Script versus novel
Setting a distinclty 1940s novel in the 1930s isn't easy. Guy Andrews makes a series of major and minor changes to Christie's story (as should be expected from him by now). I'll go into the added twists before I tackle the minor changes. There will be spoilers. First, Andrews adds a subplot involving malicious phone calls to Rosaleen that was not in the novel. Second, Lionel the doctor becomes a morphine addict, and David Hunter has made Rosaleen/Eileen an addict, too. Lionel steals some of her morphine, and consequently prevents an (added) attempted suicide from her part. Third, and most importantly, Hunter deliberately impregnated Rosaleen and forced her to have an abortion. As a 'simple Catholic girl' (in Poirot's words), she was so traumatised that she would do anything he said to make it right again. Fourth, Andrews adds a suggestion of dynamite to the denouement scene (a result of making David an engineer, which I will come back to shortly). Finally, an execution scene is added, in which David Hunter is hanged while reciting 'Your Baby Has Gone Down the Plughole'. Of minor changes, Poirot becomes an old acquaintance of the Cloades through Jeremy Cloade and Lynn (and he is told the story from Major Porter not during an air raid but before a dinner appointment with Jeremy Cloade). Lynn has become a missionary who administered a hospital in Africa (rather like Susan in After the Funeral). Also, Katherine, not Lionel, is the Cloade relative. Poirot has visited the pub and the village before (probably because of his connection with Jeremy and Lynn), and he asks Lionel to check up on Rosaleen at one point (thus allowing the addict to steal the morphine). Finally, David Hunter has become a road engineer, acquainted with dynamite, which is supposed to explain how he got away with the murder.
Some of these changes are a result of the fact that the episode has been set pre-war rather than during WW2. Consequently, the script writer has tried to come up with ways of explaining the crime (in the book, the explosion was blamed on an air raid - here, it is said to be an accident, a gas explosion) and the title ('Taken at the Flood', a quotation from Shakespeare) is supposed to refer to the opportunity the air raids provide for covering up the crime. Here, the closest possible reference to this is the abortion - 'your baby has gone down the plughole'). Making David an engineer is a further attempt at explaining the crime. I don't think Andrews succeeds, but if you don't know the actual novel, the adaptation should make more or less sense in itself. I would even suggest it makes David a much more creepy and terrifying character than in the novel. All in all, this adaptation is one of the less successful transformations of a war novel to a pre-war novel, but it's probably the best of Andrew's adaptations (which, in light of Appointment with Death, isn't necessarily that much of a compliment!).
Directing, production design, locations, soundtrack
Andy Wilson's direction suits the story and the characters perfectly. I particularly enjoy the 'Hunter's moon' scene between Lynn and David, which appropriately captures the duality of the character and is almost Hitchcock-like in its setup. The production design for the episode is well done, with Poirot's new apartment coming to the fore. Locations used include Englefield House, Berkshire ('Furrowbank'), Chilworth Manor, Surrey (Adela's house) and The George Hotel, Dorchester-on-Thames, Oxfordshire ('The Stag Inn'). See Joan Street's location website for photos. Stephen McKeon's soundtrack is suitably dark. See his website for some tracks from the score.
Characters and actors
This is Suchet's first real attempt at Poirot's Catholicism. As I've discussed before (and will come back to in a later post on the topic of Poirot and religion), there are numerous clues to his faith in the Christie novels, and this particular novel has one of the more suggestive scenes (see Book II, Chapter 6 for his conversation with Rosaleen(Eileen). For this particular story (or should I say the way Andrews has interpreted the story), the emphasis on religion seems about right. Suchet said in an interview: 'The one big difference in this one, which is most exciting for me to play, is his Catholicism. This story is absolutely rooted in his faith'. Whether that's true or not, I leave for you to decide. But the fact remains that religion is an aspect of Christie's character, and it's great to see Suchet continue to develop the caricature into a rounded character. I should also make a note of the fact that this is the first appearance of Superintendent Spence, who would also appear in Mrs McGinty's Dead, but sadly not in Hallowe'en Party and Elephants Can Remember. Actor Richard Hope suits the character well, and it's nice to have a 'Japp' character (even if he is completely different in many ways) back in the stories. Of the other guest actors, the entire ensemble of great actors work perfectly together, but some extra credit should be given to Elliot Cowan as a particularly chilling David Hunter.