Doc On The Box – Jonathan Creek Series Three – The Eyes of Tiresias

Jonathan Creek 3And so to Series Three of Jonathan Creek – a series that is so bad, according to one commentor on the reviews for Series One and Series Two that I should just stop after the Series Two Christmas Special, Black Canary. It can’t be that bad, can it?

No cast changes for the main part of this series, until the Christmas episode when Caroline Quentin disappears for good to be replaced, for now, with Julia Sawalha as Carla. But we’ll come to that in a bit.

The episode that I’ve chosen from this series is The Eyes Of Tiresias – an old woman has a dream about a man being murdered in his office. Lo and behold, the dream comes true, down to the exact details. Is she truly a prophet? If so, things look bleak, as she’s dreamt about her own murder as well…

Why this episode? Well, to be honest, I couldn’t remember much about it, or having much opinion about it, so why not?

Let’s get one thing out of the way first of all – did David Renwick use some sort of randomiser as to the state of Jonathan and Maddy’s relationship ? Despite what happens later in the series (and we’ll come to that in a bit too) while on a sort-of date, she gets horrendously drunk and launches herself at the first man she fancies. You really have to wonder why Jonathan even entertains her at this point. Love may be blind, but it’s pretty stupid as well. I appreciate the joke that Renwick wants to set up but even so… And let’s skip over the complete irrelevance of Adam Klaus in this episode (and many others). There’s barely a story there and it bears no relevance to the main plot.

In fact, that is often a weakness of Renwick’s scripts to me. The great murder mysteries have a series of bizarre occurrences that dovetail into one explanation. Rarely is there an irrelevant subplot – at best, it’s misdirection. But often the subplots just feel as if they to pad the episode out and while they may have a twist in them, it’s often a one joke twist.

But putting that to one side, this is a clever mystery, with the right level of misdirection. I’d forgotten most of the mechanics and was looking the way that I was supposed to, rather than at the actually solution. I recall now being a bit annoyed with the plot at the time, but now I think it’s rather clever. The prediction bit does require a leap – back to those multiple coincidences again – did she never notice the lack of label or play it again? But even so, this was a pleasant surprise. If you ignore the Klaus bits and swallow Maddy’s behaviour, then it’s a good watch. The location filming jokes, clearly coming from the heart and foreshadowing the media stuff in Series Four, are pretty funny as well.

The other episodes:

The Curious Tale Of Mr Spearfish – a man who claims to have sold his soul to the devil survives a point blank shooting. Utter nonsense. Renwick seems to be actively finding atypical situations, for which he should be applauded, but it really doesn’t work here.

The Omega Man – a disappearing alien corpse. See the comment above. A low point for the series.

Ghosts Forge – I rewatched this one, and there’s some nice ideas in it. Not an impossible mystery – although there is a very good one in it, and Maddy is at her most charming in this one. The solution to the mystery does have too much coming out of nowhere though – even Jonathan has to ask someone to fill in the gaps – and the sheer impossibility of sustaining the charade even for the length of time that they did beggars belief? And the more you think of it, there are massive plot holes in it all.

Miracle In Crooked Lane – a woman is badly burned when her garden shed explodes. But her neighbour insists that she spoke to the woman – alive and unharmed – several hours later. And something long-teased finally happens. A lot to like here, although the plan rivals No Trace Of Tracy for sheer over-the-top stupidity, especially Tom Goodman-Hill as Jonathan’s biggest fan. One thing that does bother me though – “Was that it? No point pursuing a relationship then” What a wonderful message. As an old romantic, this bothers me a lot.

The Three Gamblers – did a drug dealer with six bullets in his head sort of come back from the grave? Can’t remember much about it other than the mystery is utter rubbish. When watching it the first time, I immediately thought “Surely it’s just…” and I was right.

So overall, 2.5/6 for this series. I think the problem is that there are three very disappointing episodes here which tarnish the others.

Oh, the Christmas special – Satan’s Chimney

Enter Carla Borrego, a theatrical agent, who recruits Jonathan to find how someone be shot through a glass window without breaking it. Then they forget this plot for a while as they head off to a castle to sort out the death of an escapologist, burned to death in the so-called Satan’s Chimney. A good episode, with what appears to be the beginnings of a healthier relationship for Jonathan (although see next series for where that goes) although it does feel at times like there are two different episodes glued together here.

So, not as bad as I expected, but I did avoid the episodes that I have bad memories of… Reviewer’s prerogative, I’m afraid.

So, next time, Series Four which seems to have even less love for it. But on the plus side, it’s got Adrian Edmondson in it, which always helps.


  1. Great reviews. I think it’s a great show, but agree that some episodes are perhaps padded out a little. The Omega Man is a weak point, I agree, and Satan’s Chimney does indeed feel like two eps tied together. Renwick is a genius, though, it must be really hard coming up with this stuff on a regular basis.


    • Do you think? I don’t deny Renwick’s skill early on, but I’d say the skill isn’t in having the ideas, it’s in sifting out the rubbish. Because I spend so much of my work and leisure time immersed in mystery fiction, I have several ideas for mysteries every day. Some are obviously rubbish, some feel great. Some seem great but don’t lead anywhere promising, or aren’t interesting except as puzzles for their own sake, which there’s not really a market for etc. etc.

      Most writers I know are drowning in more ideas than they know what to do with. Even impossible crimes aren’t actually as tricky to invent as you might imagine, at least their bare bones.

      But embryonic ideas on their own are useless. The problem is harnessing the interesting ideas together to make something worthwhile. That’s Renwick’s skill in the first two series, at least. That and combining so many ideas so neatly, even if they’re only slight twists on old favourites. There’s an awful lot packed into an hour (50 minutes for the second series!) Look at what happens in Jack in the Box or Danse Macabre ON TOP OF the impossible crime. Something like Death in Paradise looks positively anaemic in comparison.


  2. Thanks for the reviews Steve – really makes me want to watch them all again – Crooked Lane is the one I remember best but it’s been too long. I am much more forgiving that Rich, clearly, but this is not as good as the first two series.


  3. The first episode The Curious Tale of Mr. Spearfish is absolute trash. Not worth seeing.
    The second episode The Eyes of Tiresias is quite good. A clever mystery. I enjoyed it . However, Maddy’s behaviour was irritating.
    The third episode The Omega Man is another absolute trash. Not worth seeing. Also, it is amazing that U.S. soldiers arrest British citizens in Britain with impunity!


  4. I did not like the fourth episode Ghosts Forge mainly because I doubt that the deception could be kept up for long. Absurd.
    I did not like the fifth episode Miracle in Crooked Lane because like No Trace of Tracy, the scheme is quite complex involving a lot of time and effort.


  5. I liked the sixth episode The Three Gamblers. I regard it as a good mystery with a clever solution. Incidentally, the book shown in the episode Cards As Weapons by Ricky Jay is a real book, currently out of print. However, a limited number of copies are available at, though exorbitantly priced. An attraction of this book is that it contains a number of pictures of naked females practicing the card throws !


  6. Though the impossible murders in Satan’s Chimney have really ingenious solutions, I was bored especially towards the end. The episode is just too long and too slow-paced.
    I agree that there has been a sharp deterioration in quality in series 3.


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