“It is the little grey cells, mon ami, on which one must rely.”
— Hercule Poirot
The ITV series of television adaptations of Agatha Christie's novels and short stories starring Hercule Poirot. By which we mean it adapts all of the Poirot novels and short stories. All of them.The series ran as hour-long episodes on ITV (UK) and PBS (US) from 1989 to 1993, with sets of feature-length specials running in 1994, 1995, 2000-1, 2003-4, 2005-6, 2008-9, and 2010. The final set of stories was released in 2013, just missing David Suchet's original intention to do all of them before his 65th birthday in May 2011.David Suchet portrays the titular Belgian detective, and his performance is generally regarded as the definitive version.The adaptations have a long Start to Corpse time, sometimes up to half an hour. This is consistent with the original works: Agatha Christie herself rarely began her books or stories with the discovery of a body, and we frequently meet the victims while they are still alive.So far, the complete series is out on DVD and Blu-Ray in Europe on 18 November 2013, five days after its finale, and now it's being released in the United States as well: Seasons 1-6 were released on 23 October 2012, and the remaining series will be released along with the Complete Cases Collection on 4 November 2014.
The series provides examples of:
Absence of Evidence: In The Labours of Hercules, Alice Cunningham's dog is extremely calm, despite the strange man who invaded her room...
Adaptational Attractiveness: Miss Lemon was described in the books as "ugly" and "hideous." Though not a supermodel, the Miss Lemon of the adaptation was certainly fairly easy on the eyes.
The Labours of Hercules injects a lot of angst that was not in the original short stories. Poirot is wracked with guilt after a young woman he assured of his protection was murdered instead, and his meeting with Countess Rossakoff in Switzerland reminds him of his loneliness. The Breaking Speech he receives at the end doesn't help matters.
The Mysterious Affair at Styles suggests that Hastings is suffering from shellshock.
Adaptation Decay: In-Universe Ariadne Oliver's detective character undergoes many changes in the process of being adapted to the stage in Mrs McGinty's Dead.
Adaptation Expansion: The short stories were often fluffed out in the series with additional context. "Yellow Iris", for example, was connected to shady dealings with Argentine military officers aiming for a coup. It provides the the killer's motive in both the original death and the attempted one—he didn't want it to be known that he'd spent his ward's bank account in those dealings, or that they were lost forever when the coup was undone.
It's strongly hinted that one character in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is gay as well, although this is less essential to the plot than the other examples.
Adapted Out: The novel Three-Act Tragedy was a team-up between Poirot and Mr Satterthwaite, one of Christie's other detectives; the TV adaptation does not have Mr Satterthwaite in it.
Aliens Speaking English: Despite his Poirot Speak constantly reminding us that French is his first language, there are times when he interviews other native Francophones in English, e.g. in "Elephants Can Remember" in which there is a lengthy two-hander between Poirot and another native French-speaker in Paris - and Poirot still lapses into Poirot Speak, thereby destroying the excuse that it could be simple Translation Convention. Even more noticeable in ‘The Chocolate Box’. The entire story takes place in Brussels, yet everyone only speaks perfect British English, except for Poirot who continues in Poirot Speak.
Subverted in Death in the Clouds, in which Poirot interviews a French woman entirely in French. However, he conducts the interview in front of an English speaker who knows almost no French, so neither Aliens Speaking English nor Translation Convention would work.
And Starring: Zoe Wanamaker gets this in Ariadne Oliver's later appearances.
Arc Words: "I am Poirot" in The Labours of Hercules.
Aside Glance: The final shot of Curtain is Poirot staring directly into the camera.
Asshole Victim: Miss Springer in Cat Among the Pigeons; Mrs. Clapperton in Problem at Sea; Henry Reedburn in The King Of Clubs; Harrington Pace in The Mystery of Hunter's Lodge; Simeon Lee in Hercule Poirot's Christmas; Ratchett in Murder On The Orient Express; Lord Edgware of Lord Edgware Dies; Lady Boynton in Appointment with Death; Mme. Giselle in Death in the Clouds; Paul Deroulard in The Chocolate Box; Stephen Norton in Curtain.
