TV review: And Then There Were None, BBC One
An Agatha Christie whodunit falls slightly short of being perfect festive fare
There’s barely a word spoken in the opening ten minutes of And Then Then There Were None. Perhaps this is a recognition that Agatha Christie was not especially renowned for her dialogue: her talents lay in the scrupulous dissection of a crime and the forensic means by which her detective types would finally get their mitts on the murderer(s).
With so much thoroughly atmospheric and deeply windswept mood-setting going on in the elongated introduction (including an opening credits sequence that is firmly targeted at the Game Of Thrones generation), you can’t be sure whether you’ve landed headlong into a festive crime mystery or feet-first onto the set of an early 80s pop promo. Either way, you almost yearn for the simplicity of David Suchet’s twitching mouser or Geraldine McEwan’s doughty eccentricity.
But once the visual histrionics have died down (though the image of a slowly revealing vast gully is undoubtedly impressive), we’re swiftly into familiar Christie territory as a series of loose cannons and dodgy establishment figures are brought together for a seemingly inexplicable gathering on the isolated Devon coastline. That is until a message is bombastically relayed around the sinister pile, insinuating that they are all here to pay for a murderous individual secret they each harbour.
Predictably there’s an almighty cast employed for this job with Charles Dance, Sam Neill, Miranda Richardson, Aidan Turner, Burn Gorman and Toby Stephens among the eight who spend three episodes attempting to dodge a bullet (vial of poison, hangman’s noose, bunch of bees and so forth). Meanwhile, with a barely suppressed menace, Anna Maxwell Martin and Noah Taylor play the front-of-house roles within the foreboding mansion as the guests remain in the creepy dark over their hosts’ true identities.
Given that this is the bestselling crime novel of all time (100 million copies have been globally shifted) and thereby contains a well-worn tale, hopefully the title won’t refer to the number of viewers left by its denouement.
And Then There Were None starts on BBC One, Saturday 26 December, 9pm.