Doc On The Box – Death In Paradise Series Three

Death In Paradise 3Last Tuesday, Death In Paradise came to the end of its third series and it was presumably a bit of a gamble for the creators. After the second series, star Ben Miller – DI Richard Poole, the very British detective sent to the island of Saint-Marie – decided that he had to leave the show in order to spend more time with his family in the UK. A completely understandable decision but viewers were at a bit of a loss as to how it would continue with a new lead. And I’ll happily admit, I was concerned when the replacement lead actor was announced as Kris Marshall, famed primarily for My Family (ugh!) and some BT adverts.

I’ve posted my thoughts on the first two episodes, but now the series is over, let’s have a look at the eight episodes together, shall we?

As I said, I was a bit concerned because I love this show. Series Two was outstanding, from the performances of the central cast, the clever fair-play mystery plots and the ongoing sort-of romance between Richard and Camille (Sara Martins).

It was a brave and sensible decision to kill Richard in the opening episode in order to give Humphrey a clear run to establish himself. In fact he never gets a mention in the rest of the series – but what completely surprised me was that I really didn’t care. Humphrey is such an endearing character – as I said before, just as British and eccentric as Richard but in a completely different way – that he fits right in and while the only real choice dramatically was to move him and Camille closer as the series progressed, even the hints of that didn’t feel like a rehash of the Richard-Camille plot – you’d never had got Richard saying what Humphrey does at the end of the series…

I think Kris Marshall does a wonderful job with the character – none of his flaws are played up (apart from his tendency to occasionally fall over, but that’s down to the director). The emotional scenes with his wife in the final episode in particular were a window into the how the character thinks and feels. It’s not much of an exaggeration that at the end of the series, my thoughts were pretty much “Richard who?” It’s Humphrey’s show now, due in no small measure to Marshall.

As ever, the supporting cast are great to watch. In particular, I loved the occasional sub-plot of Dwayne’s underhand attempts to help Fidel’s career as a sergeant – it gave a real extra depth to the character.

Mystery-wise? Well, that was the problem for this viewer at least. In at least three episodes – (2, the zombie film one, 3, the gigolo one and 6, the bird watching one) – I’d solved it before the opening credits had finished because the trick being played was obviously to someone like me who may well have read too many Agatha Christie mysteries, and two more (1, the Richard one and 4, the airline one) when the important clue was mentioned, the murderer gave themselves away very early. But it is important to remember that I have read a lot of mysteries and the TV audiences, as a whole, haven’t and I don’t think any of these were direct lifts from the source. And to be fair, it took me a while to twig the method in the airline one. In fact, only the birdwatching one was blindingly obvious – possibly due to how the opening sequence was filmed and acted.

You can always rely on series creator Rob Thorogood to up the ante though. Episode 6 – the murder of a suicidal man – and episode 8, a proper locked room had me fooled, both came from his pen and to be fair, I hadn’t twigged the method in episode 7 – the stranded on an island one. All of these, I thought, were clever.

Each episode was fairly clued, so rare on television these days, and had at least one perplexing question to use as a focus for the mystery – why kill a suicidal man? how could a man in full view shoot someone elsewhere? – even when it wasn’t an actual impossible murder. And after all, if the aim to get the audience to play along, then some of the mysteries should be easier to solve than others. You always get a beginners puzzle next to the expert one in the paper, after all. And even when I had solved it, it was still great fun to watch and finding out if I was right or not.

And the good news? They start filming series four later this year! So the only proper play-along detective show will be back in 2015 and I, for one, can’t wait!

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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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11 Responses to Doc On The Box – Death In Paradise Series Three

  1. I only caught a few of these – I enjoy how basically old-fashioned they are though rather disappointed that they didn’t make more of the potential old dark house scenario in the penultimate – just when the storm amped up, they cut to the next day! I think i like a bit more atmosphere with my whodunits …

  2. Jo says:

    Richard who?! You have got to be kidding!

    • In a way – Ben Miller was fantastic in the first two series – but at no time did I miss him after episode one, because Kris Marshall was fantastic as well… Not saying better, but just as good.

  3. Peggy Ann says:

    I can’t wait either! My favorite show and I adore Kris in this! The show only got better!

