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Series / Jonathan Creek

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A cult British Detective Drama about the eponymous Jonathan Creek (Alan Davies), a celebrity magician's trick-designer with a keen eye for detail and lateral thinking who helps solve seemingly impossible crimes, often a Locked Room Mystery. He works together with Intrepid Reporter Maddy Magellan (Caroline Quentin) — and later, with Carla Borrego (Julia Sawalha) in the fourth series and with Joey Ross (Sheridan Smith) in the subsequent specials. After a significant hiatus and Character Development, this role was transferred to Jonathan's new wife Polly (Sarah Alexander). The show was written by David Renwick, otherwise known for One Foot in the Grave. The two shows share his trademark intricate plotting and black sense of humour.

Jonathan has a thing or two in common with Sherlock Holmes, in that he's a bit of a social dolt and obsessed with his job, and feels most comfortable just quietly working on his gadgets. However, unlike Holmes, he's neither very crass nor particularly brilliant (just regular clever and Good with Numbers). Love Interest Maddy subverts a number of tropes as well: she's not part of The Beautiful Elite, and the tension between her and Jonathan just quietly builds up without too much drama. Both are simply rather ordinary people with a keen eye for detail, caught up in extraordinary events.

The show's chief theme was the same one expressed by Sherlock Holmes in his aphorism "once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth". Jonathan would explain that most people are much more willing to consider something "impossible" or invent a supernatural explanation, than allow themselves to believe that a man would put himself to the trouble of arranging a complex set of events to make it look that way. Jonathan takes this one step further by pointing out that most people are eager to believe extraordinary phenomena simply because the solutions are mind-numbingly banal: "People beg me to explain, but itís the last thing you want to hear. Because Iím disproving a miracle."

Jonathan's employer, Adam Klaus, became a regularly appearing character from the second series, usually in a comic-relief subplot rather than getting involved in the mystery-solving. Although a skilled magician, Adam is also a great big jerk.

The first three series aired between 1997 and 2000. A Christmas special aired in 2001, introducing TV presenter Carla Borrego as Maddy's replacement and was followed by a full fourth series in 2003-04. A few feature-length specials (featuring third female sidekick, Joey Ross) followed; one at New Year 2009, one at Easter 2010, and one at Easter 2013. Prior to the airing of the 2013 special, it was announced that a new series (consisting of three 60-minute episodes) had been commissioned for 2014, the show's first full run in a decade; this was followed by a Christmas special in 2016, considered an early 20th anniversary special. Renwick has since confirmed that he has no plans to write any further episodes, citing his growing disillusionment with the television industry.

Jonathan Creek provides examples of:

  • Abnormal Ammo: In "The Letters of Septimus Noone", Ridley proposes a solution to the crime that involves the victim being shot with a crossbow bolt made of frozen blood. He's wrong, especially as his theory also involves the victim lying on the floor doing stretching exercises in her underwear when she was shot in order to explain the angle of the wound.
  • Accident, Not Murder:
    • In "The Reconstituted Corpse", a new wardrobe is delivered to Maddy's flat. After seeing that it is empty she gets it up to her flat only to find the dead body of a murder suspect inside it. This turns out to a case of Time-Delayed Death, as the victim had suffered a blow to the head earlier. She had broken into the flat and was forced to hide in the wardrobe as it was being pushed into Maddy's bedroom, but promptly expired from a slow bleed on the brain from the earlier blow.
    • In "The Letters of Septimus Noone", an accidental blow reopens a wound from an attempted murder the Victim of the Week was deliberately concealing, causing a Time-Delayed Death that turns what would have been a mundane (if tragic) death into a Locked Room Mystery. Granted, she didn't actually die.
  • All Drummers Are Animals: The band Edwin Drood had Marty Crowe who got the band thrown out of Zaire by riding a wildebeest into the presidents' jacuzzi and was known for his stunt of urinating on the audience.
  • All Musicals Are Adaptations: "The Letters of Septiumus Noone" is set around an operatic adaptation of The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux, which Locked Room Mystery fan Jonathan thinks is a travesty.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Invoked and discussed as part of the "Eureka!" Moment for "The Coonskin Cap", which is partly triggered when Jonathan sees a reproduction of Edvard Munch's The Scream. When explaining himself to Carla, he tells her that sometimes you have to look at the facts you're given from a different perspective in order to solve the crime; as an example, Jonathan points out that while the most common interpretation of the painting is that it depicts someone screaming in horror, some art experts argue that it in fact depicts someone hearing a terrible scream and reacting in horror.
  • Always Murder: Murder is involved in most of the stories. The exceptions are "The Seer of the Sands" and "Time Waits for Norman" which involve unravelling an elaborate con, "No Trace of Tracy" and "The Curse of the Bronze Lamp", kidnappings where the victims are eventually rescued, uninjured, "The Curious Tale of Mr Spearfish", which explains a Deal with the Devil, "The Omega Man", a fake alien hoax, "The Scented Room", a stolen painting, "The Clue of the Savant's Thumb" an accidental death that gets covered up, "The Letters of Septimus Noone" attempted murder covered up by the *victim*, who later recovers. Other episodes can contain a murder, but as a sub-plot that isn't part of the main mystery "Miracle on Crooked Lane", whilst others have suicide or euthanasia as the solution. Notably series 5 has no murders at all.
  • Always Someone Better: Gideon Pryke, Rik Mayall's character in "Black Canary", is The Ace — just as clever as Jonathan, and extremely Genre Savvy. In a very sweet twist on the trope, though, the two instantly get along well and they happily work together on the case.
    • In-universe, a lot of people seem to think that Joey is this to Jonathan, with him even being referred to as her "Watson" at one point in "The Judas Tree", which she does not even try to deny.
  • Amateur Sleuth: Jonathan is a reluctant one of these, getting dragged into cases by Maddy (and sometomes kidnapped by the police when they want him to help out).
  • Ambiguous Gender: Sergeant Richie (Gideon Pryke's deputy in "Black Canary"); in an episode-long Running Gag, Jonathan and Maddy disagree on his/her gender and have a £10 bet - just before the resolution, they spot him/her heading for the end of a corridor with male toilets and one side and female on the other, but Pryke closes the door before they can see. Amusingly at the end they've managed to switch positions and each try to pay the other — but neither they nor the viewers find out which it was. The character was played by a man.
  • And Starring: Stuart Milligan (Adam) gets this credit. In "The Clue of the Savantís Thumb", Rik Mayall gets the "with" and Joanna Lumley the "and".
  • Appeal to Audacity: Happened quite a lot, in which suspects and witnesses alike would come up with ridiculous stories — and Jonathan would believe every word, working with the logic that if they were truly covering for a crime, they'd hardly be stupid enough to come up with a story that no one would ever believe.
  • Armour-Piercing Question: In "Jack in The Box", Maddie proposes an elaborate solution for the Locked Room Mystery they are facing, only for Jonathan to bring her to a screeching halt with a single word: "Why?".
    "Why did he do that rather eccentric thing you've just described as opposed to ... shooting himself in the sitting room?"
  • Artistic License Ė Law Enforcement: "The Problem at Gallows Gate" has a woman identify a murderer from a line-up of suspects...whilst in the same room with them. She's actually escorted past them, giving the would-be killer ample opportunity for a good look at the key witness. This was actually a practice in police line-ups at one point historically, though should not have been by the time of this episode.
  • Ashes to Crashes: A woman spilling her mother's ashes, and the ashes then vanishing while she is out of the room, forms a minor mystery in "The Letters of Septimus Noone". The woman is convinced that her mother's remains have been called to Heaven. Jonathan finds a more prosaic solution.
  • As Himself:
    • In "The Three Gamblers", Adam appears on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross.
    • In "The Grinning Man", The Puppini Sisters are performing at a fete.
  • Asshole Victim: Often. Sometimes if the crime is something less serious than murder, this is enough for Jonathan and Maddy to conceal the truth from them (although this leads to Fridge Logic considering Maddy writes up all the stories for publication). Other times, if said victim did something awful enough, they will occasionally concede they got what they deserved and not take any further action, such as in "Satan's Chimney" and "The Judas Tree".
    • "The Scented Room" shows Maddy explaining to her psychiatrist that unfortunately she won't be able to publish the story, since she and Jonathan sided with the perpetrator against the Asshole Victim. Presumably she doesn't publish other cases of the sort as well. Out of interest, the Asshole Victim in this particular case wasn't a murder victim, but simply a smarmy critic who had a valuable painting stolen.
  • Attention Whore: Adam. He is willing to be buried alive, stand a public trial for sexual assault, literally be crucified, and then live in a pigsty with pigs, to get publicity.
  • Authentication by Newspaper: Subverted in the 2008 special.
  • Axe Before Entering: In "Satan's Chimney", an axe is used to break down the door (during movie shooting) to reveal a Locked Room Mystery: the actress has been shot dead in an empty, locked with with the window closed and no hole in the glass. The axe was part of the murder. The killer used a gun hidden in the handle of the axe to shoot her as he smashed in the door.
  • Badass Bystander: In "The Scented Room", a little old lady watches Adam get nailed into a coffin to be lowered into the ground as part of an endurance test. Unfortunately, she thinks they're gangsters, and attacks them with a tree branch, a can of mace, and a whistle. She manages to take out three grown men!
  • Banana Peel: After seeing an advertisement invoking this trope, Jonathan tries to prove that it could never happen. He finally slips and falls backwards... but is still proved correct considering it was actually a dog turd that he slipped on.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Writer David Renwick loves these.
    • In "The Tailor's Dummy", the victim's granddaughter is presented as a rather quiet, pale, nervous girl who always seems twitchy and uncomfortable and at the climax is reacts in horror when one of the other characters discovers her with a needle, with the heavy implication that she's a drug addict who may have had some involvement in her grandfather's death. She's actually a diabetic, the needle is for her insulin, and she was about to take it when she happened to stumble upon evidence implicating the other character in her grandfather's death, hence the horror.
