Follow TV Tropes


Series / Whodunnit? (UK)

Go To

Whodunnit? was a British television game show that ran from 1972 to 1978. It was hosted by Shaw Taylor in the pilot episode, then by Edward Woodward in the first season, and Jon Pertwee from 1973 to 1978.

Each week it featured a short murder-mystery drama enacted in front of a panel of celebrity guests who then had to establish who the murderer was. Anouska Hempel and Patrick Mower became permanent panelists from series 3 onwards, with two guest celebrities each episode. In series 5, Liza Goddard replace Anouska as permanent panelist. The panel members could interview the remaining characters, with only clue being that only the murderer could lie. Each panelist could also request to see a short replay of one section of the initial drama, which would often include events as they occurred and flashbacks as seen and narrated by individual suspects. (The video technology used at the time meant that it usually took a few minutes to set up each replay.)


Tropes used in Whodunnit? include:

  • Accidental Murder:
    • In "Teddy Bears Picnic", the Victim of the Week suffers Death by Falling Over when she hits her head on a dresser while fighting with a thief in a gorilla suit.
    • In "Time to Dye", the Victim of the Week is chloroformed with a towel. However, the chemical used to drug her interacts with the alcohol she has already consumed and she asphyxiates.
    • In "Final Drive", the killer cuts the brake lines on the Victim of the Week's car, intending to cause an accident and prevent the victim from racing. However, they underestimated the speed he would be driving at when he tried to brake.
  • Animal Assassin: In "Happy New Year", the Victim of the Week is bitten by a venomous snake the killer placed in his safe.
  • Bitter Almonds: In "Dead Ball", the detective detects the smell of bitter almonds on the lips of the Victim of the Week and declares him a victim of cyanide poisoning.
  • Advertisement:
  • Cacophony Cover Up: In "A Bad Habit", the thief uses a chisel to break the sacred sceptre free from its brackets on the wall; timing his blows to coincide with the striking of the abbey clock.
  • The Casino: "Adieu Monsieur Chips" is about the murder of a casino manager and the theft of a large amount of high value chips from his office.
  • Caught on Tape: In "The Q43 Experiment", the murder of the Victim of the Week is caught on the tape recorder the victim was using to rerecord his lab notes. The killer, in fact, is planning on this and uses the tape to plant a Red Herring.
  • China Takes Over the World: "Future Imperfect" was set in the year 2076 and had China ruling the UK (and, by implication, the rest of the world).
  • Christmas Episode: "A Piece of Cake" is a Christmas-themed episode that was originally screened between seasons 2 and 3. It involves a murder at a family gathering on Christmas Eve, 1928.
  • Clothing Combat: In "A Safe Way to Die", a scarf is wrapped around the neck of the Victim of the Week to make it look like she was strangled. However, she was actually poisoned with strychnine.
  • Clueless Detective: In "Adieu Monsieur Chips", the primary investigator is the bungling head of security for the Monte Carlo casino (who has more than a touch of Inspector Clouseau about him. Host Jon Pertwee notes that he is still clueless about the killer's identity even after it has been revealed.
  • Curtain Camouflage: The thief in "A Bad Habit" hides behind a curtain in the abbey.
  • Cut-and-Paste Note: In "The Rajah's Ruby", Captain Nickerson receives a note made up of words cut out of the Times newspaper warning that the eponymous ruby is going to be stolen. The note turns out to be one of the more important clues in unraveling the mystery.
  • Cut Phone Lines: The killer does this in "Final Verdict" to isolate his victims in the house.
  • Death by Falling Over: In "Teddy Bears Picnic", the Victim of the Week interrupts a thief stealing her jewelery. They struggle and she is pushed over, hitting her head on the dresser and dying.
  • Disability Alibi: In "Which Eye Jack", the killer's attempt to frame another suspect falls apart because the man she tried to frame, Short Fuse, was missing an arm and could not have been holding a candle and trying to open a door at the same time as she claimed.
