Look at David Suchet in Agatha Christie's Poirot. He has played that exact same role with the exact same moustache since 1989, and has he ever complained? Not one word. No doubt Suchet would have dutifully continued solving inter-war murder mysteries indefinitely, if only they hadn't run out of Christie stories to adapt. Over the coming weeks, ITV will screen the four, final feature-length episodes, beginning last night with The Big Four, an adaptation of Christie's 1927 novel.
The episode opened with the dramatic news. Poirot was dead and his old chums (Miss Lemon, Captain Hastings and Assistant Commissioner Japp) had been called together for a memorial service. All was not quite as it seemed, of course, but this twist did allow our cast to begin the valedictory series in an appropriately funereal fashion.
Soon, we flashed back to the case that led to Poirot's demise, the suspicious death of a Russian chess master and a shadowy conspiracy involving a group of fifth columnists known as "The Big Four". Will Poirot's theatrical flair ultimately be his undoing?
If Agatha Christie was still alive, she'd probably have been watching the other side last night. Not because this wasn't a quality production with an enjoyable plot – it was – but because Christie famously grew to detest her own creation. By 1960, she described him as a "bombastic, tiresome, egocentric little creep".
He still has all his irritating habits: talking about himself in the third person, fastidious neatness and, sad to say, mes amis, a tendency to litter conversation with unnecessary French phrases, as though he were auditioning for a walk-on in 'Allo 'Allo!, not investigating a murder.
Yet there is something undeniably comforting about ITV's unchanging detective. Sherlock has been sexed up for a new century, Montalbano and Morse both have their younger, hotter versions and, despite the occasional interventions of Sherlock writer Mark Gatiss, only Poirot has reliably remained just as he always was. Not for much longer, sadly.Reuse content