Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple
Channel: ABC 1
Time-Slot: Fridays, 8.30 pm
Watching Agatha Christie murder mysteries reminds me of my university days. I don’t know if you’ve ever had this educational experience: sitting in some sort of classroom listening to a teacher speaking, hearing them clearly, recognizing the words they use – but still not having the faintest clue as to what is going on. Welcome to the world of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot.
I am admittedly a mystery buff. I can’t think of anything better on a winter’s evening than rugging up in front of the tellie and applying my mind to solving some criminal caper – sad, I know. But it’s a past-time I share with a great many Australians. The murder mystery continues to be a well-supported genre and few have such dedicated followings as the television versions of Agatha’s Christie’s great detectives. The fastidious Belgium Hercule Poirot has appeared in 60 episodes on Australian television with hopes of the twelfth series arriving soon. The ABC is currently re-running the third series of Christie’s sugar-sweet Miss Marple with at least ten more episodes in the vaults. And when they run out, I’m sure Poirot will step into the gap once more.
To be honest, though, I approach Agatha Christie television with a certain degree of fatality. The more faithful the series are to the novels, the more I know I’m going to have that university experience all over again. Christie’s mysteries are something of a cheat because their solutions inevitably rely on pieces of information that the audience are not privy to. These may come in the form of personal inquiries made by Poirot and telegrams received by Miss Marple, or simply historical pieces of information our sleuths are aware of that we are not. To enjoy an Agatha Christie mystery you have to find something other than the puzzle to focus on. It could be the period drama, the highly original characters or even the subtle sense of humour the BBC and ITV series inject. I suspect most people don’t try and solve the crime, they just enjoy the overwhelming whirl of information and intuitively place their bets.
Strangely, many people adopt the same approach when they consider spiritual mysteries. I believe most people take a ‘You can’t possibly know’ approach to matters of God, the soul and eternal life. In fact some people even positively enjoy the whirl of conflicting evidence, and surrender themselves to the ‘mystic’ nature of it all. Making an intuitive guess as to which feels right seems to be the only thing you can do when the information can’t be sorted out. However life is not like an Agatha Christie episode. The information is freely available, the contradictions have been identified, the historical information can be sifted. Yet we still spend less time considering the question than we devote to Friday night entertainment. Strange, when you consider that it is our own life and death at stake.
Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple is as superbly crafted as any British period drama. Geraldine McEwan is my favourite Miss Marple and continues to insinuate herself into the homes of grieving families with style. Look out for guest appearances by some of Britain’s finest actors as well – Richard E. Grant as Miss Marple’s nephew is a treat. But I recommend you leave the crime’s solution to Agatha, and apply your mind to eternal mysteries you can definitely solve.