Doc On The Box – Death In Paradise Series Three, Episodes 1 & 2

Death In Paradise 2A couple of years ago, a new BBC series appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Ben Miller starred as DI Richard Poole, sent to solve the murder of his predecessor on the island of Saint-Marie in the Caribbean. Assisted by DS Camille Borday (Sara Martins) and DCs Dwayne Myers (Danny John-Jules) and Fidel Best (Gary Carr), Poole solves a number of murder plots of varying complexity, all of them with the clues played out in front of the viewer. The second series in particular, in my opinion, consisted of a number of clever plots and as the show went on, it gained in popularity.

And then, after the end of series two, Ben Miller announced that he would be leaving during series three, to be replaced by Kris Marshall, an actor with a range of credits but who is mostly known in this country for his appearances in My Family, a rather tiresome comedy – it was quite funny when  Marshall was in it, but it’s been going far too long now. The general reaction wasn’t completely positive, it was fair to say. But we’re two episodes into the series – how’s it looking?

One thing that people were concerned about was the relationship between Richard and Camille. Throughout the second series, things seemed to be building between this unlikely couple and it was clear that the writers intended them to get together. Was it going to happen before Richard left, and why would he leave Camille?

Um… no. I’m not counting this as a spoiler as it’s in the trailers for the show and happens very early on. If you don’t want to know why Richard leaves, then don’t scroll past the spoiler space.

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He gets murdered before the opening credits in the first episode. DI Humphrey Goodman comes to Saint-Marie to investigate Richard’s death…

I was as big a fan as Ben Miller’s performance as anyone – more than some, in fact, as I enjoyed it from the start. One of the criticisms that I remember from the beginning of series one was that Poole was too much of a stereotype and too odd. We’ll come back to that point in a bit.

Anyway, the only way for Kris Marshall to survive in the series was to kill Richard Poole. Otherwise the Richard-Camille fans would be waiting for him to come back from the UK to sweep her off her feet, feeling that Humphrey was merely keeping Richard’s seat warm. And it provides a shocking opening to the series – well, shocking if it hadn’t been put on the trailers, anyway.

Humphrey solves Poole’s murder without making Richard look bad – in fact, the plot cleverly gives Richard some of the credit for helping to solve his own murder. And I thought Marshall did a very good job of creating a character who is just as much a fish out of water as Richard was, while still having his own eccentricities and quirks.

The second episode gives Humphrey a chance to shine without the spectre of Richard. It did seem a little jarring that no-one even mentioned Richard in this episode – in the scene when Camille is talking to Humphrey about his wife leaving him, you were waiting for him to ask about Richard – but again, the series needs to look forward, not backward, so it’s perfectly understandable.

So, while the rest of the cast is as strong as ever, I thought Kris Marshall did an excellent job, not filling Ben Miller’s shoes but wearing a pair of similar looking but notably different ones. And I’m looking forward to the rest of the series as much as I ever was. And for those people who fear change – just ask yourself – did you love Richard Poole after the very first episode?

Oh, the mysteries? Episode One is basically Cards On The Table, as Richard is killed while his four old university friends play a game of charades while he sits alone of the balcony. At the end of the game,  which everyone left at some point or another, it is discovered that Richard has been stabbed. Clever, but most of the clever bits (the tea  and the crisps for example) weren’t particularly important – the murderer was pretty obvious. Bonus points for Humphrey’s confusion at the end when the others have gathered all the suspects together to unmask the murderer. “Isn’t that what we do?”. Episode Two is a riff on a different Agatha Christie novel and if you spot which one, the killer is obvious from the start. Fun to watch Humphrey and the team solving the case, again with only a small cast of suspects, and I loved the “Gather the suspects together – I enjoyed that bit last time” line. Some things won’t change, it seems.

Fingers crossed the mysteries aren’t all quite as obvious for the better read armchair solvers for the rest of the series, but I’ll certainly be watching to find out.

