Saturday, 8 June 2013

Episode-by-episode: The Dream

We have now come to the final episode of the first series. This was based on the short story 'The Dream', first published in the UK in 1938. The screenplay is by Clive Exton and the director is Edward Bennett (so we come full circle from the first ever episode).

Script versus short story
The script stays remarkably close to its source material, which is hardly surprising given the fact that Exton adapted it (and the fact that the short story is itself an excellent one, with little need for alterations). The few additions include an opening sequence at Farley's factory, in which a new extension is opened, the introduction of Miss Lemon, Captain Hastings and Chief Inspector Japp (unsurprisingly). Exton makes a few sensible additions to the solution, too, including a massive wall outside the office windows (no witnesses), Farley checking up on his employees (a much better reason for coming to the window than in the short story), and a subplot for Miss Lemon (desperately asking Poirot for a new type writer - and providing Poirot with the vital clue of the window).

The introduction of the regular cast mostly makes sense here. Inspector Japp simply replaces the short story's Inspector Bartlett, Hastings gets very little to do anyway (he reads Poirot the letter from Farley, follows him to the factory - but isn't allowed to enter - demonstrates the murder in the denouement scene and takes on one of these ridiculous chase scenes (really, why do they have to add those all the time? I realise it increases tension somewhat, but still!). Miss Lemon would be the one to receive Farley's letter, so the inclusion of her character does make sense. On a side note, the doctor in the case, Dr. Stillingfleet, became a regular in Christie's stories, but he did not appear again in the television series.

All in all, the script is an excellent achievement, staying true to Christie while making sensible and small alterations. Possibly the best episode in this series (plot-wise, that is).

Directing, production design, locations and soundtrack
Bennett makes excellent use of the magnificent location and sets. I particularly like the outside shots of the factory in the denouement scene and the sweeping crane shot from Miss Lemon's window in Whitehaven to the street level (which must have been shot while they still had access to the entire building). The location used for the factory is the Hoover building in Perivale, Middlesex (which was also used as the film studio in The King of Clubs). Gunning's soundtrack (and the orchestra in the opening scene, in which he himself features!) is good, but not as good as some of his more memorable scores.

Actors and characters
(Miss Lemon mentions her magnetism in this one - a sign of the interest TV-Lemon has in alternative medicine, the occult and the mythological). The standouts here are Alan Howard (who brilliantly portrays both Cornworthy and Mr. Farley!) and a young Joely Richardson (as Joanna Farley).


  1. Am I going insane? Can someone verify for me that in the episode "The Dream", when Miss Lemon's typewriter fails, she says the word "fuc#"?

  2. Just watched it = she says "bother" but for some reason it is very clipped, so the start of the word does have the slight shape/sound of a F rather than a B.

  3. Thank you Bob........a true gentleman. How could I have thought Miss Lemon would say that?:)

  4. She definitely says 'fuck'. Watched it this evening and replayed that bit 3 times. The subtitles say 'bother' but she definitely says 'fuck'.

  5. Also, towards the end she says 'bugger' but again the subtitle says 'bother'!

  6. I've just watched the very same version of "The Dream" ITV3 played - She does say "f%%k!" I suspect there's probably 2 edit versions - the late night adult version and the daytime friendly version. I do have a vague memory I saw her say bother in another showing.

    1. It's definitely "bother" - both times. It's a little indistinct, which could account for some people mishearing it, but it's definitely "bother". There would never be an edit with "fuck" in it, nor any kind of "late night adult version"; not in a UK primetime show of the nature of Poirot in 1989. And especially not in a show made for Sunday night TV at that time.

  7. Was Poirot consistently this insensitive toward Miss Lemon throughout the series? Seems more like something Sherlock Holmes would do...Poirot isn't that socially clueless.

    Why didn't the police know Farley had been shot from far away? Do we just have to decide that, in the 1930s, forensic science was not yet up to determining how far away a shooter had been from the victim?

    And didn't Joanna seem a little too modern for the 1930s? Did women really fence and wear pants in the 1930s?

    And it seems stupid that the two murderers used Poirot the way they did...I know they were trying to make it look like suicide, but really, once you get Hercule Poirot involved...and especially given that the "fake Farley" raised the possibility of someone trying to kill him.

    1. I thought Joanna's fencing and pants were an extension of the obvious rebellious nature of the character. She wants to marry a poor man, against her father's wishes, she runs off from her father's opening speech to be with Herbert. It seems consistent with her character for her to flout convention in other ways.

  8. Did anyone catch that the three men whose presence had been arranged so they could witness that no one went into the room were from "the works", come to talk about forming a union...and in the same episode, Miss Lemon has a grievance, and Poirot snaps at her and Hastings, "Do not band together against Poirot?" As I said, it seems out of character for him, though.

  9. I agree fangirl82, it seems stupid to call Poirot in, especially since Japp says that if he hadn't have been involved the case would have been treated as suicide anyway. Also those three men were called in by Cornworthy as witnesses never heard a shot despite the fact that it came from the next room without the use of a silencer. Also why did Poirot not notice how much of the story hinged on Cornworthy & realise he must be the murderer (Poirot says 'give Poirot time to work out who did it'). And why ask for the letter back - that was sure to pique Poirot's interest. It seems everyone was being exceptionally stupid that day.

    1. The way the dream itself was staged I didn't think was too bad...the existence of the dream did NOT hinge on Cornworthy's word...he said he never heard of it, and it was Mrs. Farley who said her husband mentioned the dream. That also had the neat effect of making the relationship between the spouses sound closer than it was. So Mrs. Farley verifies the dream, while Cornworthy verifies that Farley wrote to Poirot.

      What struck me was, on the one hand, Farley leaned out the window every day to check on his factory...on the other hand, Cornworthy was in the next room, playing the part of Farley meeting with Poirot, and Farley was right there next door (he was still alive at that point) and he had no idea what Cornworthy was doing, and also didn't know Poirot was in his house?

  10. "On a side note, the doctor in the case, Dr. Stillingfleet, became a regular in Christie's stories, but he did not appear again in the television series."

    I think he's mentioned in Sad Cypress though, isn't he? Or is that just in the book?

    1. I think that's just in the novel? Peter Lord (Paul McGann) becomes Poirot's doctor friend in the adaptation, if I remember correctly.

    2. Stuart Farquhar13 July 2015 at 20:53

      Yes, he does. I just had a vague memory of Paul McGann mentioning Stiilingfleet, but it could just be because I pictured McGann when I read the book. (Oddly, I also imagined him as Stillingfleet when I read Third Girl!)

    3. I did that too, actually!

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  13. The most frustrating aspect for me was when the owner of the dark satanic mill first appeared it was so obviously a fake beard that it was distracting. I thought that the makeup team had really goofed. Obviously intentional.


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, post a comment on one of my blogs, or get in touch on Twitter @pchronology. (I used to call myself HickoryDickory)