And Then There Were None – you might have heard of it. One of Agatha Christie’s most famous works (and not just for the various name changes), it’s a tale where it’s best to know absolutely nothing about it whatsoever going into it. But a lot of people do know lots about it – regardless, the BBC chose to adapt it over three hours as one of their centrepieces of the Christmas TV schedule.
For those of you who might be unaware of the plot – ten people, all of whom have some sort of secret, find themselves on an island with only themselves, ten statues of soldiers (which look more like something sculpted by Lord Percy in Blackadder II, “Money”) and a poem that contains a sinister countdown. And then the countdown starts, as viewers try and work out a) who’s next; b) who’s doing it and c) when Aiden Turner is going to take his shirt off again…
A surprisingly faithful adaptation, especially given P*****rs In C***e earlier in the year. While the ending is necessarily tweaked to spell out exactly what has been going on, it is tweaked in an extremely effective way. The final sequence was extremely well done, with the reveal of the true nature of one of the characters teased out in a compelling, convincing way.
The script was effective, with the nods to modernity (basically swearing and a bit of debauchery as the last four decide to basically say sod it to the killer) fitting with the tone of the piece. And the tone never wavered from the menace of the book. The performances were uniformly excellent (with some big name actors – well, in the UK at least – biting the bullet early) with great work form Aiden Turner (sorry about the shirt comment), Maeve Dermody, Burn Gorman and Toby Stephens.
But… and be warned, we’re dancing around spoilers here…
One aspect of it that was a little problematic is unavoidable with such a good cast. Now, I know what’s going on in the tale as I’ve read the book before, and I’d love to hear from anyone who came to this completely fresh, but the performances were too convincing. Basically, the killer is either someone hiding on the island (and I did think that the flashback sequences helped this theory a little) or one of the ten. If it’s one of the ten, then there aren’t many characters who could convincingly be the killer – the performances are too authentic to be somebody pretending to panic. On the page, this is much easier to hide, but on the screen in front of us, I’m not convinced that the misdirection would have fooled me.
But that’s a niggle because even knowing what was going on, this was a mesmerising bit of television. Unfortunately, I’m not sure what else from Christie’s non-series canon could work this well – Endless Night maybe, although Marple nicked that one – but hopefully people who saw the show and want more might choose to pick up more of Dame Agatha’s fine work. Of course, starting from the best is problematic, but there are plenty of other crackers out there. If I could recommend a few:
That should get you started…