    • In "The Wrestler's Tomb" (the very first episode), artist Hedley Shale is shot dead and the episode appears to point towards his wife Serena as the murderer as revenge for an affair with Francesca, one of his past models who is found bound and gagged. One problem; Serena was supposedly in her office the whole morning her husband was murdered with her secretary confirming she didn't leave. Jonathan works out a completely plausible way how Serena could have left the office to commit the murder without anyone seeing her... Jonathan then instantly rubbishes this as it would still leave too much to chance (in fact Serena had truly never left her office). It emerges that Hedley was actually having an affair with his cleaning lady and Francesca, furious that he turned her down, bound and gagged herself and shot Hedley using her toes to operate the gun.
    • In "The Seer of the Sands", Adam is persuaded to hire a midget as his bodyguard. The guy is well-trained but seemingly unable to get a break due to his diminutive size. It soon becomes apparent, though, that the actual reason for his unemployability is that he is an alcoholic.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Maddy, being an investigative journalist, is pretty good at throwing these.
  • Bedtime Brainwashing: The solution to "The Eyes of Tiresias" hinges on this, with an old woman hearing details of a planned murder that had been recorded on to a CD that played while she slept, causing her to have what she believed was a prophetic dream about the coming murder.
  • Big Eater: Maddy.
    I don't know what I want, I'm not even hungry. A drop of chilli will do me, with some rice. And a spot of salad...and some garlic bread. A jacket potato. Oh, and some crisps.
  • Big Fancy House: Ghosts Forge is one and the implications go a long way in covering up that the actual owner of the house isn't as old as the viewer might think...
  • Black Comedy Rape: In a deleted scene in "The Grinning Man", Joey's actress friend Mina gives her tickets to her new play and warns her that there's a graphic rape scene. Cut to Mina getting taken from behind by a man in a papier-mâché bull's head making loud mooing noises.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: A non-gun example of this occurs in "The Three Gamblers"; Jonathan uses a card trick he's been learning to throw a playing card with such force that it forces a criminal to drop a gun when the criminal was threatening Maddie (although Jonathan admits that he was actually "aiming for his balls").
  • Blind Musician: Subverted by Hewie Harper in "The Problem at Gallows Gate" — he used to be blind but had corrective surgery and only told a very small group of people about it. Following this, he pretends to be be blind in order to maintain his reputation and feel up women because that's how he "sees" what they look like. He does not get away with this.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: In "The Reconstituted Corpse", Maddy and Jonathan demand to know a suspect's mobile number, then demand to know why he called Maddy's flat. He asks how they could possibly know that, and they reveals the number on a piece of paper, saying they dialed 1471 to get it. It's only well after his Engineered Public Confession that he realises that 1471 doesn't store mobile numbers, and Jonathan wrote down his mobile number right there when he read it out.
  • Bound and Gagged: In "The Sinner and the Sandman", Jonathan finds two people bound, gagged and tied to chairs, and unties them. Unfortunately for him, they are a pair of burglars the real householders had overpowered and tied up to await the police.
  • Britain Is Only London: Averted. Maddy lives in London and Adam does his show in a West End theatre, but many of the mysteries are set in rural England — or Scotland, in the case of "The Devil's Chimney". Jonathan's windmill is in Sussex.
  • British Brevity: A very notable example, because Renwick needs a lot of time to formulate each locked room mystery.
  • Broken Pedestal: Jonathan lampshades this when he finds he's about to meet his hero, hardcore prog-rock icon Roy Pilgrim:
    Jonathan: I can't go in there.
    Maddy: Why not?
    Jonathan: Roy Pilgrim! I can't meet Roy Pil... you're talking about mythology! You reduce someone like that to flesh and blood, the whole thing's destroyed, the whole icon...
    Maddy: Jonathan, you're beginning to sound like a prat.
    • Sure enough, a minor case ensues; Jonathan is struck dumb with mild disillusionment when he learns that Roy Pilgrim is a devoted viewer of The Waltons.
  • Bullet Dancing: Mr Ipswich does this to the two burglars who break into his house at the end of "The Sinner and the Sandman"; pulling a pistol out of his stuffed rabbit. The burglars think it is a prop till he starts shooting at their feet.
  • The Butler Did It: Zig-zagged in "Black Canary." The butler certainly shot the victim - the rub was that she'd already died of a self-inflicted overdose hours before.
  • Butt-Monkey: Adam may be a jerk but he also suffers a lot of humiliations throughout the series. Pretty much anything he does wrong is guaranteed to backfire. Even when he isn't doing something wrong, the universe still seems to punish him just for being smarmy.
  • Call-Back: Being the 2016 Christmas Special (and, as it turned out, the last-ever episode), "Daemon's Roost" has quite a few.
    • The vicar's car is a Volvo estate, just like Maddy's.
    • Alison's mum seemingly screaming in a window in the background of a photo recalls the way in which the body was found looking out of a window in "Ghosts Forge".
    • The man trying to kill Jonathan is the murderer from "The House of Monkeys" who has recently been released from prison, some 19 years after the events of that episode (in which he was an unseen character in that episode).
    • The windmill is briefly seen when the removal men are packing Jonathan's magic equipment into their van.
    • In the flashbacks showing Jonathan's childhood, young Jonathan is wearing a duffle coat.
  • Calling Me a Logarithm: One episode has a streaker hired for the show. When he starts becoming abusive to the staff Jonathan fires him and points out that a streaker's dressing room is an oxymoron. He responds by saying that Jonathan is the poxy-moron.
  • The Cassandra: Jack Holiday's wife, who insists that a recently released prisoner was responsible for her husband's death, despite all evidence to the contrary.
  • Casting Couch: The consequences of this form a major part of the motive behind the events of Satan's Chimney. To wit; An actress slept with several men to advance her career in the 70's, and had to abort one pregnancy and give another child up for adoption as a result. The father of the aborted pregnancy found out about this, and manipulated the adopted child into killing her because his religious beliefs make her a murderer (the fact that he obviously had sex out of wedlock apparently doesn't require any such retribution). The actress's friends figured all this out, and lured him to his death.
  • Cat Fight: Actually manages to be an important plot-point in "Angel Hair."
  • Chained Heat: A set-up for a humorous sequence rather than the main plot in "The Seer of the Sands". An overturned can of glue drips down on Jonathan and Carla while they are eavesdropping, resulting in their heads getting glued together. Results in a Low-Speed Chase as they try to run after a slow moving gypsy caravan in this condition.
  • Character Development: As the series progresses, Creek gradually changes from an asocial anorak to a man with a great deal of wit and charm. This helps to fuel the romantic thread between him and Maddy.
  • Characterization Marches On: In his first appearance (when played by Anthony Head), in addition to his hedonistic woman-chasing Adam Klaus is suggested to be scheming, manipulative and slightly malicious towards Jonathan. In subsequent appearances when played by Stuart Milligan, while still an egotistical and hedonistic jerk, Klaus had generally become a bit more of an amiable dimwit.
  • Chekhov's Gag: In "Miracle in Crooked Lane", Vincent mentions that he was married for years and then his wife ran off with a guy who makes balloon animals at kid's parties. It initially sounds like a throwaway gag, but it later turns out that Vincent killed the guy and the episode's mystery was accidentally caused by his attempt to establish an alibi.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Many of them. A noteworthy one is Carla's anklet in "Satan's Chimney."
  • Chekhov's Skill: Card-throwing in "The Three Gamblers".
    • And in the same episode, Maddy's ability to faint convincingly.
  • Chick Magnet: A lot of women fall for Jonathan, just a pity that most of them are, shall we say... unsuitable.
  • Christmas Episode: All movie-length, two of which were also introductory episodes to Jonathan's new sidekicks.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Sheena from "No Trace of Tracy" is allegedly Maddy's best friend but she appears only in that one episode and is never even mentioned again. Of course, given Maddy's jealous tendencies, it is highly possible that she did not take kindly to her friend sniffing around Jonathan.
  • Classical Music Is Boring: At the start of "The Clue of the Savant's Thumb", Jonathan is taken to a classical music performance, and falls asleep during it.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Maddy. Not particularly clingy, but she can get very jealous even though she and Jonathan aren't a couple; at one stage she locks him out of her apartment simply because she saw him with another woman, and in "Black Canary" she goes out of her way to derail anything that might happen with Jonathan and Charlotte.
    • In "The Curse Of The Bronze Lamp", Polly becomes one when Jonathan hangs around with a weather girl.
  • Clock Discrepancy: This has cropped up in a few episodes as part of the solution to the mystery, most notably in "Miracle in Crooked Lane" whereby an ill woman was convinced that morning was evening, in order to provide an alibi for a murder.
  • Clock Tampering: In one episode, the murderer fakes an alibi by adjusting the clock in his house in order to make a respectable Christian missionary (whom he is caring for while she recovers from an injury) believe that the current time was the time when the murder was committed when she saw him in the house.
    • In "Mother Redcap", the victim is electrocuted by a sabotaged alarm clock, making it an example of LITERAL Clock Tampering.
  • Clueless Chick-Magnet: Jonathan, to a tee. Maddy, Carla and several other gorgeous women throughout the series take a shine to him, but either he's oblivious to their advances or he somehow manages to ruin it for himself.
  • Clueless Mystery: Not used often, but at least once or twice. In one episode, which looked like a Locked Room Mystery, the victim was apparently stabbed in the back with a sword but the actual murder weapon was a drug which made him hallucinate violently and lose his balance while trying to climb a bookcase and fall on his own sword. While there were clues to what the murder weapon was, the murderer was not well-known to any characters and never appeared on camera..
  • Collective Identity: In "Time Waits for Norman", the mystery is how the titular Norman can be at his job in America and a fast food restaurant in Britain within the hour. Maddie's comment that he's "not Superman" prompts Jonathan to realise that they're dealing with two men with one identity; Norman has been sharing his name with his old partner in a business that closed years ago, as the job made enough money to support two and thus his friend could do the job in America while leaving Norman free to pursue other interests in Britain.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Carla freaks out over the fact that her husband was once married to a man, all he does is casually chide her about the fact that she's being "a bit homophobic".
