Partners in Crime, BBC1 - TV review: Excellent leads just lack that spark of sexual chemistry

David Walliams and Jessica Raine: A married couple turned investigative team

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The Independent Culture

There’s been a Poirot-sized hole in the schedules ever since ITV aired the final episode of the Suchet series, but Partners in Crime, a new six-part Agatha Christie adaptation, should fill it very nicely. David Walliams and Call the Midwife’s Jessica Raine star as Tommy and Tuppence, a married couple who turn investigative team when they stumble upon a story of intrigue and adventure on the 15.10 train from Paris to Londres.

Part of the enjoyable comfort of Christie on TV is the period detail and the BBC has pulled this off with much more visual flair than ITV ever managed. Events from the original 1922 novel, The Secret Adversary, have been transposed to 1952, allowing for a nicely Hitchcockian title sequence, in which our two leads are menaced by geometric shapes in various shades of blue. Raine and Walliams are also as well turned out as Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint, or James Stewart and Kim Novak; it’s only a shame their interactions don’t fizz with the same sexual chemistry.

At least the two leads are individually endearing. Raine plays Tuppence as both meddlesome and mettlesome and there was a nice running gag about the unlikely places she’d picked up her super-spy skill-set (“at boarding school”, in “Girl Guides” and from “Dorothy L Sayers novels”, apparently). Tommy, meanwhile, is nerdishly obsessed with the mating habits of honey bees and dismally fails to live up to the 1950s ideal of the male provider. This much was pointed out by Carter, the uncle in MI5, whose dismissive characterisation of his nephew  as “a slippers and pipe man” spurred Tommy to join in his wife’s adventures.

 

Carter (The Vicar of Dibley’s James Fleet) heads up a promising cast of support characters that also includes Tommy’s old war buddy-turned-one-handed mad chemistry professor Albert (Matthew Steer) and The Wire’s Clarke Peters lending some transatlantic glamour as the murder victim’s wealthy American uncle.