  • Double In-Law Marriage: In "A Piece of Cake", Betty Anderson is married to James. Her sister Marjorie Tempest is engaged to James' older brother, Captain Alexander Anderson, who becomes the Body of the Week.
  • Dressed to Plunder: In "Which Eye Jack", a murder occurs among a gathering of pirates. All of the suspects fit this trope to some degree, with Blackbeard being the most complete example, dressed in a tricorner hat, frock coat, Eyepatch of Power, Hook Hand, and Seadog Peg Leg. Capatin Magee, the sole Pirate Girl at the gathering, rocks a tight Waistcoat of Style, flouncy shirt, Painted-On Pants, and thigh high boots.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Sergeant Morris, the Victim of the Week in "Goodbye Sarge".
  • Dying Clue:
    • In "Evidence of Death", the Victim of the Week, is poisoned with a nerve agent. With his voice paralysed and 20 seconds to live, he removes his signet ring and stuffs it into a matchbox as a cryptic clue to his killer's identity.
    • In "Too Many Cooks", the Victim of the Week attempts to scratch the killer's name into a block of ice after he has been Locked in a Freezer. Unfortunately, he only gets as far as the first letter—'B'—which is not helpful as every suspect's name starts with B.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: In every episode every character in the episode apart from the Victim of the Week and (sometimes) the investigators is a viable suspect.
  • Fairplay Whodunnit: All of the clues necessary to solve the murder were presented to the viewers.
  • Fake Static: In "A Bad Sign", the murderer uses tape recorded traffic noise to fake calling from his car phone to establish an alibi when they are really calling from another room in the same building.
  • Fauxreigner: In "Too Many Cooks", head chef Count Igor Braunsky is revealed to really be Stanley Brown of Bethnal Green, London. As he puts it, no one is going to respect a chef named Stanley Brown.
  • Finger-Licking Poison: In "Death at the Top", the Victim of the Week, who has an Oral Fixation, is murdered when the killer poisons the tip of his pen, which he compulsively chews on during a board meeting.
  • Flock of Wolves: At the start of "Too Many Cooks", Commander Blade from MI5, who is investigating the murder of a hotel chef believed to be linked to a planned assination attempt on a visiting foreign dignitary, arrests the head waiter. The head waiter reveals himself to be a CIA agent, and attempts the arrest the assistant chef. The assistant chef then reveals himself as an agent of SDECE (French intelligence).
  • Food Pills: Used in "Future Imperfect", which was set in the year 2076. The options included duck l'organge and haddock Monte Carlo, although one of the characters passed on the new potato pills because they were slimming.
  • Food Slap: After one lewd comment too many, Miss Hampshire throws her drink over Gay Fortescue in "The Rajah's Ruby".
  • Fresh Clue: In "All Part of the Service", Inspector Godfrey notes that the amount of undisturbed ash on the Victim of the Week's cigar means that it sat burning in the ashtray for at least 10 minutes.
  • Fright Deathtrap: In "Future Imperfect", the Victim of the Week is murdered when the travel tape he was supposed to experiencing is swapped for a tape of a tiger attacking, triggering a heart attack.
  • Get into Jail Free: In "Diamonds Are Almost Forever", one of thieves arranges to be caught red-handed stealing the diamonds so he will spend the night in jail. This is part of the plan to destroy the remaining evidence when the diamonds disappear from the police safe overnight.
  • Hand of Death: Used frequently when showing the murders.
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky: In "A Bad Sign", a photographer hands the inspector and bundle of photos being used to blackmail one of the suspects. The inspector looks at the first photo and turns it almost completely around before the photographer reaches out and turns it back the way he originally had it.
  • High-Class Glass:
    • The Baron, a German flying ace, wears one (along with a waxed moustache) in "The Rajah's Ruby" (set in 1925).
