Death In Paradise – Series One – BBC 1 TV Review

So, the first series of Death in Paradise has finished. Eight one-hour self-contained light mystery dramas with a serious touch of Golden Age mystery structure. We’ve had a locked room mystery, a murder while the victim was handcuffed to the chief detective and six other odd conundrums.

By the way, I’m using the phrase “first series” optimistically here – not wishing to spoil my review, I’m really hoping that there’s more to come from Saint-Marie.

I’ve already reviewed the first episode here, but I thought I’d do a little series overview. It’ll be on the iPlayer for the next week or so, so hopefully people who missed it can catch up quickly. It stars Ben Miller, of Armstrong and Miller fame, as DI Richard Poole, a London policeman effectively exiled to the Caribbean. Cue many fish out of water jokes that were a little blunt initially, truth be told, but settled down quickly into endearing character traits. Sara Martins plays Camille, his sergeant and Danny John-Jules (Cat from Red Dwarf) and Gary Carr round out the team as Dwayne and Fidel. It’s a really good ensemble cast who play off each other well. There’s a great natural chemistry between Miller and Martins as well – you can see there is some level of attraction between these opposites, but it never needs to be overtly commented on – the one time that it does (by Camille’s mother), it seemed to come out of nowhere.

The series was created by TV newcomer Robert Thorogood, who also wrote five of the eight episodes. I’d be curious to see what other people think, but I’d say they were the best five episodes as well. The others were fine, but the mystery content was, at times, a little flat. It was more than made up for by the cast and the script but for a mystery-junkie like me, there was a real polish to the best episodes.

The highlights for me were episode 1, playing on a couple of classic themes, the locked room murder and something from one of my favourite Agatha Christie novels – I won’t say which one as that would give it away, episode 3, where a woman predicts her own murder, in particular for the horrific final twist and the reveal of all of the clues pointing to the killer in episode 8. The other overall highlight was the avoidance of the guest-star murderer, very common in, say, Midsomer Murders. Is Richard Briers in the episode? Or one of the Foxes? Guess who the killer is! This was generally achieved by sticking in at least two famous actors into the cast – the casting highlight for me was episode 3, with both Michael Maloney and Nicholas Farrell, both habitual guest-villains. It didn’t always work – the killer in episode 5 stood out like a sore thumb for this reason, as did another, which might have worked better if he’d been integrated into the cast a little more. But regardless of this, the reveal of the clues, the lecture on why and how we, the viewers, should have worked it out was something that is all too rare in modern detective television was always a high point – in fact, I’d go so far as to say non-existent on this side of the Atlantic. The Mentalist, Psych and Castle make a stab at it in the US, but not to this degree. The other notable feature of the denouement was that usually it wasn’t a last minute clue that clinched it. The clues were there from the start and you had plenty of time to mull over them and come to the wrong conclusion.

So, another series please, as fast as possible. One reviewer mentioned of Episode One – “this isn’t the new Waking the Dead” – couldn’t agree more. TV needs less messy murder and more of this – something to make you laugh, think and occasionally gasp in horror at the same time.

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About Puzzle Doctor

I'm a mathematician by nature and as such have always been drawn to the logical side of things. Hence my two main hobbies being classic mysteries and logical puzzling. Oh, and cats. No logic there, I'm afraid.
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15 Responses to Death In Paradise – Series One – BBC 1 TV Review

  1. almost fan says:

    I really liked death in paradise, but started being a bit disappointed as the series went on. The teasing game between Poole and Camille started being repetitive and sometime annoying as you could see that grew progressively grew more angry (compared to the relative easing in episodes 2,3,4). Also, in few of the last episodes (especially the 7th), I found that the break through was precisely mostly based on things that the spectator couldn’t know, for instance the fact that the clock time was changed compared to what was on the photo as well as the fact that the bass player was interested in the royalties for the CD….. A bit disapointing don’t you think. My favourite is definitely the first one (Ah…. Lily Thompson ! And the phone ring tone (I shot the sheriff) !)
    Another thing in the last episodes is that Camille’s role in solving the cases justed shrinked to almost nothing as if her main role in the series was just to crack jokes at Poole. Isn’t that a waste considering the talent and the charm of the lady ?

    • Absolutely spot on regarding Camille’s role becoming less and less as the series went on with regard the mystery solving. To be honest, I was hoping in the episode where Poole was bed-ridden that Dwayne and Fidel wouldn’t need Poole to solve the case – especially as it was probably the most obvious one of the lot, to someone who’s read a lot of crime fiction, anyway.

      And yes, I’d agree that Episode 7 was the weakest due to the cheating with regarding the clues. But every show has its ups and downs, and, for me, Death In Paradise was one of the brightest things that I’ve seen for a long time.

  2. Very interesting. I’m just about to watch the final episode. I have mixed feelings about the series, but you’ve given a very fair assessment of its various strong points.

  3. Roger McCutcheon says:

    I didn’t care what it was about: I found it hugely enjoyable!

  4. Roger McCutcheon says:

    I should have added that I found Sara Martins a delight!

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  8. ian says:

    What a breath of fresh air of talent in character development in such beautiful locations. The briefcase carrying Poole for starters if you’ve lived remote where public servant expatriates abound, you’ve for better or worse met him before. Camille, her mother, Dwayne, Fidel all ring bells from long ago. This is superb television at it’s best.
    In Australia we are only up to episode 4 and have just endured a series called The Straits whose writers if they had ever lived in the place, surely did it from a distance. Such forced writing left you feeling uneasy, awkward and let down by the shallow facade of betrayal of what Island life sounds and feels like.
    Death in paradise, by contrast welcomes you there like an old friend, the regulars brought to life by a wonderful cast of characters I had thought long passed. This is not just good television, it is great entertainment and am loving every minute of it.
    All associated with this production are riding a wave which you would hope has the longevity of Midsomer murders.

  9. mo says:

    I thought it was a bit hokey in the beginning but I started to enjoy the characters especially Poole and Fidel and Dwayne. Sure there are weak spots and some episodes are better than others but all in all it is refreshingly different and entertaining. I am pleased they are renewing the show for a second season and I hope it gets better and doesn’t lose its comedic nature or become americanized.

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