  • Connect the Deaths: Deconstructed/criticised in the episode "The Coonskin Cap" in which Carla's crime show speculates that a recent serial killer is targeting women that have floral names, the three victims being called Rose, Iris and Heather. It turns out that two murders were the work of a disturbed young woman who had no discernable motive and the third was by a police officer who used the first two deaths as a cover for his own murder. The names were a coincidence, but until it was cleared up, Jonathan points out that thanks to the show's fear-mongering, women named after flowers were scared out of their wits (including a publicist called "Coral", at least until Jonathan tells her that coral is actually an animal).
  • Continuity Error: An In-Universe example in "Angel Hair". Disgusted at her boss's adultery with an air-line hostess, Dorothy tries to make it appear as though the woman has faked her own kidnapping in order to extort money from her lover. This involves a bunch of actors grabbing the woman off the street and having her read out a ransom note, and then cutting off her hair for good measure. Unfortunately, directly prior to this, the wife catches her husband and his lover kissing on the front lawn and engages in a hair-pulling Cat Fight with her rival. When Dorothy puts in the tape that she supposedly found in the woman's suitcase (though she planted it there herself) and presses play (though she's actually recording the staged kidnapping that is happening live), it poses a serious continuity problem considering the kidnappers display the day's newspaper directly before cutting off all the woman's hair, making it look like she got her hair cut off in the morning, only to grow it all back again by that same afternoon. The Cat Fight rendered the possibility of a wig or hair extensions completely impossible. She notes with some frustration that the actor she hired to stage the kidnapping was only supposed to remove a few locks of hair for dramatic effect, but got too immersed and ended up getting carried away with it.
  • Contrived Coincidence: This was usually avoided by Maddy (or Carla or Joey) going in search of crime or people coming them for help, but in "The Problem at Gallows Gate", Jonathan heads into a nature reserve for a badger watch, taking with him Adam's sister Kitty, who ends up witnessing a strangulation in a cottage window. And the only reason she sees this is because she needed the toilet at just that exact moment.
    • In "Mother Redcap", Maddy is contacted by an estate agent interested in collaborating on a book about the mysterious deaths at the Mother Redcap inn several decades ago. As it turns out, the murderer in Jonathan's (entirely separate) investigation happened to stumble across the Mother Redcap secret about a week earlier and used it to execute their own murder. It's pure coincidence that Jonathan and Maddy's attention was drawn to the Mother Redcap mystery at the exact same time.
    • This was played with in "The Judas Tree". Jonathan meets a girl and they almost go to bed together, when she starts telling him details of unexplained events that have happened in her life. He doesn't believe in the coincidence that he picks up a girl in the street, she goes to bed with him straight away and just happens to have an unexplained mystery to solve (therefore assuming she knew who he was and she was only interested in him because he could help her). It's subverted when it's revealed that the only reason she was there for him to run into was because she was there to see Joey and to talk to her about the unexplained mystery.
  • Conviction by Contradiction: Some of Jonathan's deductions are a little spurious.
    • In "The Reconstituted Corpse", Jonathan concludes that the person who took the peeping Tom video must be a short person standing on a box to look over the fence because they panned to follow Zola through the house; a tall person, he claims, would simply have walked along the fence. Everyone accepts this idea at face value; it's never brought up that a tall person might have, for example, wanted to stay hidden and therefore would not have moved from their spot.
  • Covers Always Lie: This trope was parodied with the poster for a play from a local theatre. Technically it didn't lie, just used some misleading formatting. The names of the stars were set out as follows:
    • Steve Martin
    • Harrison Ford
    • It turned out you were supposed to read the names up-to-down, meaning it starred Steve Harrison and Martin Ford.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: "Black Canary" involves a magic trick featuring a table saw that... doesn't stop cutting when it's supposed to.
  • Cut Apart: It looks like two people are on opposite sides of a locked door and one even rattles the handle as the other watches, but it later turns out that this was an extremely elaborate trick and they were in two separate locations.
  • Cutting the Knot: In one episode, Carla and one of the costumers are debating over a new duffle coat that Jonathan has been given to wear in Carla's show. Carla doesn't think it's suitable, and the two spend a few minutes arguing over how to make it look more lived-in and worn. Eventually, Jonathan acerbically notes that the easiest solution is for him to just take off the expensive new duffle coat bought only that morning at a high-end retailer, and to just put on his familiar old duffle-coat instead.
  • Darker and Edgier: Over time, the show became noticeably darker, with Jonathan investigating psychopaths, pimps, gangsters and corrupt policemen, who stood in stark contrast to the duplicitous suburbanites of earlier series; one story even saw Maddy being held at gunpoint by a gang member who was only just disarmed thanks to a card trick Jonathan had picked up recently. The 2009 special contained a hybrid of elements from earlier and later series, with the lethal engineering element, somewhat reminiscent of "Mother Redcap", and the torture and murder of a young woman as she is held dangling by a rope in the middle of a room. This theme continued on in "The Judas Tree" with a murderer being killed and her accomplice then being framed for the crime.
  • Dead Man's Chest: In "The Three Gamblers", Maddie is searching the farmhouse when she opens an old wardrobe and finds a body in its underwear with a bullet hole in its forehead, and realises that this is the policeman who is supposed to be guarding the place, and the policeman with her is actually the killer
  • Deadpan Snarker: Many characters tend towards this, but Jonathan masters it.
    Maddy: Now just hang about. You can't tell me you've unravelled this whole thing and then just bugger off. What sort of spineless cretin are you?
    Jonathan: No special kind. Just your average cretin.
  • Deal with the Devil: "The Curious Tale of Mr Spearfish" revolves around a man who thinks he's made one of these.
  • Death by Looking Up: In "The Clue of the Savant's Thumb", the killer attempts to topple a stone angel off the roof on to Fariba. She looks up and sees it coming. Her adoptive mother knocks her out of the way and is instead killed by the statue.
  • Derailing Love Interests: Nicola from "The Grinning Man" dumps Jonathan in order to run off with a man she's never met.
  • Detective Drama
  • Disability Alibi: In "Jack in the Box", a retired comedian, is found shot dead in his nuclear fall-out shelter. The otherwise empty bunker is locked from the inside, which would suggest that the man shot himself, but he had crippling arthritis in his hands and could barely pour a drink, much less pull a trigger.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In "Murder at Gallows Gate". On realizing that his Love Interest is sleeping with one of his friends, Duncan Proctor fakes his own suicide in order to punish her. Even Jonathan calls it "a sick joke".
  • Doing It for the Art: In-Universe, Jonathan loves building gadgets, and goes out of his way to make whatever he builds to solve a mystery look absolutely gorgeous.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Used as a plot-point in "The Scented Room" in which Lady Theresa's abuse of her Jerkass husband is first seen as amusing (when she puts stinging nettle in his sandwich) and then deadly serious when she hits him over the back of the head with a trowel. Later, after a valuable painting mysteriously vanishes, her husband uses this head wound to make it seem as though he'd been attacked by an intruder in order to claim money from the insurance company. A witness also points out that Lady Theresa's behaviour is completely inappropriate, especially in front of her young son.
  • Downer Ending: "Gorgon's Wood" has this for both the main plot and Carla; The million-pound artifact is destroyed, the Sibling Rivalry has boiled over into outright hatred, the niece is dead and her uncle has been exposed as having had some incestuous desires towards her. The only silver lining is that the violent, murderous pimp is dead, killed by the prostitute he was exploiting in self-defence. Carla also finds out she can't take legal action against the people exploiting her image due to some sort of legal loophole. Adam is the only one to get a happy ending, and he still had to be smeared in pig waste to get it.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: An old lady in "The Eyes of Tiresias" believes she's capable of doing this.
  • Driven to Suicide: Played with in "Murder at Gallows Gate". Not only do we have Duncan Proctor (who faked his own suicide), but also Felicity Veil, who attempts suicide, only to be prevented by a friend, only to then be murdered by her flatmate.
  • Drives Like Crazy: The DI in "Mother Redcap" which greatly unnerves Jonathan.
    • Maddy, at times. At one point Jonathan freaks out because she's dialing a number on her cellphone whilst driving. This is not just highly dangerous, it's illegal.
    • Subverted with Jonathan, who when forced to drive Maddy's car, drives so slowly and carefully that it creates a pile-up behind him. When asked whether he's ever driven an automatic before, he replies: "I've never driven a car before!" One hilarious Gilligan Cut later, and Maddy's is back in the driver's seat.
  • Easy Amnesia: Robin Parr has a case of Identity Amnesia brought on by a Tap on the Head.
  • Elephant in the Living Room: The really big Black Canary statue next to the stairwell, in "Black Canary", is never mentioned by anyone and has no connection whatsoever to the murder.
  • Embarrassing First Name: "Adam" Klaus, called "Chester" by his sister.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Jonathan is first seen in a grocery store, mentally tallying up the numbers that appear on the checkout computer screen and then politely but firmly insisting that the total sum is wrong. One manager with a calculator later, the checkout is closed thanks to the faulty equipment. What further establishes his character (slightly weird but sharply observant and essentially decent and good-hearted) is that it's the shopping of the woman in front of him that he's figuring out is charged wrong, not his own—and that the woman is nonetheless weirded out by the fact that he's buying a doll and some knives (in order to make a scale model for a planned magic trick).
    • Adam Klaus is first seen making a heartfelt and sincere thank you to an audience, calling them the best crowd he's ever performed for. The next camera shot reveals that it's an empty theatre, and he's just rehearsing, thus instantly demonstrating what a smarmy, insincere phony he is.
  • Ethical Slut: Joey, who will sleep with a guy knowing only that his name is Brad, but back off and apologise sincerely to his girlfriend when she realises he has one.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Ex-Trope Namer
  • Everyone Looks Sexier if French: Francesca in "The Wrestler's Tomb." The actress was actually Dutch but they made her character French because they didn't think Dutch was sexy enough.
  • Exact Words: In "Black Canary", Lionel is questioned by the police and asked if he murdered Marella Carney; he responds emphatically that he did not. Because it was actually Beryl Carney, her twin sister, who had been posing as Marella for fifteen years.
  • Eye Scream: In the episode "The Reconstituted Corpse" a man looks through the peep hole on his front door, whilst a revolver is put up against the other side, and then fired into his eye.