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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 Doc On The Box – Death In Paradise Series Three, Episodes 1 & 2

  1. Marianne Wheelaghan says:

    Great summing up. I miss Ben Miller too :( but I’m warming to Kris, me, so far :o) Yes, the killer was obvious and it feels all a bit too Jonathan Creek-ish for me, but it’s early days. Thanks, again for great post :)

    • You’re welcome Marianne.

      The problem with this week’s mystery is that it’s too similar to the Agatha Christie book that the plot shares similarities too. By notably ignoring a possibility for most of the episode, it just made the likelihood of it being true increase. Still, I enjoyed it.

  2. Does seem a shame when a lead is changed like this but I’m glad it was fun at least – have never really tried to get into this one (just not enough time) but it sounds great Steve so I will give it a whirl sometime …

  3. richmcd says:

    I did think it was odd that they put Richard’s exit in the trailers, yet the episode synopsis was very circumspect about it. I wonder if Thorogood wanted it to be a surprise.

    I enjoyed episode one, but I thought yesterday’s was really pretty rubbish all round. A lot of really duff jokes and scenes that petered out into shrugs and knowing looks because the lines had dried up. Waste of Peter Davison too.

    • Problem was that if you spotted the murderer, which you probably did after about 1 second, you just get impatient with the professional detectives for not even considering it…

      • richmcd says:

        I actually put up a post predicting the solution after watching the trailer at the end of last week’s episode! There’s just no other way to end it. I don’t mind that. It’s a classic set up that almost every detective show does at some point. But they didn’t even try very hard to hide it. And was the motive even properly clued? Humphrey just seemed to introduce a whole lot of new info during the explanation. Which seems pretty lax for DiP. But my attention may have wandered…

        Next week’s looks more interesting though.

      • They mentioned the mugging story at the start and it’s not too much of a stretch, given the discussions of the characters’ past behaviour, to speculate a link there. Along with the victim’s behaviour, I think everything you needed was there. It’s one of the strongest points of the show, the cluing – it’s very rarely under-clued. Great for the beginner detective…

      • richmcd says:

        It is a weakness in that particular twist that you can’t really clue the motive too strongly or you break the illusion that the victim is someone no-one would want to kill. I think Foyle’s War still has the best version of this I’ve ever seen. I solved it, but I was never SURE, because the victim and the murderer were such different people. But then Horowitz always knows what he’s doing with these classic plots.

      • Thanks for the reminder – need to watch Foyle’s War some more…

  4. Tom Newsom says:

    Bumping him off was the best way to go – as you said, it writes him out proper, and it’s also a cool, fun idea for the plot of the show (and the handover wasn’t as jarring as it would have been had I been reminded exactly what the amazing Ben Miller used to be like – though it would have been better at the weak ending to the previous series!)
    Bit grisly when you stop and think about it? Outright mourning would be too much for a lightweight show, so they dodge around that rather nimbly… The new guy’s good, and just different enough.

    I noticed the Christie homages – sadly, in the last case, though there was some wondering whether it was a double bluff. And poisoned chocolates – a classic invention! (even in the Caribbean heat!)

    • In both cases, though, there’s been an unnecessary complication, now I think of it. The tea and crisps was never treated as a real alibi and there are many other ways to do the poisoned chocolate trick without two boxes. I did for a moment think that they might have been doing Three Act Tragedy instead of… the one that they were doing.

  5. Santosh Iyer says:

    Out of curiosity, I read the plot summary of episode 2 in IMDB. It was obvious which novel you are referring to and consequently who is the murderer.

  6. Dave says:

    Re the first episode, I thought it was a bit of a cheat to go and give Richard tea etc as it had been made to look as if nobody had gone near him before because they were playing charades. i too thought it was like Cards On the Table, for the most part. And can someone tell me why he was reading a French book (i know it was a gift, of sorts, to check a theory of his but even so, he was sitting there ‘reading’ it).

  7. Pingback: Doc On The Box – Death In Paradise Series Three | In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel

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