    • In "Which Eye Jack", the foppish pirate captain Captain Ginger uses a quizzing glass.
  • High-Voltage Death:
    • In "A Deadly Tan", a dictator is murdered when the killer electrifies the towel rail in his solarium.
    • In "Pop Goes the Weasel", the killer rewires the microphone and the electric guitar of a pop singer so that when he holds the guitar in one hand and grabs the mic with the other, he completes a circuit and electrocutes himself.
  • Hook Hand: "Which Eye Jack" features Blackbeard; a pirate who is forced into the role of detective after the eponymous Jack is murdered. Blackbeard embodies most of the pirate stereotypes, including a hook for a hand, as part of his Dressed to Plunder look.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: One of the ways a murderer can give themselves away. For example, in "Portrait in Black", the killer knew the subject of the photo the Victim of the Week had been developing in his darkroom when he was murdered, despite the photo being completely overexposed when the body was found.
  • Insurance Fraud: The crime in "Diamonds Are Almost Forever" turns out to be insurance fraud with the thieves stealing their own diamonds in order to keep the stones and claim the insurance.
  • It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": "Death at the Top" features a suspect named Ian Cockburn, pronounced 'Coburn'. Host Jon Pertwee gets some humour out of panelist Patrick Mower pronouncing the surname as it is spelled.
  • The Killer Was Left-Handed: The killer being left-handed is an important clue in "Pop Goes the Weasel". In an ironic twist, several of the panelists picked up the fact that the killer must be left-handed, but then completely failed to identify which characters were left-handed, resulting in three of them naming a completely innocent right-handed suspect as the murderer, because they all thought he was left-handed.
  • Locked in a Freezer: The Victim of the Week in "Too Many Cooks" is murdered when the killer locks him the in walk-in freezer and then disables the alarm.
  • Lovely Assistant: The Victim of the Week in "Before Your Very Eye" is a Stage Magician's lovely assistant who is murdered when the killer sabotages the sword cabinet, causing her to be fatally stabbed on stage.
  • Midnight Snack: In "Which Eye Jack", several characters use getting a snack from the larder (a piece of cheese, an apple, a mug of ale) as an excuse to visit the inn's common room and attempt to persuade Jack to join their crew.
  • Mystery of the Week
  • Nasty Party: In "Final Verdict", the eight surviving members of a jury who sentenced a man to life imprisonment invited to to a dinner party on the 20th anniversary of the day they delivered the verdict. However, one of them is the killer in disguise, and announces (via tape recording) that all of them will die unless they can identify the imposter.
  • Never Suicide: "All Part of the Service" starts with the police arriving to investigate an apparent suicide. Immediately lampshaded by host Jon Pertwee in his introduction when he says that if it really was a suicide, they wouldn't have a show.
  • No Honour Among Thieves: In "Dead Grass", the Victim of the Week is a thief done in by a fellow member of his gang while they were divvying up the loot from a bank job.
  • Not-So-Fake Prop Weapon: In "Before Your Very Eyes", a Stage Magician's Lovely Assistant is murdered when the killer sabotages the sword cabinet, resulting in her being stabbed when the magician thrusts a sword through the cabinet.
  • One Steve Limit: Used as a Red Herring in "All Part of the Service" where the suspects include a woman named Leslie and and another named Lesley.
  • Obfuscating Disability: Used in the reveal in one episode. When the host called on the real murderer to please stand up, one of the policemen dropped his notebook. The man in a wheelchair next to him stood up and handed it back to him.
  • Oh Wait, This Is My Grocery List: Done (apparently as a spur-of-the-moment gag) on "Too Many Cooks". When Jon Pertwee is collecting the cards from the panelists, he takes Anouska Hempel's and starts to read "Take two teaspoons of sugar...? This is a recipe!" and playfully baffs her on the back of the head with it. A giggling Anouska then hands him the card with her real guess on it.