  • Fair-Play Whodunnit: The audience typically has the same set of clues that Jonathan does (bar one or two pieces of evidence — often police or medical records — that would make the result too easy), but the solutions often take a bit of lateral thinking. Also, the audience rarely knows whether an episode is going to be a whodunnit or a howdunnit until The Summation.
    • One irritatingly unfair instance - in "Angel Hair," a small square of masking tape obscuring the REC light on a VCR is not visible in the case's initial flashback, but is later visible during The Summation's flashback of the same event.
  • Failure Knight: Maddy, to a certain extent. Her particular niche of crime writing — exposing bungled police investigations — is implied to have been inspired by her mother's suicide shortly after being brought up on a (possibly) false shoplifting charge.
  • Fake American: In-Universe one, with Adam Klaus. In one episode Adam Klaus's (much) older half sister appeared, and she had a strong Scottish accent. No one comments on it.
  • Faked Kidnapping: The mistress in Angel Hair seemed to set one of these up to get money out of the wealthy man she was seeing, but it's much more complicated than that. The housekeeper arranged the whole thing to make it look like the a Faked Kidnapping to end the infidelity, but the mistress wasn't in on it.
  • Faking the Dead: In "The Seer of the Sands", a pair of fake gypsies burn down their caravan and leave a skeleton dug up from the local graveyard inside it to cover their escape and allow them to slip out of the country with no one looking for them.
    • Also at play in "The Problem at Gallows Gate" when a man is seemingly witnessed committing a murder three weeks after he committed suicide. Turns out, he'd faked his own death as part of a plot to get back at an ex-lover — but although she was the murder victim, it's eventually revealed that he didn't kill her.
  • Fanboy:
    • In "No Trace Of Tracy", Jonathan completely geeks out when he gets to investigate a case surrounding his prog-rock idol, Roy Pilgrim.
    • Jonathan meets a group of his own fanboys in "Miracle on Crooked Lane"; they all dress like him and have long hair (on seeing a photo of them all lined up at a table, Maddy notes the similarity with the Last Supper). Two of them even live in windmills, and one of them has a girlfriend who actually fancies Jonathan himself.
  • Fiery Cover Up: In "The Seer of the Sands", a pair of fake gypsies burn down their caravan and leave a skeleton dug up from the local graveyard inside it to cover their escape and allow them to slip out of the country with no one looking for them.
  • Foreshadowing: In "Jack in the Box", when the police first enter the bunker, the scene when the officer stoops down to examine Jack Holiday's corpse has the wall behind which Alan Rokesmith walled himself up featured prominently in the background. In hindsight, the newer bricklaying does look rather obvious, meaning that the solution is Hidden in Plain Sight. The dimmer lightbulb also makes this a form of literal foreshadowing too!
  • Framing the Guilty Party: In "The Judas Tree" it turns out that the murder was faked. Years before, two young women had killed a young man to steal his car and got away with it. Now, the victim's brother and his wife have killed one of the murderers (but made it look like the wife was killed) and framed the other for the crime.
  • Friendly Rivalry: In his two appearances Inspector Gideon Pryke has one with Jonathan. He's just as smart and almost as good at lateral thinking. He just doesn't get the "Eureka!" Moment.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": Maddie decides to get payback on an Oompa Band that's been performing in the street by spraying them with water. Unfortunately, it turns out they're carrying a coffin at the time.
    • At the end of "The Reconstituted Corpse", Maddie and Jonathan come back from a funeral. It eventually turns out that it was a funeral of an elephant (who died offscreen early in the episode) and, judging from their comments, it was definitely plagued with some unfortunate mishaps.
  • Funny Background Event: Twice. In "No Trace of Tracy", Maddy interviews a man in a sound-proof room whilst his colleagues have a brawl in the two-way mirror behind them, and in "Time Waits for Norman", Maddy holds a conversation with a man outside his house whilst Jonathan snoops around for clues and gets attacked by a vicious Jack Russell. A dismayed Maddy sees all this through the bay windows. To add insult to injury, it turns out that it was not even the man's house — he was just doing some yardwork for an old lady who lived there, so there WERE no clues to be found in the first place.
    • What makes it even funnier is that the man then walks to into a different house.
  • Gambit Roulette:
    • The plot of "The Judas Tree" hinges on the assumptions that Emily wouldn't just quit her job, that the local vicar wouldn't be asked to identify the body, and that the police wouldn't do a tox screen on the body or a paternity test or look up the family of Emily's previous victim. See the Headscratchers page.
    • The explanation Jonathan gives for how the murder could have been done by the most obvious suspect in "The Wrestler's Tomb" is also one ... which is why Jonathan dismisses it as too unlikely to be plausible.
  • Gaslighting: In "The Judas Tree". Jonathan also refers to the Trope Namer during the episode.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Joey Ross in the 2009 special, the character being played by an actress who herself has a Gender-Blender Name, Sheridan Smith.
    Joey Ross: Hi, I'm Joey Ross.
    Jonathan Creek: I liked you as Sgt Ritzig in The Phil Silvers Show
  • Genius Ditz: Joey Ross has the same level of lateral thinking skills as Jonathan, but without any technical knowledge whatsoever.
  • Genre Savvy: See Broken Pedestal above, Jonathan knows exactly how meeting one of his icons in the flesh is going to destroy his image of him. It's played for laughs, though, since the shocking fact that disillusions Jonathan is that the icon in question happens to enjoy watching The Waltons.
  • Ghostwriter: Ezra Carr was this for George Eastland in "Ghosts Forge". The name of the house ó note the lack of an apostrophe ó is a clever way of pouting this out. And, contrary to what everyone assumes, the body found in the house is not that of Ezra, but Ezra's distinctly old-fashioned name (and amnesia) conceals this for a good while.
  • Gilligan Cut:
    • At the end of "The Seer of the Sands", after Jonathan has summarised a series of events that has led to Adam's small bodyguard being eaten by a snake, Carla muses that, being a charismatic media professional, Adam should be able to talk his way out of the situation without any real trouble. Cut to a brief shot of Adam in the middle of a literal riot outside the courthouse being attacked by little people and animal rights activists.note 
    • In "The Clue of the Savant's Thumb", we get a woman who's about to return to her partner from a long research trip, to which it's commented: "Sixteen weeks on his own? The poor man will be pining for you desperately." Cut to "the poor man" having riotous sex in a barn with another woman.
    • In another episode, Jonathan and Adam are attending an event and are introduced to a frail old man in a wheelchair whose carer explains to them, "He's been dying to show you his magic trick." Cut to a man attempting a Houdini-style escape whilst strung upside down in a body-bag over burning coals.
  • Glory Hound: On her blog, Joey takes all of the credit for solving the cases she investigates with Jonathan. When Polly meets her in "The Clue of the Savant's Thumb", she approves of this as she doesn't care for what Jonathan used to do.
  • Going by the Matchbook: In "Daemons' Roost", the matchbook the killer used to light the furnace turns out to be an important clue to the killer's identity (although not the one it first appears to be).
  • Groin Attack: "Black Canary" has a very, very nasty example indeed.
  • Handicapped Badass: Gideon Pryke in "The Clue of the Savant's Thumb". Since his previous appearance he was hit by a sniper's bullet, and can only move one finger ... which was apparently enough to tell his superiors what he thought of being retired.
  • Hand of Death: How the killer is portrayed in "The Clue of Savant's Thumb": first stalking Joey and later toppling a statue off the roof.
  • Handy Feet: In "The Wrestler's Tomb", the murderer tied themselves up and shot the Victim of the Week with a gun held in their feet, thereby giving themselves the seemingly perfect alibi of having been Bound and Gagged at the time of the murder.
  • Hard-to-Light Fire: In "Daemon's Roost", Jonathan is being dragged into a pit of bones by a crazed killer. He screams for Polly to grab the book of matches lying on the floor. She then fumbles desperately attempting to light one.
  • Haven't You Seen X Before?: In "Time Waits for Norman", when Maddy is caught coming out of the men's toilets.
    Maddy: Yes, all right. Haven't you ever seen a transvestite before?
  • He's Back!: About half an hour into "The Case of the Savant's Thumb", advertising exec Jonathan Creek finally gets interested enough in the case to go to the wardrobe, shove the nice suits out of the way, and pull out his trademark duffel coat.
  • Heinousness Retcon: Patrick Tyree the antagonist of "The House of Monkeys" is a cerebral extreme animal rights activist who murders Doctor Eliot Strange by sending him a self-titled letter laced with a powerful hallucinogenic that would infect him when he licked the seal. Come his return thirteen years later in "Daemons' Roost" he's now a huge, thuggish psycho whose plan for revenge against Jonathan is no more complicated than stalking and attempting to gut him and his wife with a knife. Likewise, Jonathan and Polly's reactions to simply hearing his name suggest he had always been like this.
  • Home Nudist: In "Mother Redcap", Maddie starts dating a man only to discover that he is a home nudist. In fairness to him, he did actually tell her this before she arrived at his house. She just wasn't listening.
  • Honey Trap: Gillian Bailey in "Gorgon's Wood".
  • Hypocritical Humour: Meta example—Alistair McGowan appeared in the pilot episode, but later repeatedly mocked the show's complicated plots on his own show The Big Impression. One sketch has McGowan, as Creek, trying to give The Summation by coming up with increasingly far-fetched solutions implicating each unlikely suspect in turn, while ignoring a man in the corner carrying an axe, covered in blood and grinning.
  • Identical Stranger: Gillian Bailey and the prostitute, though the latter has a badly burnt face. They're played by the same actress.
  • I Did What Ihad To Do: In "The Three Gamblers", Jonathan figures out that the girlfriend of a repentant petty criminal is actually an undercover police officer, who was just using him as a way to get to the episode's Big Bad, the Inspector in charge of the case states that he knows how heartbroken the young man will be when he finds out but justifies it by stating that it was to help solve the crime.
  • Idiot Ball: On more than one occasion held first by Jonathan (who thinks he has figured out how a lethal booby trap was sprung and rushes off to test his theory, only telling his companion "don't move!" but not telling them why they shouldn't move) and then passed straight to his companion (who promptly starts wandering around and puts themselves directly in mortal danger).
