[dropcap]I[/dropcap] don’t know about you, but I found the Christmas schedule to be really rubbish – not being a fan of soaps or Downton Abbey, I was more than ready for bed after Doctor Who was done.
Thank goodness, then, for the subsequent days of television: viewers were treated to some quality drama, but none was finer than the BBC’s adaption of what is possibly the finest piece of detective fiction ever written – Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.
Ten people are summoned to an island off the coast of Devon by the mysterious Mr and Mrs U. N. Owen. There, they find their host absent, and during dinner they are accused of murder by a voice on a gramophone record. Here begins the slaughter, which all ties into the nursery rhyme ‘Ten Little Solider Boys’, a framed copy of which hangs in every room. Spread over three nights, this was an example of drama at its best.
The setting, the score, and the direction all help to frame this tale as a terrifying and dark psychological thriller.
As the story progresses, the feeling of unease and isolation grows and grows, with the final part oozing tension – only when the credits start to roll is it time to stop holding your breath.
The adaptation features an all-star cast, and they excel in their roles – the ten central characters are all distinct personalities, and we get a feel for who they are within moments of meeting them.
As the first murder occurs fairly late into Episode 1, the viewer gets to spend time with the characters: we become emotionally invested in them before the slaughter starts, finding the more likeable characters are often the more heinous killers.
Via the use of flashbacks, the adaptation also affords us one of the novel’s luxuries – the chance to see the murders that paved the way to Soldier Island, and how they affect the characters.
Without naming names, the cast who make it to the final episode are all exceptional, with some of the best performances I’ve seen, certainly this year.
I had come to the show having read the book, but that did not hamper my enjoyment at all. When the source material is this good, and the adaptation this well done, knowing whodunit no difference at all.
I could wax lyrical about how good And Then There Were None is, and I would still not do it justice. Suffice to say, this was the holiday’s best show – real flawlessly-executed drama, adapted from one of the best crime stories written – what more could you want?