After the discussion generated by my first post on the new BBC Father Brown series, I thought I’d have a look at the remaining episodes, alongside their source material, in chunks of three (because there are nine left to look at – do the maths).
The general consensus of opinion seems to be agreed that the original Father Brown stories are next-to-impossible to adapt faithfully as 50 minute television episodes. The question arises is whether the current BBC series, with its fixed location (an un-named (?) Cotswold village and recurring cast of central characters, is doing Chesterton justice.
Episode 2: The Flying Stars
Father Brown is invited to a get-together put on by a theatrical family. But soon the mother of the clan is found dead in the water and the priceless Flying Stars, a necklace, is under threat from attempted theft in the middle of a play.
OK, the play is weird, but that’s about the only thing remaining from the short story. The source material isn’t great here and there’s much that has had to be changed. Brown’s literary friend Flambeau, the villain of the piece, is missing completely – fair enough, as there is no way an international jewel thief would have fitted in here. Likewise, the death of the mother occurs, from natural causes, a few months before the start of the story. Here, it becomes murder, which adds more oomph to the story, but does make the part where the play is put on in memory of her very strange indeed.
The killer in the TV version is incredibly obvious, but I think there are enough details in the motive to fox a lot of viewers, and full credit for sticking the solution right under our noses early on without us noticing. Oh, and Sid, whatever his job is, takes a bit of credit for not nodding wisely at one of Brown’s platitudes but speaking his mind instead.
Overall – TV show better than the story.
Episode 3: The Wrong Shape
Apart from the Indian poetry bit, this could be a different story. The things that have the wrong shape are different, what is going on is almost completely different and to be honest, the TV version felt padded and drawn out.
This is probably the weakest story so far of the TV series, and the short story is much better.
Episode 4: The Man In The Tree
A semi-naked man is found unconscious in a tree, having been thrown from a passing train. Father Brown and Inspector Valentine spend an age barking up different wrong trees until they finally hear what this viewer has been shouting at the screen since about five minutes in. The state that the body is (unnecessarily, really) found in gives the game away far too quickly.
Nice to see a bit of character development on Father Brown’s maid Suzie, but Sid takes a bit of a plummet down the stereotypical charming rogue route.
As far as I can see, this is an original tale – bit early to be starting that – but that means no excuses for the massively padded plot.
Finally, let me just praise the cast though – if it wasn’t for them, in particular Mark Williams, Hugo Speer and Sorcha Cusack, then the obvious plots might be getting a bit annoying. Yes, I can see why the purists would be annoyed, but let’s hope that this brings new readers to the stories.
Anyway, I’ll be back in a few days with the next three episodes: The Eye Of Apollo and two new stories, I think, The Bride of Christ and The Devil’s Dust.