A 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.
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.