Back for the Finale: Hastings, Miss Lemon, and Inspector (now Assistant Commissioner) Japp, all of whom disappeared without a trace after 2001, appear in the final season's The Big Four (which Poirot himself notes). Hastings also appears in the final episode, Curtain.
Bittersweet Ending: Curtain, to the entire series. Poirot has solved the crime and justice has been done. Unfortunately, the only way to achieve justice was for Poirot to kill the murderer, then die of a heart attack while throwing himself on God's mercy. By the episode's end, poor Hastings has lost both his wife and his best friend, and his daughter has gone to Africa, leaving him entirely alone.
Continuity Nod: The reappearance of Countess Rossakoff in The Labours of Hercules.
Convenience Store Gift Shopping: Poirot has to buy a last-minute gift for Inspector Japp in Hercule Poirot's Christmas. As it happens, Japp appreciates his present far more than Poirot appreciates his...
Dating Catwoman: Toyed with in Double Clue and again Murder in Mesopotamia in a case of Adaptation Expansion on the part of the writers. Turns out she just wanted Poirot to pay her hotel bill.
Hastings: What a stunning girl! Poirot: I sometimes think, mon ami, that you are too easily stunned.
Dying Alone: In Curtain, Poirot falls into this trope as he asks Hastings to let him rest in his bed. As he is dying alone of angina, he mutters out his final words in a whisper to God, "Forgive me..." and reaches for the rosary. In the next few scenes, Hastings returns to find Poirot's now lifeless body slumped over on his bed. So heartbreaking.
Hastings: Poirot, the point of the Victory Ball is to go as someone famous. Poirot:Precisely. Hastings: Oh.
Gayngst: Later adaptations (for example, Five Little Pigs, Halloween Party) occasionally add quite angsty storylines about gay characters (that weren't necessarily gay in the original). Since Britain of the 30's wasn't a gay-friendly place by all means, the "angst" part is justified.
It's for a Book: Used as a cover by the killer in Elephants Can Remember - mildly lampshaded in that even the killer is surprised that the victim fell for it.
It Will Never Catch On: A character who lives in Wimbledon comments in The Veiled Lady, "It hasn't been the same round here since they started the tennis up the road. You get all these riff-raff come to watch!"
Leave Behind a Pistol: Although Poirot doesn't leave behind the pistol himself, he does allow Mrs. Folliat the opportunity to give her son and herself this option in Dead Man's Folly.
Manly Tears: In Curtain, Hastings, who has maintained a Stiff Upper Lip on the topic of his wife's recent death, is suddenly reminded of her and begins weeping.
The Mole: The Clocks revolves around Poirot trying to determine which of the weirdo denizens of Wilbraham Crescent is, in actuality, a Nazi spy.
Mundane Solution: In The Veiled Lady, Captain Hastings heroically runs after a blackmailer to try to find out where he lives. Poirot doesn't bother joining Hastings. He looks the blackmailer's address up in the phone book.
Murder-Suicide: The solution to Elephants Can Remember. Things get complicated, however, when it comes to the identity of one of the victims.
My Greatest Failure: The Chocolate Box for Poirot. Until the ending reveals that he solved the case correctly, but allowed the murderer to die from a terminal illness instead of being jailed.
Not Now, Kiddo: In The ABC Murders, Captain Hastings has a terribly hard time getting anyone to listen to his story about shooting a cayman in Venezuela.
Not So Different: In the adaptation of The Big Four, Poirot tells off the villain regarding his taste for theatrics. He points out that Poirot is the same, given his need for a Summation Gathering instead of just sending in the police to arrest him.
Obfuscating Stupidity: Poirot frequently plays the dotty old man to disarm suspects, making them more vulnerable to his questioning. He also uses his accent to this purpose, as he explains in Three-Act Tragedy:
"It is true that I can speak the exact, the idiomatic English. But, my friend, to speak the broken English is an enormous asset. It leads people to despise you. They say - a foreigner - he can't even speak English properly. It is not my policy to terrify people - instead, I invite their gentle ridicule. Also I boast! An Englishman he says often, 'A fellow who thinks as much of himself as that cannot be worth much.' That is the English point of view. It is not at all true. And so, you see, I put people off their guard."
