. I doubt whether such an arrangement can work in practice for long.
    I did not like the third episode The Scented Room. I doubt that the plan would work. First, in the short time available, not only has the SPOILER to be safely inserted into the SPOILER, but also something has to be done before that. Secondly, since an extremely valuable painting is in the room,Martha would certainly be keeping a watchful eye and ensuring while leaving the room that SPOILER. The Paul Halter trick cannot work here.


  4. The Problem at Gallows’ Gate is a very clever whodunit. Though there are 2 episodes, I did not find it too long.
    Mother Redcap is excellent involving 2 mysteries with ingenious solutions. One of the best.
    Though the main plot idea of Black Canary is very clever, I thought that it was a bit too long.
    Regarding the selfishness of Maddie, that is her character. I blame Jonathan for allowing himself to be manipulated. I suggest that he read the book “Pulling Your Own Strings” by Wayne W. Dyer.
    I have now seen all the episodes of seasons 1 and 2. I did not like only 3 episodes: No Trace Of Tracy, Time Waits for Norman,The Scented room. I enjoyed much the rest.
    Thanks for bringing the series to our attention.


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