  • Pirate Girl: Captain Dorothea 'Treasure Chest' Magee (played by the incomparable Kate O'Mara) in "Which Eye Jack". She is the only woman present at a meeting of pirate captains when a murder occurs. She earned her nickname because of her impressive fo'c'sles.
  • Poison Ring: Used by the murderer in "A Piece of Cake". A spike on the ring injects a lethal dose of snake venom into the Victim of the Week when the murderer grasps his his wrist.
  • Portrait Painting Peephole: In "Which Eye Jack", the killer uses uses a peephole concealed behind the eyepatch on a painting of a pirate to spy on Jack as he hides the pearl and the Treasure Map.
  • Questioning Title?
  • Reckless Gun Usage: In "Diamonds Are Almost Forever", a pair of diamond merchants who obviously have no experience with firearms are putting a gun in the safe. One pulls it from his pocket and hands it to his boss barrel first before realising his mistake and turning it handle first. His boss first sensibly holds the gun sideways, before forgetting and pointing it at his subordinate while gesturing to make a point.
  • Robot Maid: In "Future Imperfect" (set in the year 2076), the family possesses a robot servant called Mister Seven who is reprogrammed to murder the head of the family.
  • Ruritania: "A Deadly Tan" featured the murder of a dictator in a Ruritania called Barania, which one of the characters indicated was located between Moldova and Albania. The security forces seemed to have stepped out of a Banana Republic, however.
  • Seadog Peg Leg: Blackbeard, the pirate who acts as detective in "Which Eye Jack", sports a wooden leg as part of his Dressed to Plunder look.
  • Side Bet: At the start of "All Part of the Service", Inspector Godfrey and Sergeant Coop have a bet about how long they'll be at the crime scene.
  • Staged Shooting: In "All Part of the Service", the killer murders the Victim of the Week with a silenced pistol, then later fires a shot out of the window to make it appear the death occurred later than it actually did.
  • Stage Magician: In "Before Your Very Eyes", a murder takes place at the climax of a magician's act when sabotage turns the sword cabinet into a Not-So-Fake Prop Weapon.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: Poisoning was one of the more common methods of murder used in the show, probably because it allows for the broadest possible suspect pool.
  • Ten Little Murder Victims: In "Final Verdict", the eight surviving members of a jury who sentenced a killer to life imprisonment 20 years ago are invited to a dinner. Via tape recording, the killer reveals that he is one of the people attending the dinner in disguise, and that they have to find him before they all die.
  • Thriller on the Express: In "It's Quicker By Train", the Victim of the Week is poisoned in the dining car of an intercity train.
  • Treasure Map: In "Which Eye Jack", Jack is murdered so the killer can steal a valuable pearl and a map showing the location where the rest of the treasure is hidden.
  • Unfriendly Fire: In "Goodbye Sarge", the Victim of the Week is a Drill Sergeant Nasty shot by one of his men who tried to make it look like the work of an enemy sniper.
  • Vehicular Sabotage: In "Final Drive", the Victim of the Week is murdered when the killer cuts the brake lines on his car.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: In "Before Your Very Eyes", a Stage Magician's Lovely Assistant keeps the remote control that is part of the trick concealed in the left cup of her bra.
  • Video Wills: In "No Happy Returns", the Victim of the Week of the makes a film stating that if dies, he will have been murdered by one of the members of his board. The film is not found until 25 years after his murder.
  • Whodunnit to Me?:
    • In "Happy New Year", the Victim of the Week is bitten by a venomous snake. Knowing he has 30 minutes to live, he uses the time to question the suspects.
    • In "Future Imperfect", the Victim of the Week is brought back from the dead by having a robot redirect its 'life force' through him. He solves his own murder but is then killed again by a second attempt before he can announce who done it.
  • Who Murdered the Asshole?: Most victims. In the most extreme case in "A Deadly Tan", every suspect tried to claim credit for killing the victim (a South American dictator) and the mystery was to work out who was telling the truth rather than who was lying.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: