Doc On The Box – Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?

Former Naval Officer Bobby Jones is caddying for his friend Dr Thomas when a missing ball leads him to the cliff edge. Below lies the body of man – as he reaches him, he grasps Bobby’s hand, looks him in the eye and gasps “Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?”. And promptly dies.

After Bobby nearly dies from a bottle of poisoned beer and Dr Thomas “commits suicide”, he, and his childhood friend Lady Frances “Frankie” Derwent begin to investigate. But with no help from the official authorities, can the two plucky young things get to the truth?

Sorry for those of you who don’t have access to Britbox – you won’t be able to watch this. And that’s a real pity as it’s really, really good.

Apparently Hugh Laurie, the adapter and director of this three episode production, loved the book as a child. Maybe he didn’t read much else Christie, as it can best be described as fun, rather than an out and out classic. I also find it pretty forgettable as I’ve read it at least twice – once for the blog – and I never remember what the title means. Of course that made this ideal for me, as I genuinely could remember nothing of the plot apart from the opening scene – and I think that from the Fontana cover rather than the book. Hence for the first time in ages, I could go into a Christie adaptation without knowing the plot.

It’s a really fun watch, and I think that even if I had remembered an iota of the plot, I would still have enjoyed it just as much. Will Poulter and Lucy Boynton make a great pair of leads. Boynton makes the most of Laurie’s script, as the “plucky young gel” character can be unbearable at times, yet Laurie makes her witty and charming, while still being posh and acerbic. Her vulnerable looks when Bobby mentions a rival for her affections are very nicely done too. Meanwhile Poulter, who I’ve seen in a few things usually playing some sort of misfit, does a great job as the heroic lead – the chemistry between the two is almost tangible.

The rest of the cast does a great job too, with Jonathan Jules in the expanded role of Knocker doing a particular good job. The plot is, as far as I can tell, loyal to the book, with only the death of Dr Thomas being added to the plot to give a climax to episode one as well as a motivation for Bobby and Frankie to push forward with their investigation.

It’s not completely perfect – the back story that provides the motive is told verbally rather than visually (for a good reason) but without the visuals, it was a bit hard to keep straight who was who in the past events. Other than that, though, this was a great production – great cast, great script, great direction. It felt both modern and traditional at the same time – Sarah Phelps, take note. This is how Agatha Christie should be done – let’s hope we get to see Hugh Laurie do more of it.

2 comments

  1. Yes, it’s very well done and Sarah Phelps should take lots of notes. You’re right Evans is a fun book – AC wrote a number of what I think of as rom-com mysteries in the early years – Seven Dials, Man in the Brown Suit, Secret of Chimneys and the Berefords in Secret Adversary and Partners in Crime. All light in tone, not quite strict detection and not quite thriller, but enjoyable.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Not seem episode three yet but yes, so much more fun than the Phelps misery-fests that keep being posted on us. This was much more entertaining without being too knowing it camp, just like MAGPIE MURDERS …

    Like

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