Friday, 18 October 2013

The return of Captain Hastings (and the end of Poirot!)



If you live in the UK and own a television set then the chances are you'll have already started seeing the trailers for the final Poirot series, the first episode of which begins next Wednesday the 23rd of October.  ITV has been plugging it at every opportunity and for once I quite agree with them - Poirot has been a jewel in their crown for nearly 25 years and the [sad] fact that it is coming to an end deserves all the notice it can get.  Putting aside the fandom for a minute, I would go so far as to say it is a landmark moment in the history of British television.  I'm struggling to think of another TV period drama series of recent memory that has endured for a quarter of a century, with the same lead actor giving a definitive performance (from the very first episode, I think you'd agree) in what would fully deserve to be his enduring legacy.  David Suchet has been the Poirot parfait and, much like Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes or Fry & Laurie's Jeeves and Wooster, I doubt I shall see a better portrayal in my lifetime.

HEADLINE: "Last series of Poirot begins next week.  Nation in mourning."

In Poirot the main character(s) have become loved by the viewing public; we've travelled the years with them and although we may already have read the original novels there has been something about each adaptation that draws us in and makes us enjoy the story anew.  Agatha Christie's undoubted genius at writing detective fiction is of course a main ingredient of Poirot's success but thanks must also go towards all the actors who have appeared down the years (some big names in there further adding to the series' stature) and of course the top class scriptwriters (who have included luminaries such as Clive Exton, David Renwick, Anthony Horowitz and Mark Gatiss), not to mention the production staff who have done such a wonderful job with the sets, props and - of course - the clothes!  It could be argued that the series took a darker turn, which may not have suited some tastes, after the departure of supporting characters Chief Inspector Japp (Philip Jackson), Miss Lemon (Pauline Moran) and Captain Hastings (Hugh Fraser) but even these solo episodes are still suitably atmospheric murder mysteries.  It is a further mark of the series that these three characters proved so popular that they were used in far more stories than they ever actually appeared in in the books.

Miss Lemon!  Japp!  Poirot!  CAPTAIN HASTINGS!!  Just like old times.

We're about to be in for a real treat, though, with the first of these final four episodes -  The Big Four (SPOILER WARNING).  For it marks the return to the series (for the first time in twelve years) of those beloved character Chief Inspector (now Assistant Commissioner!) Japp, Miss Lemon and this blogger's favourite - Captain Arthur Hastings!  Oho, I can't wait!  I'm only a little worried that they won't get much screen time and that the actors won't have aged as well as their fictional counterparts (by my reckoning only 4 or 5 years should have passed during the entire series - excepting The Mysterious Affair at Styles and The Adventure of the Chocolate Box which were both set earlier in Poirot's career) although judging by the splendid picture above I don't think the latter will be too much of a problem!  More importantly, what are half of the vintage blogosphere, myself included, going to talk about once it's all over?!  It can't end, it just can't!

Now, finally, a question for you all.  We're about due another Captain Hastings post, I reckon.  In light of this upcoming event, would you like me to cover the welcome return of Captain Hastings in The Big Four or continue my chronological journey through the earlier episode with Problem At Sea?  Let me know in the comments below!

5 comments:

  1. Eek! That's so exciting. They likely won't air it in Canada for a couple years but I can't wait to watch it.

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  2. So excited to see the return of Hastings, Japp and Miss Lemon! (A little less to see The End -- I didn't read "Curtain" for decades because I couldn't stand the thought of the end of M. Poirot.)
    I'm expecting it will air on PBS here in the U.S. next year.

    I think everyone would understand if you wanted to interrupt your Hastings Beginning to End project with a look at these current episodes -- and they'll be a special treat for those of us around the world who won't see them for awhile.

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  3. They had to use Captain Hastings and Miss Lemon more on tv than they did in the books, because in the books a lot of the dialogue is Poirot musing in his head which doesn't really work well on screen.So they beefed up their characters (with the blessing of the Agatha Christie trust) so he could muse out loud to another character.
    My brother has had the lucky, lucky opportunity to drive David Suchet on more than one occasion (and mentioned that I am a huge fan!) David Suchet said he was determined to film all the books and then stop, so he had pushed to do these last ones.

    I'm kind of dreading 'Curtain' I don't want to see him go mad :(

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  4. Ye Gods, 25 years! Now I feel old.
    You are so right about the wardrobe department, the urge to raid it is quite overwhelming at times.

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