“It is the little grey cells, mon ami, on which one must rely.”
— Hercule Poirot
The 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.
The series provides examples of:
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.
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.
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.
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.
And Starring: Zoe Wanamaker gets this in Ariadne Oliver's later appearances.
Asshole Victim: The 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.
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.
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!"
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.
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."
Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Done in-universe in Elephants Can Remember. Marie passes herself off as from Boston, but Poirot catches some pronunciation slips that indicate that she's actually Canadian.
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.
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.
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.