Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Hastings, Japp and Lemon back for 'The Big Four'

It is fantastic to finally have an official confirmation from ITV on this (not that David Suchet's Twitter isn't official, but it's nice to see it in a press release). Also, I think it's the first press release since they commissioned the final five in November 2011, so it was about time to get some news (again, Suchet is doing an excellent job with that on his own!).

So, The Big Four will reunite the "big four" (Poirot, Hastings, Japp, Lemon). How fitting! I must say this is probably the adaptation I am most excited about for the final series (apart from Curtain). Not because it's a particularly good story, it's absolutely over-the-top, but it can really turn into something special in the transition from novel to adaptation.

I won't deny that I am somewhat anxious as to how the absence of the characters will be explained. For one thing, it's been more than ten years in real-world time since they last adapted a story together, and they have (inevitably) aged a bit. And their ageing is more difficult to cover up than Suchet's, both because Poirot is who he is (colouring his hair, the padding etc) and because Suchet seems to have aged less, facially speaking, than the others (no offence). More importantly, though, I really can't fathom how Miss Lemon's presence will be explained! Hastings and Japp is one thing - Hastings comes back from South America, like in the novel, and Japp could still be working at Scotland Yard (though I always assumed he retired). But Miss Lemon just disappeared into thin air after Evil under the Sun, and now that Poirot has moved and refurbished his flat, there's really no room for her.

Admittedly, these questions come from a chronology fanatic, so perhaps I'm exaggerating the issues here. In any case, I have complete faith in the screenwriters, Mark Gatiss and Ian Hallard. Gatiss is a competent adaptor of Christie novels (unsurprisingly, given the brilliant Sherlock series). They have undoubtedly worked something out (as Hallard seems to have hinted to on Twitter).

Two final points to make here. Firstly, based on the press release and Hallard's answers on Twitter, I'm starting to doubt whether Kika Markham (Countess Rossakoff) will be included. It seems somewhat strange to me not to include her in the press release if she was taking part - not to mention that the brief synopsis only touches upon the challenge of the case at hand, not that Poirot is to be reunited with the love of his life. If I'm right, I hope they include her in Labours. That chapter of Poirot's life needs to see a proper end too. Secondly, I'm delighted to see that they have gone for a WWII/spy angle on this one. Not that surprising, but it does make sense - and would hopefully work well with the rest of the series chronology, since they have slowly (and thankfully) moved beyond 1936 in recent years.


  1. I, too, am delighted by the news, and I'm also looking forward to this particular adaptation the most, after Curtain. It's been too long since Fraser, Jackson and Moran were last seen, and even though having to explain their absence is necessary, I think Gatiss and Hallard have done their best to cover that area. I'm thinking Poirot will call upon Miss Lemon for her help, knowing where she is and all. It's evident that he let her go as his secretary and probably has stayed in touch with her because of how close they were. Whatever the case, it'll be the decision of the writers, because Miss Lemon was not in the book at all to begin with, and was probably written in so that fans both new and old would be happy to see the "old guard" (as I call them) back together again for one more adventure. Maybe Moran will be allowed to stay on for The Labours of Hercules and Dead Man's Folly, too? Miss Lemon is in both novels, after all, and maybe Poirot will decide to keep her on for a short while. In that sense these final episodes would have a definite chronological ordering: Elephants Can Remember (the last pre-war mystery), then The Big Four, then Dead Man's Folly, then The Labours of Hercules (when Poirot finally retires for good), then Curtain.

    As to Kika Markham, I'm having doubts we'll be seeing Countess Rossakoff at all, as much as I don't want to say it. If you read "The Capture of Cerberus" in Labours, the picture of the countess you get is a stark contrast to the demure, elegant character Markham embodied in "The Double Clue." In "Cerberus" Rossakoff is so wild and outgoing, whereas Markham played her exactly the opposite. If indeed the character remains in the adaptation, and Markham is able to return, I very much wonder what her approach will be. Markham is also quite old now - in her early 70s - so maybe they might have to recast the character altogether. But everything remains to be seen. Labours doesn't start filming until April, and David Suchet has remain tight-lipped on all Twitter questions regarding the countess, so I doubt we'll know until then.

    1. Hi Tom! Gatiss and Hallard have undoubtedly found a good explanation of their absence. Like you, I assume Miss Lemon and Poirot have stayed in touch. I love Christopher's comment on another of my blog post that they should have a reference to her days at Parker Pyne's, though I doubt if that would be included, even though Gatiss seems to a be a true Christie fan. As to the two remaining stories, I suspect they might keep Miss Lemon for Labours (as I've suggested elsewhere, she could find Poirot's cases for him, like in the stories), but her part in Dead Man's Folly is so small that I suspect she'll be cut from that one.

      On the subject of Vera Rossakoff, I agree that her return seems increasingly unlikely. However, given Suchet's commitment to what I call the Poirot's-lamentation-on-love-storyline, and the fact that Labours needs a couple of "big" storylines to work as an adaptation, I'm still hoping for a return in that one. Even if Markham is in her early seventies and the character is more flamboyant. Also, on a different note, the completely uneccesary Rossakoff subplot they added to Murder in Mesopotamia is so annoying that I feel the Poirot-Rossakoff thing has to be resolved properly.

      We'll have to wait and see I guess. Thank you for your comments!

    2. @ Tom - I too, noticed how (although Markham has an elegance and a beauty about her) nothing about her really matches the physical descriptions of her looks or manner in the books. She seems, above all, sad (missing Russia?) It is implied that that is a big reason she and Poirot connect - though he seems to have adjusted better. And I'm not sure there's anything special about her talents as a thief that Poirot hasn't seen before (although I'm not sure there was in the books, either.)

    3. In the Labours story there is a reference to her "full-blooded enjoyment of life," which is certainly not the Double Clue adaptation interpretation...but it's almost not consistent with the earlier stories, either. In the Double Clue story there is a sense of desperation, and in Big Four, of bitterness (she speaks of wanting her youth back, revenge on her enemies, and her child back.)

  2. I notice that you sometimes use "Big Four" to refer to the team of Poirot, Hastings, Miss Lemon, and Japp. Wonder if the producers and writers were conscious of that potential dual meaning for the episode title?

    1. They were! :) See my Q&A with Ian Hallard - it was exec producer Damien Timmer's decision to include Miss Lemon in the adaptation (despite her not being in the book), and it seems the duality of the title was a part of that decision.

    2. Regarding Miss Lemon's role in later stories...recall Poirot's "case files" in Curtain...wouldn't it be Miss Lemon's job to compile something like that?

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About Me

I'm a passionate fan of Poirot, Agatha Christie and the ITV series. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions or requests, please e-mail me at poirotchronology@gmail.com, post a comment on one of my blogs, or get in touch on Twitter @pchronology. (I used to call myself HickoryDickory)