  • Ignorant of Their Own Ignorance: Essentially the reason the killer was exposed in "Jack in the Box"; Alan Rokesmith was the only person with a motive to kill Jack Halliday who didn't know about Jack's arthritis (as he'd been in prison for nine years), foiling his attempt to stage Jack's death as a suicide as it would've been impossible for Jack's arthritic fingers to pull a trigger.
    • In fairness, the episode frames it as an open secret in the entertainment industry and it's cited as the main reason for Jack's work having dried up, but the average man on the street wouldn't have known about it. Jonathan certainly doesn't know, but he's not Jack's biggest fan....
  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: Carla is suffering from a pretty big one of these, as lampshaded at the end of "Satan's Chimney":
    [After Carla storms into the theatre where Jonathan is working]
    Carla: [Imperiously] Before you say it Jonathan, you needn't say it. Clearly I was expecting too much, but I did just think you might have taken the trouble to ring me, you know? God knows it must have been obvious I wanted to hear from you! With your astute mind you must have figured that one out. [Jonathan tries to interject] And don't try to pretend I'm so repellent! Cause... I mean... I'm bright. I'm fun to be with. And well up to your speed. And plus! I did actually save your life if you remember! So I don't think it would have killed you to get in touch! Just to say hello or see how I was! After everything we went through together?
    Jonathan: ... It only happened last night. It's only twelve o'clock now. I thought you'd be glad of some rest—
    Carla: [In the exact same tone] Yes. Well. That's the other thing. I'm also deeply insecure. And emotionally vulnerable. And frequently prone to irrational outbursts. So, now you know the whole picture, it's up to you whether you want to see me again or not.
    Jonathan: Okay then, let's say tonight. Have a bite to eat or something?
    Carla: I'll let you know if I'm free. [Storms off]
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Several times. There is even one example where someone gets impaled by two spikes at the same time.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Both Maddy and Carla will go to considerable lengths to land a story.
  • Innocent Innuendo: Happens quite a few times; usually with Maddy:
    • At one point she tells Jonathan over the phone: "I need you, here in my bedroom." The next scene shows Jonathan taking off his shoes and getting on the bed while Maddy watches nervously...only for Jonathan to reach up and tip the cockroach on the ceiling into a glass jar.
    • Another time, she interrupts their phone conversation with lines like "Oh, go on! Take me! I'm powerless to resist!" He isn't fooled:
    Jonathan: How many men left?
    Maddy: Four pawns and a bishop.
    Jonathan: Resign.
  • Inn of No Return: Forms part of the backstory in "Mother Redcap". Back in the 1940s, the landlord of the titular Mother Redcap pub note  had a prostitute operating out of one of the rooms upstairs. Several women paid him to eliminate their cheating husbands. He rigged up a contrivance that allowed him to push a set of raised metal studs up through the floorboards by the window, and thus electrocute them — working in collusion with the prostitute who had lured the men to the room for sex, and then had them step to the window while still barefoot. The deaths were written off as heart failure, but as more than one victim had been seen at the window with a 'shocked' expression on his face, it gave rise to an urban legend that the room was haunted by something so terrifying that it had literally scared the men to death. It ties in with the present-day murder Jonathan's investigating; the murderer had met the prostitute (now an elderly vagrant squatting in the now-derelict pub), heard her story and got the idea for how to kill the Victim of the Week.
  • Inspector Lestrade: Rarely played straight. Some variations on the Lestrade used in the show include...
    • Gideon Pryke from "Black Canary" and "The Curse of the Savant's Thumb", who is a genuinely brilliant detective in his own right, just not quite as good as Jonathan.
    • Inspector Ted Parnevik in "The Coonskin Cap", who seems like a pretty straightforward Lestrade except he turns out to be behind one of the murders he's investigating.
    • Ridley in "The Letters of Septimus Noone", who is the particularly hilarious combination of a Lestrade who thinks he's a Holmes, coupled to being a Teen Genius.
  • Interdisciplinary Sleuth: Jonathan designs conjuring tricks for a living and is relectantly brought in to the world of crime-fighting by a chance meeting and a love of puzzles.
    • Maddy (and Carla and Joey, for that matter) technically all play this trope straight. While none of them are cops or law enforcement, they are all journalists of different sorts specializing in crime stories.
  • Internal Homage: The 2016 Christmas special "Daemons' Roost", being something of a 20th anniversary episode, contains numerous references and allusions to previous episodes:
    • "Jack in the Box": The surprise when they open the grave is likened to a jack in the box.
    • "The Reconstituted Corpse": Someone hides in one of Adam Klaus' old magic cabinets, and is knocked unconscious.
    • "The House of Monkeys": Jonathan is stalked by Dr. Strange's murderer, who has just been paroled.
    • "Ghosts Forge": Nathan Clore, Alison's aged stepfather, peers out of a window in a scene reminiscent of the one from this episode.
    • "Mother Redcap":
      • Alison's mother standing at the window with a terrified expression on her face references the final moments of Mother Redcap's victims.
      • Polly's encounter with dead rats is similar to that of Maddy when she explores the inn.
    • "Satan's Chimney":
      • The hidden dungeon and its associated history and plot are similar.
      • Wendell Wilkie, the vicar, points out how similar a cafetière is to the crushing device, a scene which is itself repeated from this episode.
    • "The Judas Tree": The central theme of retribution is shared. Ryman's desire to avenge the murder of his sister-in-law, and the fact that he does it so elaborately, mirrors the actions of Hugo and Harriet Dore in avenging the death of Hugo's brother.
    • "The Clue of the Savant's Thumb":
      • Something is hidden inside a globe.
      • Jonathan beheads his (relatively) lifelike scarecrow, putting the head on another scarecrow. Franklin Tartikoff suffered a similar fate.
      • The company which produced Nathan Clore's films, "Great Portland Productions", is the same as (or, at least, has the same name as) the one which created the satirical video.
    • The overly-dramatic presentation of Nathan Clore's cheesy horror films bears a striking resemblance to Adam Klaus' magic shows.
    • Wendell Wilkie drives a Volvo estate car just like the one Maddy Magellan drove.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Played with in "Satan's Chimney"; Carla comes on stage with a phone in her hands to tell Alan Kalanak "It's Vivian" (referring to Kalanak's ex-wife, Vivian Brodie, the ep's murder victim). As Jonathan later notes, anyone else in that scenario would assume Carla meant that it was Vivian on the phone, but Alan immediately asks what happened to Vivian, planting the first seeds in Jonathan's mind that Kalanak was responsible for her murder.
  • Irregular Series: Aired as a combination of specials and series, most notably with three specials released during 2009-2013, which came between the fourth (2003-2004) and fifth (2014) full series of the show.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: The old (dead) homeless lady in "Mother Redcap" was once a fairly literal femme fatale.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Maddy can be petty and immature but she also works to clear the name of wrongly accused people for little money.
  • Jumping the Shark: Arguably occurs when Jonathan is shown to have left the world of magic behind for a high-powered job in advertising, moved out of his windmill and married Polly in "The Clue of the Savant's Thumb".
  • Killer Outfit: Used as a murder weapon in "The Coonskin Cap". The killer rigs a policewoman's protective vest with an airbag that he can inflate remotely. When he does so, it constricts her chest to the point where it cannot expand for her to breathe and she asphyxiates. He then deflates the bag and it looks as if she has been strangled while alone in an empty locked room.
  • Knife-Throwing Act
  • The Law of Conservation of Detail: Par for the course for a mystery series, but there is one notable scene in which an episode devotes several seconds to Maddie channel-flicking for no discernible reason. But due to a plot involving a forged tape recording, the audience needed to know what was on television at that exact moment.
  • Leitmotif: "Danse Macabre" by Camille Saint-Saens. Aside from being the show's theme tune, it (or a variation on it) is often used as a motif whenever Jonathan is pondering a clue to the mystery of the week.
  • Left the Background Music On: In "No Trace of Tracy", the opening titles segue into Roy Pilgrim listening to "Danse Macabre" on Classic FM. Then it shifts to Vivaldi and he turns off his personal stereo.
  • Lethal Chef: Maddy. Almost literally - Jonathan is appalled to find that she's got a canister of petrol in her kitchen at the same time the gas stove is on. On fire, specifically. The meal turned out alright, funnily enough.
    • Played with in case of Jonathan. At the end of "Mother Redcap", he makes Caesar Salad for Maddie who then loudly decries it as the worst thing she's ever tasted. However, as they are leaving to eat out, she slips back and eats another mouthful, proving that the meal was actually good and she was just messing with Jonathan so he wouldn't feel so superior all the time.
  • Lie Detector: Carla has one as the gimmick on her TV show in "The Tailor's Dummy", but it's actually completely random.
  • Living a Double Life: An interesting aversion in "Time Waits for Norman"; it's actually a case of two people living one life — Norman and Melvyn have arranged things so that Melvyn pretends to be "Norman" whenever Norman's job involves going to New York, which is often. Also played straight, as Norman is using this in order to live out a double life of his own, being in simultaneous relationships with two women in different parts of the country.
  • Locked Room Mystery: Pretty much the show's trademark, and often lampshaded. Even if the mystery isn't literally in a locked room, it will inevitably be an "impossible" mystery in the same vein.
    • Amusingly enough, the series opened with something of a subversion in its first episode "The Wrestler's Tomb" where an elaborate series of events involving fake legs, a smoking machine and a walkie-talkie is proposed to explain how a suspect in a murder could've escaped a locked room, but despite Jonathan being the one to propose and explain the scenario, he shoots it down with a single Armor-Piercing Question "Why?", observing that anyone attempting that plan would have relied on a Gambit Pileup involving such risks as the possibility that someone would come into the room and reveal what had happened. Indeed, said suspect is actually innocent and never left the room at all.
  • Loving a Shadow: Played rather poignantly in "Ghosts Forge". Initially Robin Priest seems like a jerk for cheating on his wife with the vile Mimi Tranter. By the end of the episode it turns out that Shirley is not only not his wife but that he was only attracted to Mimi because of her resemblance to his real (long dead and much mourned) wife. Though the show never explicitly spells it out, the portraits displayed throughout Ghosts Forge explain why he was so instantly drawn to her, even though he probably didn't understand the attraction himself.
  • Low-Speed Chase: In "The Seer of the Sands", Jonathan and Carla run after a gypsy caravan being pulled by a horse. Although the caravan is moving at no more than a walking pace, they fail to catch it: their efforts being hampered by the fact that their heads are glued together.
  • Magician Detective: Jonathan's a magician's assistant technically, but he has far more knowledge of the material even than the magician itself, so he definitely counts.
  • Man on Fire: In "Daemon's Roost", the murderous Patrick Tyree meets his end when he is soaked in flammable oil by a centuries old deathtrap, and then ignited by Jonathan and Polly.
  • The Masochism Tango: Platonic version with Jonathan and Adam.
  • Meet Cute: Jonathan and Maddy meet at a magic show when Jonathan mistakes Maddy's thumb for a cocktail sausage and sticks a toothpick into it.
  • Missing Child: In "No Trace of Tracy", a teenage girl (the titular Tracy) goes missing after heading out to meet her favourite rock star, who'd invited her over to his house in response to her fan-letter.
  • Mistaken for Masturbating: In "The Sinner and the Sandman", Jonathan sprains his wrist while attempting to get ketchup out of a bottle. However, saying that he hurt his wrist "whacking the sauce bottle" and similar phrases causes The Vicar's wife to believe he is a chronic masturbator.
  • Mistaken for Racist: Adam deals with this in "The Judas Tree" due to some poorly chosen but innocent remarks. For example when entering an African village in an area with a high population of locusts and saying he hoped they wouldn't be eaten alive, the press takes this as a reference to "cannibals and cooking pots".
  • Mistaken for Superpowered: "The Curious Tale of Mr Spearfish" revolves around a man who thinks he's gained supernatural powers after making a deal with the devil, and cites several incidents as evidence. Jonathan figures out that some of them were just coincidences and some were the work of a secret service protection detail that was only incidentally interested in Mr Spearfish himself.
  • Mood Whiplash: "The Grinning Man" has a plot about a stage magician killing people and just generally being a Magnificent Bastard and a sub-plot about... 3-D porn.
    • An in-universe example; in one episode, Adam is forced into a date-from-hell with an uncouth woman who won (second prize in) a raffle to date him. It's comedically embarrassing, and Jonathan gets plenty of amusement from it. The next morning, Adam shows up to the theatre shell-shocked, and recounts the rest of the evening; it initially continues in the same humourously embarrassing vein as before, but much to Jonathan's shock swerves wildly into Black Comedy territory when Adam reveals that she ended up choking to death on her own vomit.
    Adam: Several large crustaceans lodged in her windpipe. Kind of brings it home to you, doesn't it? How important it is to ... always chew your food.
    • And her funeral, at the end of the episode, has a similar mood whiplash when it's suddenly invaded by a vengeful streaker.
    • Then there's the slapstick montage of Maddie and Shelford getting a wardrobe up three flights of stairs followed by Maddie opening the wardrobe and screaming in horror as the dead body of her client falls on her.
    • "Gorgon's Wood ends like this, with the doulbe Downer Ending of the main plot and Clara's B-plot contrasting with a pig-waste splattered Adam managing to get the old women trying to defraud him to break character with his odor.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Jonathan gets naked a lot. He also has a fair number of snogging scenes.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Julia Sawalha as Carla, who is considerably more sexualised in her role as Jonathan's sidekick than either Maddy or Joey ... to the point where there are sex dolls with her likeness, while her "work out" video proves to be popular with the, ah, wrong demographic.
  • Mugged for Disguise:
    • In "The Three Gamblers", Maddie finds a dead body in its underwear stuffed in a wardrobe and realises that the this is the constable who was supposed to be guarding the house, and that the policeman with her is the killer, having murdered him and stolen his uniform.
    • In "The Curse of the Bronze Lamp", the kidnappers (posing as security guards) knock out a pair of DJs who run a mobile disco, steal their clothes and van, and use it it gain access to their victim's home.
  • Mummies at the Dinner Table: In the episode "The Seer of the Sands".
  • Murder by Cremation: In "Daemons' Roost", the Victim of the Week is flung to his death in a fiery furnace, seemingly by black magic.
  • Murder-Suicide: "Jack in the Box", where the murderer killed his victim inside a locked room, then concealed himself behind a wall and committed suicide.
  • My Sibling Will Live Through Me: "Black Canary". Finding out about this is the main motivating factor for the would-be murderer.
  • Naked People Are Funny: The series is all over this trope.
    • Jonathanís naked scenes are sometimes played for laughs, like the time he opens the window in the nude to find a camera crew outside.
    • In "Mother Redcap", Maddy accidentally starts dating a guy who lives in a nudist commune. He tells her in advance, but she wasnít listening, leading to her getting a shock when she goes round for tea and finds him and his housemates in the altogether.
    • In "The Coonskin Cap", a streaker runs onto the stage during Adamís show. The audience finds it funny (and it distracts them from noticing how the trick heís performing is done), so he hires the guy.
  • Necro Cam: Very necessary because the show is a howdunnit more than it is a whodunnit and the complex solutions would be tricky to get across in words alone. Subverted in the original pilot The Wrestler's Tomb, in which we get this to accompany Creek describing a mere hypothetical of how the crime could have been permitted by one suspect, which turns out not to be the actual solution.
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: Subverted in "Jack in the Box" — turns out, Jonathan's not a huge fan of recently-dead comic legend Jack Holliday (an old-school Benny Hill-style comedian).
    Maddie: Jack Holliday shot himself.
    Jonathan: I heard. It's the first thing he's ever done that's made me laugh.
    Maddie: [Indignant] Oh, nice! The man's dead!
    Jonathan: Well I don't suppose that's gonna stop him overacting.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In "Jack in the Box", Maddy was heavily involved in the effort to free Alan Rokesmith, the man convicted of murdering Jack Holiday's first wife. Turns out, he actually did kill her, and thanks to Maddy's campaigning he's free to kill again.
  • Noodle Incident: In "The Reconstituted Corpse", we don't get to see the disastrous rehearsal of the levitating elephant trick. Nor do we see the equally disastrous funeral of said elephant.
  • No Periods, Period: Referenced in a couple of lines of dialogue:
    Maddie: Come on Jonathan, this is a difficult time of the month for me.
    Jonathan: You said that two weeks ago.
    Maddie: Oh, trust you to keep count.
  • No Social Skills: A downplayed case; Jonathan's not a complete social ignoramus by any means, but he's definitely on the awkward-and-dorky side of the social scale, and he's got a special talent for putting his foot in his mouth.
  • Nothing Up My Sleeve: In "Mother Redcap", the killer uses a spring loaded spike to stab the Victim of the Week on the pretext of examining the 'body' (who was actually just stunned by an electric shock). The spike disappears back up their sleeve as they stand up and announce the victim is dead, thereby creating a Locked Room Mystery.
  • Obfuscating Disability: In "The Problem at Gallows Gate", a friend of Adam's is a famous blind blues musician. However, he actually had an operation several years earlier which restored his sight. He maintains the pretense of being blind because people respect blind blues musicians, and because it allows him to spy on women and "accidentally" grope them.
  • Odd Friendship: Jonathan and Adam. Sure, Jonathan is employed by Adam and so has to spend time with him, but as the series goes on, the two occasionally socialize with each other outside of work and act as each other's confidants.
  • Off with His Head!: A sabotaged chainsaw leads to a decapitation in "The Clue of the Savant's Thumb". This leads to an elaborate cover-up in which a body seems to vanish from a locked room.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: The show enjoys doing this as part of The Summation. For example, in "The Coonskin Cap" we see a scene which appears to be setting up a Ret Irony / Fatal Family Photo type moment by having a policeman proposing to his female colleague before she ends up being the villain's next murder victim. However at the end we see the scene again in flashback and it continues, showing the engagement ring-looking box actually contained a necklace he used to plant a false clue that she was killed by the villain when he did it himself, and that their relationship was less close than it seemed in the first scene.
  • Only Sane Employee: Jonathan's role within the Adam Klaus magic act.
  • Operation: Jealousy: Maddy tries this in "The Reconstituted Corpse", but unfortunately her date ends up looking and acting like (in Jonathan's words) "The bastard son of Forrest Gump."
  • Pain Mistaken For S Ex: There was also a very dark usage of this in "Gorgon's Wood", in which a videotape is found showing what appears to be a young woman having a screaming orgasm. Turns out the camera had tipped onto its side, and what everyone was seeing was her getting impaled against a tree by a large garden fork.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: In "Gorgon's Wood", a disfigured prostitute only needs a relatively basic mask to trick a man into thinking that she is his niece.
  • The Perfect Crime: Well, all of them to one extent or other, but special mention but go to the killer in "Jack in the Box", considering everything, including his own suicide goes according to plan, and the master-mind behind the events in "Angel Hair" who was thwarted by completely unforeseen circumstances, and still got what she wanted out of the entire exercise, though not in the way she planned: getting her employer to stop cheating on his wife.
  • Police Are Useless: Averted. The police only turn to Jonathan for dealing with those bizarre crimes he specialises in and Rik Mayall's Inspector Gideon Pryke is shown as being equal in brilliance to Jonathan himself.
  • Poor Communication Kills: That damn harvest fly in "The Seer of the Sands". And there's also a difference between "East Barn" and "EA St Barn.".
  • The Power of Acting: Carla reminds Jonathan in "Satan's Chimney" that all the suspects are trained actors who will naturally be able to put up a convincing show of grief for the murder victim. She's absolutely right, but not for the reasons she thinks she is.
  • Punctuation Changes the Meaning: In "The Seer of the Sands", a man named Justin Mallory receives a letter from his girlfriend, who is trying to persuade her estranged husband to agree to a divorce. He reads: "Pressing Rex for a divorce again this morning. He said no, one would have to suffer much longer." This causes him to fly into a rage, get drunk, crash his boat and drown. Had he looked more closely, he would have realized that what he thought was a comma was actually a fly that had landed on the page, and she was actually telling him that Rex had agreed to the split.
  • Put on a Bus: Maddy moves to the US for a while. Jonathan keeps in touch, and she helps him solve a case at one point via email.
