danlansdowne: (Huh?)
[personal profile] danlansdowne
Tonight I had the privilege of doing something I haven't had the opportunity to do in a long time: watch an episode of Agatha Christie's Poirot. It was a first-season episode, "Problem at Sea". It was filmed over twenty years old but is still entertaining.

I haven't read the story for a while, but I could remember a major change they made for the adaptation: the story was set on a Mediterranean ocean liner while the TV episode is set on a chartered yacht--a practical change since 1920s liners are hard to come by these days. Another significant change was the insertion of Captain Hastings into a story that did not feature him at all. There were other minor changes, but all of them got me thinking about the early stories compared to the more recent, and reviled, adaptations of Poirot novels.

The original hour-long episodes were really no more guilty than the novel adaptations of making great alterations for dramatic purposes--inserting Miss Lemon and Chief Inspector Japp into every story to create the Holmesian detective-sidekick-woman-police inspector quartet being the biggest. Others include politicizing characters in ways not seen in the originals, with themes including Irish Home Rule, women's rights, and the Mafia. Characters are added, dropped, and renamed at the drop of a hat.

Aside from "Murder on the Orient Express", which changes a key part of Poirot's personality for the purpose of increased drama, the current writers cut and paste just as much as the original writers did. Why am I, and other fans, more swift to judge the new team, then? Was the charm of the original episodes enough to make their sins forgivable? Are they making more significant alterations now than before? Are we just getting crotchety in our old age?

Note that this does not apply to the newest Miss Marple adaptations. Inserting her into stories that were not hers in the slightest (a pet peeve of the creator in the 60s) and changing the identity of the murderer are still beneath contempt. Mrs. Christie's grandson has some explaining to do!
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