  4. david gideon says:

    I started watching this because of the posts at this site, and today I finished up with the latest episode. I’m really grateful for bringing my attention to this show, because it goes to the top of my list of genuine tv mystery series. It didn’t fool me all the time (after you’ve watched enough film/tv whodunits it’s easier to spot the tricks, as in the bird-watching episode, that telegraph a given twist) but it fooled me often enough and was most of the time fair play in giving the viewer all the clues needed to come up with at least the key element of the puzzle. The Ellery Queen series was a champ at playing fair, but I think the actual mysteries in Paradise are generally a bit better and a tad more intricate than EQ’s (only one EQ episode, the Tea Party, was adapted from a genuine EQ story).

    I like the characters, the way they are all quite skilled at their jobs, and how I think they are developing Camille; I seem to get the notion that she’s maturing as a detective, and starting to spot things on her own that on occasion even get past the inspector. And they’re all so darn likeable! Like the Doctor said, I thought I would dread the departure of Ben Miller (whom I recognized from Primeval which aired here on BBC America) but I got used to Marshall quickly and I agree…just as good.

    It will be a long wait for the next series. Thanks again for writing it up.

  5. Sorry, but I am very upset that Ben Miller’s portrayal of Richard Poole seems to be so quickly forgotten, as if it’s a way of punishing Ben Miller for leaving the show. It is good Kris Marshall is doing well and would hope the scripts will serve him and his character much better for series 4 and I believe a 5th series too. The crimes and clues in a lot of the episodes of season 3 were chaotic, one minute the murderer being more obvious than the nose on my face to the next being totally confusing with the clues lacking consistency, making the viewer’s solving the crime almost impossible, as if the crimes are now only an afterthought.
    In series 1 & 2, there was a good balance of comedy, with laughs and when it came to the crimes, it was serious enough to also make a credible detective series. Kris Marshall character, of course cannot be the same as Ben Miller’s but he will grow I am sure, as will the rest of the team, but Camille’s detective skills seem to have been reduced to hiding behind her mother’s bar to take a peek at Humph’s ex wife. and in some episodes – for a character that is supposed to an experienced decorated, former undercover police woman – Camille completely failed to pick up on some very obvious clues. But this is meant to be light entertainment of course.
    However, light entertainment or not, Richard Poole has been forgotten about too quickly and a lot of chances were missed to use that as a more plausible way of developing the characters on in Series 4. For instance, a moment or two where perhaps Camille and Humph could have had a quiet chat about their respective losses, which would have been a more realistic way to bring them closer together. Dwayne and Fidel could have had shared a brief comical memory of their former chief with fondness, so we can be reminded a little about Richard now and then to about Episode five or so. Humph is an easy character to like but lacks the challenge of Richard, who was a stronger character in terms of a greater potential to see some change but without losing his essential personality and quirks.
    I will continue to watch DIP of course, but it will never be as good as the ‘Classic’ series that all seem so eager to forget about now, which is a bloody shame and insulting to the original character and the actor who did such a wonderful job of playing him.

    • I appreciate your thoughts on this situation. It must have been a difficult decision to ignore Richard after episode one, but Kris Marshall needed a chance to make the show his own, so I understand the production team’s decision.

      But I think Camille lost her detective skills a while ago – I thought she was mostly wasted in Series 2 as well. Which is odd, because with convoluted mysteries, you can have the non-lead detective solving small parts or finding clues at least. Fidel gets to do that a bit, but the team could do more. But that could be levelled at the episode where Richard is bed-ridden and Dwayne and Fidel get the chance to run the investigation, but they bottled it and had Richard solve it after all…

      I do hope the next series gives the support a chance to shine and we don’t get anything as obvious as the bird-watching episode.

      • david gideon says:

        I read in Wikipedia (for whatever that’s worth) that Camille got short shrift in the bed-ridden episode because the Sarah Martins had been injured. It’s why she didn’t appear anywhere in the episode except at the very end. I do think they made better use of her in season three.

      • Thinking about it, there were more positive moment for her in series three than last series. It’s hard to balance “competent professional” with “not the lead detective” and DIP does a reasonable job. For a better example, see Castle. For a dreadful example, The Mentalist.

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