  • Put on a Bus to Hell: This didn't exactly happen to Carla Borrego, but in "The Grinning Man" she still gets a rather mean-spirited mention, in which Jonathan Creek learns that she's been telling people that he died of a wasting illness. Apparently writer David Renwick and actress Julia Sawalha didn't get along, which may explain the pettiness of the comments.
  • Quote Mine: Sinister example in "Satan's Chimney", using an edited recording.
  • Rear Window Witness: In "The Problem at Gallows Gate", Adam's sister Kitty witnesses a murder through a pair of high-powered binoculars during a badger watch.
  • Recurring Element: The series has a penchant for twinkly-eyed, blustery old women (usually witnessing murders) as well as creepy, craggy-faced old men (perpetrating them).
  • Red Herring: Being a mystery series, this is par for the course. There is, however, a tendency to play with and subvert the idea of a red herring — clues dismissed early on as insignificant will often come back in an unexpected way. Of course, other times it is played deadly straight.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Jonathan specifically states several times that the reason people fall for elaborate magic tricks and locked room mysteries is because they're unwilling to believe that someone would go to such insane lengths to fool them.
  • Reverse Whodunnit: The main plot of "The Letters of Septimus Noone", unusually, where the audience sees how an impossible (near-)murder was committed before Jonathan figures it out.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Did Beryl Carney murder her own twin sister in the most horrific way possible in order to steal her life and family, or was Marella's death a genuine tragic accident that Beryl merely took advantage of? Either way, the answer died with Beryl.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: In series 4, Adam Klaus does several copycat tricks inspired by those of Derren Brown and David Blaine (the originals are mentioned, so this is an in-universe example of Follow the Leader).
  • Roguish Romani: In "The Seer of the Sands", a couple pose as a romantic gypsy couple in order to better con a gullible American woman.
  • Rube Goldberg Hates Your Guts:
    • "Mother Redcap": two electrocution traps.
    • "Satan's Chimney": a piston that crushes its victims.
    • "The Coonskin Cap": a constricting flak jacket that suffocates the wearer.
    • "The Grinning Man": a bathtub mounted on a trapdoor that drowns the victim in a tank below.
    • "Daemons' Roost": a ritual room where everything is rotated 90 degrees, so that victims appear to "fly" into a fiery portal, when in fact they fall.
    • To add to the mystery, most of them are deployed in sealed rooms.
  • Saying Too Much: In "The Problem at Gallows Gate" Maddy is at the house of the woman whose flatmate was murdered. During their conversation, the woman offhandedly mentions that Maddy had recently experienced a burglary, along the lines of: "I moved out here to get away from crime. You know how bad burglary gets in London; you've just been on the receiving end of one." It's not until much later that Maddy realizes she never actually mentioned this burglary to the woman, and the only way she could have possibly known about it was if she was at the crime scene in the seconds after the murder, when Maddy and Jonathan were trying to get into the house and Maddy is griping about how her burglar didn't just give up when he found the front door locked.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Jonathan in "The Scented Room", when Asshole Victim Le Fley (a critic who had written scathing reviews of Jonathan's magic shows in the past) offers a huge financial reward for finding his missing painting.
    Jonathan: I know exactly how your painting was stolen, Mr Le Fley. I'm just not going to tell you.
  • Scully Syndrome: Discussed and inverted in the first episode: Jonathan points out that his entire career designing tricks hinges on the fact that people, when confronted with a seemingly impossible series of events, would rather accept that it occurred "by magic" rather than believe that someone actually would undertake a preposterously convoluted, intricate and lengthy series of events in order to make it look like it happened by magic. Furthermore, when faced with the inevitably quite mundane and prosaic ways in which a magic trick is performed, the result is inevitably disappointment, so why tell anyone?
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: A sad variation. An old woman is having precognitive dreams, including one involving the initials R.P. and a creature with wings. The next day, a woman is killed in a car accident (the registration number was R.P. and she drove a Jaguar (a car has wings). However, the dream the woman had was about a harpy (the Greek monster) and was not precognitive at all. But because she had been going around telling everyone about them, the woman - whose name was Rebecca Philips and who was about to go on a business trip despite a terrible fear of flying - thought that it was a warning about her imminent plane trip. She was so worried and distracted that she got into a car accident on the way to the airport.
  • Sequencing Deception: In "Angel Hair", events that we think were recorded days in advance actually turn out to be happening live over a closed-circuit TV system rigged to look like a VCR.
  • Share the Male Pain: A female example in Maddy's reaction to the story of the woman being sawed in half "lengthwise" in "Black Canary".
  • Sherlock Scan: Rarely played straight — Jonathan tends to look and then only really see the key point later on in a "Eureka!" Moment. Parodied with Ridley in "The Letters of Septimus Noone", who does a textbook Sherlock Scan and draws Entertainingly Wrong conclusions from it.
  • Shoot the Rope: Done fantastically in "Black Canary". A very decrepit old man in a wheelchair manages to snipe the rope of his daughter who attempted to hang herself from at least 300 feet away. He explains this feat with "My eyes still work!"
  • Shout-Out:
    • Edwin Drood, Roy Pilgrim's old prog rock band in "No Trace of Tracy", is named for the unfinished Dickens novel, as well as being a riff on the similarly Dickensian-inspired Uriah Heep. Also, Roy's house is called Bleak House.
    • Part of the plot of "Satan's Chimney" is centered around the filming of a movie entitled Black Snow. An obvious homage to the works of David Lynch, it even has a dwarf called "The Man from the World of Shadows" in a nod to Twin Peaks' Man From Another Place.
    • The 1998 Christmas Special is called "Black Canary" and even features a large statue of the DC Comics character.
      • There's also a season one character called Doctor Strange, and a Christmas Special set at a homestead called Green Lanterns. Renwick is obviously a DC fan. There's also an Iris West in "The Coonskin Cap".
    • In the magic club that Jonathan, Maddy and Adam visit in "The Three Gamblers", a poster in the toilet is advertising Sharpe's Fortress, the (then) latest Bernard Cornwell novel.
    • When Joey finds that Jonathan has moved on and is now a senior advertising executive in "The Clue of the Savant's Thumb", she compares him to Don Draper.
    • In "The Letters of Septimus Noone", there's a character with a son called Ridley, a daughter called Ripley, and a house called Nostromo. As Jonathan says, you can guess what her favourite movie is.
    • In "Daemon's Roost", Jonathan's idea for the scarecrow competition is heavily modelled on the publicity photos of Alfred Hitchcock for The Birds. Sadly, everyone else thinks it's Phil Jupitus (which qualifies as an in-joke since Jupitus has often appeared alongside Alan Davies on QI).
  • Sibling Rivalry: A very bitter one, said to be the result of divorced parents poisoning the children's minds, forms the motivation for most of the conspiracy in "Gorgon's Wood".
  • Sinister Scraping Sound: In "The Clue of the Savant's Thumb", a subtle Sinister Scraping Sound can be heard drifting along an empty corridor as Jonathan and Joey explore the derelict convent, and again before someone is nearly crushed by a falling statue at the same location. We eventually learn that the sound is caused by a lurking hitman who habitually runs his thumb along the teeth of a metal comb.
  • Skepticism Failure: Averted. The explanation for any mystery would never be supernatural, no matter how impossible it seemed. Some crooks would actually use this to cover their tracks, knowing most people would rather believe in magic than accept they had been conned.
  • Slut-Shaming: In "Miracle on Crooked Lane", an ex-model and "professional bed-hopper" sells her story to the papers and the townsfolk shun her. She ends up committing suicide over it.
  • Smarter Than You Look: the homeless man in "Time Waits For Norman" — despite his circumstances, and acceptance of methylated spirit (which he clearly intends to drink) as payment, he's up-to-date enough on current affairs to recognise Newt Gingrich when Jonathan tests the accuracy of his testimony.
  • Spanner in the Works: Andre Masson's plan to commit suicide and frame the business associate who's sleeping with his wife for murder would have gone perfectly, were it not for one factor he couldn't possibly have accounted for — the associate's flat being burgled and the crucial piece of planted evidence being stolen.
    • Thelma Bailey very nearly got away with stealing a million-pound statue from her hated brother but couldn't possibly have anticipated that her daughter would get fatally mugged by the pimp of the prostitute she'd used to persuade her brother into giving up the statue.
  • Special Guest: Among those who made guest appearances include Bill Bailey, Colin Baker, Steven Berkoff, Warwick Davis, Peter Davison, Joanna Lumley, Paul McGann, Rik Mayall and Bob Monkhouse
  • Spiritual Successor: A mild case, but the show's format - oddball, super-smart male hero investigates weird, supernatural mysteries with a rotating cast of female sidekicks to whom he has to explain everything and who occasionally need rescuing - shares many similarities with Doctor Who, enough that Alan Davies has frequently been touted to play the Doctor since the latter show came back. It was even produced by Doctor Who founding producer Verity Lambert!
    • Ironically, series writer David Renwick was approached by Steven Moffat several times to write for New Who, but turned him down, because apparently he hates the show.
  • Sticky Situation: In "The Seer of the Sands", Jonathan and Carla get their heads stuck together when they are attempting to eavesdrop on a conversation with their heads pressed to to the same crack in the wall, and a can of glue on the shelf above gets overturned and drips down over them.
  • Stolen by Staying Still:
    • In "The Scented Room", a valuable painting disappears from inside a seemingly empty chamber. The painting never actually left the room. The thief slipped it inside the heavy, double-thickness door. Jonathan drives the owner to distraction by recovering the painting but refusing to reveal to him how the theft was committed.
    • In the episode "Gorgons Wood", a priceless (and apparently cursed) porcelain statue disappears from a locked room, with its currently trustee (who was with it at the time) suffering a swelling of the face for no apparent reason. She was in on it; the statue was stolen ahead of time, and replaced with a sugar replica, which she ate (one of the food dyes apparently triggering an allergic reaction).
  • The Summation: Every episode, always intercut with scenes of the crime itself being committed.