Obi-Wan Moment: In Curtain, as Poirot is bedridden and about to die of a heart condition, he uses this moment to reassure Captain Hastings that there are "loose ends to be tied up"; that the death of Stephen Norton was not suicide, but rather murder; and that Hastings should go downstairs for breakfast and let him rest. This culminates in a Say Your Prayers moment.
Pragmatic Adaptation: The Labours of Hercules, which was a collection of twelve short stories. Among other things:
The main plot combines "The Arcadian Deer" (Williamson and Nita), "The Erymanthian Boar" (Marrascaud), "The Stymphalean Birds" (the Clayton marriage), "The Girdle of Hypollita" (the stolen paintings), and "The Capture of Cerebus" (Countess Rossakoff and Alice Cunningham). Other stories receive only passing references—for example, the set-up for Waring's stay in Switzerland comes from "The Augean Stables."
Say Your Prayers: More than halfway towards the end of Curtain, as Poirot is bedridden and minutes towards death via heart condition, he makes a prayer to God, asking him for forgiveness for his deeds, and clasps the rosary in his hands while doing so, resulting in Death Equals Redemption.
Serial Killer: Alice Cunningham, a.k.a. Marrascaud in The Labours of Hercules.
Series Continuity Error: Thanks to the Setting Update. In the TV series, Hastings meets his eventual wife in 1936 instead of the early 1920s. Nevertheless, his daughter is a woman in her early twenties as of Curtain, set in 1949.
Starts with Their Funeral/In Medias Res: The Big Four starts with what appears to be Poirot's funeral before flashing back to how his friends got there in the first place. Of course, none of them have any idea that Poirot is Faking the Dead until after the final showdown with Claud Darrell, the only villain of the so-called Big Four.
Stupid Sacrifice: Waring is addicted to doing this in The Labours of Hercules. Poirot calls him out on it.
The Summation: Just about every episode concludes with one of these.
Third-Person Person: Poirot usually speaks of himself this way. Dr. Lutz lampshades it in The Labours of Hercules.
Title Drop: Murder on the Links, in a conversation between Hastings and Bella.
To Be Lawful or Good: Poirot at the conclusion of Murder On the Orient Express. At first, he refuses to compromise his principles by allowing the killers to go unpunished. To which their only response is, We tried it your way. The law failed us. With the weight of the entire Armstrong family on his shoulders, Poirot ultimately walks right past the police, letting the perpetrators off the hook.
Downplayed, though, in that Poirot seems unsure if what he did was "good".
Subverted in The King Of Clubs, in which Poirot seemingly has little problem letting the killer go free, due to a combination of Asshole Victim and the fact that the killing was accidental and not premeditated.
Subverted again in The Chocolate Box. Poirot has no difficulty with allowing the murderer to die of illness instead of being convicted, on the grounds that the murder had been regrettable but justified.
Curtain, in which Poirot faces a murderer who cannot be convicted. Poirot executes him, then allows himself to die of a heart attack.
Unwitting Pawn: Cust in The ABC Killings.He suffers from blackouts and memory loss. The killer, who Cust thinks is his friend, ensures he is at the scene of each murder so he'll be framed for them, and even plants the idea in Cust's mind that he committed the murders during his lapses in memory.
Villainous BSOD: Played with in Curtain. Poirot apparently turns the murderer into a sobbing mess by pointing to the psychological origins of his problems. Except that the murderer is just acting.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: One of the suspects in The Clocks, a blind geriatric named Miss Pebmarsh, lived through World War One and was rightly traumatized by the young lives lost in the war. She conspires with the Nazis under a misguided belief that committing treason is preferable to a second war with Germany. Note that in the book, the story happened after world war two, during the Cold War instead.
Yes-Man: Hastings to Poirot, as Hastings ruefully acknowledges in Dumb Witness.
You Just Told Me: Played with in The Labours of Hercules, where it's Poirot who mistakenly reveals an important piece of information to someone he thinks is the right person, but most certainly is not.