When I was younger, one of my Christmas traditions was to go through the TV guide and see what films were going to be on. There would be the usual suspects, like an animated or live action version of Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’, but there would also be fairly recent releases that I would circle in biro to make sure that I could claim the TV when they were on.
This year, as in recent years, it wasn’t films that were getting my attention but one-off dramas and special episodes.
The eleventh Christmas special of ‘Doctor Who’ was shown, titled ‘The Husbands of River Song’, and ‘Sherlock’ also returned to our TV screens after a two-year hiatus with ‘The Abominable Bride’.
Sadly, these both bordered on fair to mediocre. Instead, it was a three-part adaptation of Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’ that had me completely enthralled.
“Ten little soldier boys went out to dine,
One choked his little self and then there were nine…”
Before watching this BBC adaptation I knew absolutely nothing about Christie’s most revered work, which was arguably the best position to be in.
As the scene became set, it soon became clear why ‘And Then There Was None’ is the best-selling mystery novel in the world; the disconcerting setting and themes fulfilled the genre’s stereotypes perfectly and effectively.
After receiving invitations to stay at Soldier Island, an uninhabited island off the Devon coast save for one house, a comprehensive mix of society is thrown, rather claustrophobically, together. From a highly revered judge to a children’s governess, it’s doubtful that any of the invitees would have come to meet in their everyday lives.
While enjoying their lavish dinner and waiting for their hosts, the strangely absent Mr and Mrs Owen, it soon becomes clear that on Soldier Island, not everything is as innocent as it appears. With a gramophone accusing each of the 10 guests and staff of murder, the sedate dinner atmosphere quickly goes sinister.
Starring an impressive line-up of TV and film favourites, including Charles Dance, Miranda Richardson and Sam Neill, as the minutes ticked by and the story started unravelling, my attention was consistently held, practically on the edge of my seat as the conclusion began.
From Sarah Phelps’ excellent writing to the spot on casting, the whole production came together very well. Tense from the beginning, the three hours flew by and though I correctly solved the mystery, this didn’t detract from my enjoyment at all.
If you’re a mystery or drama fan, this is certainly one for you. And if you’re a ‘Poldark’ fan too, of course; Aidan Turner adds another genre to his ever-increasing portfolio.