    • One exception is "The Judas Tree", where all we see is Jonathan's hypothesis and the implication that it is true, quite a way before the end of the episode.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: In "Daemon's Roost", Jonathan makes a scarecrow of Alfred Hitchcock for a village competition. Everyone else who sees it assumes it is Phill Jupitus, despite it not looking anything like Phill Jupitus.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Maddy to Carla, and then Carla to Joey. Although the Unresolved Sexual Tension common to Maddy and Carla is missing for the most part with Joey.
  • Swallowed Whole: The B plot in "The Seer of the Sands" involves Adam's latest ludicrous publicity stunt. It goes awry when the obnoxious midget he has employed passes out drunk, and then the anaconda he is using for the act escapes, and devours the midget. Jonathan's shocked crew discovers the sleeping snake with a midget shaped bulge in its stomach.
  • Sweetie Graffiti: A clue in "Gorgon's Wood", though it wasn't carved by "sweethearts".
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: Played with. While no adulterer is outright portrayed sympathetically, adultery is a common Red Herring used to establish an obvious motive that conceals the true motive. As a result most of the adultery in the series is softballed, or portrayed with mitigating factors;
    • "The Wrestler's Tomb": The murder victim was having an affair behind his wife's back, but he was having that affair with the homely cleaner, not the younger model. Said model was so outraged at having been rejected that she murdered him over it.
    • "The Eyes of Tiresias": The adulterer was framed by the husband, who commited suicide after realising he was about to be caught for embezzlement.
    • "Ghosts Forge": The husband cheated on his wife with a woman who bore a striking resemblance to his actual long-dead wife, whom he never really got over after she died. He had a severe case of Identity Amnesia encouraged by his not-actually-real-wife.
    • "Angel Hair": The husband was in love with his wife's stage persona, not the real person she was. Arguably the least sympathetic case in the series.
  • Take That!: Season 4 is a giant Take That! to ITV. Producer Brendan Baxter makes crap television (in one case literally), is willing to manipulate any footage just to get better ratings... and at one point cheerfully mentions he's about to have lunch with Michael Grade.
    • A slightly more affectionate Take That! occurs in "The Letters of Septimus Noone". Jonathan is accompanied in his investigation by the son of a friend of his wife, an affectionate parody of Sherlock Holmes as portrayed in Sherlock, wearing a similar scarf/trench-coat ensemble. Not-Sherlock routinely attempts Sherlock Scans which are always completely inaccurate due to his Awesome, but Impractical interpretation of the evidence Seriously, a crossbow bolt made of blood?.
  • Tap on the Head: Played straight in "No Trace Of Tracy" ... which is extremely noticeable considering that in just the previous episode, someone actually died from a blow to the head.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Andre Masson rigs up his suicide to make it look as though he's been murdered by one of his employees.
  • The Comically Serious: Jonathan Creek himself, whose response to the (often) bizarre situations he ends up in, is to either snark about it or shrug it off entirely. It's this aspect of his personality (and his Deadpan Snarker tendencies) that make him such a funny character to watch.
  • The Vicar: "Daemons' Roost" gave us Warwick Davis putting in a particularly hilarious turn as one.
  • Theme Song Reveal: In the episode "Satan's Chimney", Allan Kallanak's first appearance shows him rehearsing his escape act to the sound of the Eurythmics' Missionary Man. In hindsight, this not only gives away his identity as the killer, but his motivation as well: "don't mess with a missionary man..."
  • Thermometer Gag: In "The Problem at Gallows Gate (Part 1)", Adam's girlfriend is feeling sick and Adam's sister Kitty—who is a nurse—decides she is going to look after her; over Adam's objections. One of her first actions is to take her temperature:
    "Pop this under your tongue, dearie. It's rectal but it's clean."
  • Tie-In Novel: The World of Jonathan Creek, released shortly before the broadcast of Series 3, was principally a book about the making of the show, but also included an original mystery by David Renwick, "The Riddle at Castle Cain", which had a competition to solve it: readers had to write in with the answer, which was later printed in an issue of the Radio Times.
  • Time-Delayed Death
    • In "The Reconstituted Corpse" this trope was responsible for a dead woman ending up in a wardrobe: A pipe from some construction work fell on her head.
    • And in "The Letters of Septimus Noone", this how an actress is seemingly stabbed in a locked dressing room just minutes after a witness had seen her apparently hale and hearty.
  • Toad Licking: An hallucinogenic toad turned out to be a major plot point in one episode. The toad wasn't native to England and had been imported by a local hippie colony for this very purpose. The presence of the toad, allegedly in the prime suspect's house, was what led to Jonathan solving the case he was working on.
  • Traitor Shot: Used frequently with suspects, yet Maddy was instinctively good at spotting them.
  • Tricked into Signing: In "Gorgons Wood", Carla is signing copies of her new work-out video and a woman with a small child asks if she could take a picture of her with her nephew on Carla's knee. Turns out that the "nephew" is a grown man. The whole thing is distraction so she wouldn't notice that she is signing a contract allowing them to license "all forms of sexual erotica, however explicit, bearing my name, face or likeness".
  • Tsundere: Maddy and Carla. Carla's deredere side is vestigial.
  • Twin Switch: Used in "The Black Canary" in which one twin takes over her sister's life after her accidental death in order to spare her family the grief. In a twist on expectations, the discovery itself wasn't a big twist — Jonathan had it figured out by the middle of the episode, and the mystery is finding out how the latter twin died (though of course, the switch played a significant part in motivation).
    • Also the basis of the same character's career. The twins were magicians and most of their act was based around the fact that the audience was unaware that the magician was actually two people.
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: Played for laughs in "Mother Redcap" in which a police detective passes around several photographs of potential assassins from an Asian crime family — the joke is that they're all the same actor in different clothes. Later in the episode the murder victim's wife is brought to the station to look over some possible suspects. She confidently identifies one who was prowling around in her back garden, although again — they're all the same actor.
  • The Unfair Sex: Even though Jonathan and Maddy aren't in a relationship, this trope is very much in effect. Maddy's able to turn any complaint Jonathan may have about her (for example, her driving) into a complaint about him. Plus, when she stays over at the windmill, she kicks him out of his own bed and forces him to sleep on the sofa.
  • Unreliable Narrator: When the crime is shown being committed in flashback during The Summation, this is often just Jonathan's hypothesis rather than what actually happened — sometimes because all the witnesses are dead, or because the suspect doesn't confirm it until after he's spoken. This rarely comes up, however — the best example is in the pilot "The Wrestler's Tomb", where we see the main suspect pulling off the impossible alibi that would let her commit the crime as Jonathan explains how it could happen, but at the end we find out she wasn't the killer, so she never did the acts shown in the earlier reconstruction scene. Heck, Jonathan even admits immediately after the aforementioned summation that while it's a working theory, it hinges on too many random things going right to be plausible.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Like any good male/female detective team, Maddy and Jonathan have this in spades. Lampshaded in the first episode, when Jonathan point-blank asks Maddy if she's trying to bed him.
    • Plenty of UST with Carla as well, with the added twist that between their first and second meetings, she's got married. It's significant enough that Carla's husband outright asks them to play it up to boost viewer ratings for her show, of which he's the producer.
    • Hinted at toward the end of Jonathan and Joey's first special together, when their respective romantic interests end up with each other at the end. Other than that, Joey and Jonathan operate more Like Brother and Sister. By the time they meet again for "The Case of the Savant's Thumb", Jonathan is married.
  • The Unreveal: Jonathan tells Maddy who he thinks Alice Spearfish's real father is — on a piece of paper that we don't see.
  • Unsuspectingly Soused: In "Daemon's Roost", Polly takes The Vicar's advice to suck on a mouthful of ice cubes to cure her nausea. What she didn't know was that the owner of the house had taken to filling the ice cube trays with neat vodka to hide his drinking.
  • The Vamp: Francesca Boutron, Zola Zbzewski, Heather Davey, Gillian Bailey, Selima Al-Sharad and the prostitute in "Mother Redcap".
  • Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: At play in "Ghosts Forge" — Maddy thinks the titular house is called "Ghost's Forge" (which would make more sense), but Jonathan spots that the house name on the gate-post doesn't contain an apostrophe. Turns out, the apostrophe-less version is a literary joke - "Ghosts For G.E.", as in the owner is the ghostwriter for former MP George Eastland - which helps him to solve the mystery.
  • The Watson: Maddy, Carla, Joey.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Didactic?invoked In "Angel Hair", Jonathan works out the core mystery pretty quickly but keeps schtum about it while he tries to work out the details. To help Carla along, he writes two proverbs on a piece of paper and she spends half the episode trying to find any hidden meaning in it. After spending hours agonising over it, her husband leans over and casually notes that it's the first two lines to Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind", in the wrong order.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In the episode "The Tailor's Dummy" there is an entire subplot about Kenny helping the Mafia kidnap attractive women. Jonathan demands that Kenny get them out of trouble, or he'll go to the police, but he and Carla are imprisoned in one of the theatre's props by the men before this can happen. Kenny is last seen being dragged away by the Mafia, and neither he nor the women are ever mentioned again.
    • A few episodes in the second series show that Adam has a pet tiger, which he clearly dotes on. It disappears completely after this series and is never mentioned again.
    • In "The Curse Of the Bronze Lamp", the kidnappers gain access to their victim by knocking out the DJs at her party and taking their place. The real DJs are never mentioned again.
  • What Have We Ear?: Jonathan and Adam do this on a few occasions (but Jonathan draws the line when Adam asks him to design a trick that allows him to pull a postage stamp from under the Queen's tongue).
  • Will They or Won't They?: Maddy and Jonathan. They're on the edge of dating for entire seasons, without actually dating. They share a snog and a grope occasionally, but inevitably, one of them then immediately cocks it up. They have platonic sleepovers, Jonathan irons Maddy's bras, Maddy gets intensely possessive every time Jonathan has a date with someone else, and they still don't manage to actually have sex. They eventually do, once, but both decide it was a mistake.
  • You Got Murder: Occurs in "The House of Monkeys" in which a self-addressed envelope laced with poison is sent to the victim. On licking the flap, he trips out on hallucinogenic drugs and manages to impale himself on a sword.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The killer's accomplice in "The Grinning Man". She is rescued.