And Then There Were None, BBC1

Philip Lombard (AIDEN TURNER), Thomas Rogers (NOAH TAYLOR), Vera Claythorne (MAEVE DERMODY), AJ Marston (DOUGLAS BOOTH), Dr Armstrong (TOBY STEPHENS), Judge Wargrave (CHARLES DANCE), William Blore (BURN GORMAN), Emily Brent (MIRANDA RICHARDSON), General Macarthur (SAM NEILL), Ethel Rogers (ANNA MAXWELL MARTIN)

Guilty looks – Aidan Turner, Noah Taylor, Maeve Dermody, Douglas Booth, Toby Stephens, Charles Dance, Miranda Richardson, Burn Gorman, Sam Neill and Anna Maxwell Martin

A star-packed cast gathers for one of Agatha Christie’s best-loved mysteries

★★★½ BBC1, Boxing Day, 9pm

BASED on the Queen of Crime’s bestselling mystery of all time, And Then There Were None gets a handsome showcase and starry cast from the Beeb to ensure this three-parter is a lavish treat for the Christmas holidays.

Agatha Christie’s mystery, recently voted her best by the Crime Writers’ Association, is Christie par excellence with its isolated island setting, a motley band of victims and suspects, and a fiendishy silly denouement.

Programme Name: And Then There Were None - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Picture Shows: ++PURE DRAMA++ ++Publication of this image is strictly embrgoed until 18.01 hours Sunday November 8th 2015+++ Vera Claythorne (MAEVE DERMODY), Philip Lombard (AIDEN TURNER), Dr Armstrong (TOBY STEPHENS), William Blore (BURN GORMAN), Judge Wargrave (CHARLES DANCE), General Macarthur (SAM NEILL), Fred Narracott (CHRISTOPHER HATHERALL) - (C) Mammoth Screen - Photographer: Robert Viglasky

All at sea: The guests on their way to Soldier Island

But this is a beautifully produced mini-series that detracts nicely from the contrived nature of the story with stunning photography, discreet period touches and a terrific score.

For those unfamiliar with the tale, it is 1939 and ten strangers from differing backgrounds are lured to remote Soldier Island off the Devon coast for a get-together by the mysterious Mr and Mrs U N Owen. It’s not long before the guests all realise that none of them has ever met either of the Owens, who are absent from the cut-off island.

Aidan Turner as Lombard

One of the advantages of spreading the story over three episodes is that it unfolds slowly, so that tensions beneath the gentility gradually surface before the mayhem begins.

And Then There Were None - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Behind the scenes on the set of And Then There Were None. Vera Claythorne (MAEVE DERMODY), Philip Lombard (AIDEN TURNER), Judge Wargrave (CHARLES DANCE), General Macarthur (SAM NEILL), William Blore (BURN GORMAN) - (C) Mammoth Screen - Photographer: Robert Viglasky

Behind the scenes: Maeve Dermody, Aidan Turner, Charles Dance, Burn Gorman and Sam Neill filming And Then There Were None

Topping the cast is Aidan Turner, now burdened with the status of Sex God thanks to that shirtless picture of him in Poldark reprinted 40,000 times by the newspapers. He plays the brooding Irishman Lombard here.

Charles Dance is the retired judge Wargrave, Miranda Richardson the snooty, god-fearing spinster Miss Brent, and Sam Neill plays General MacArthur. The strange atmosphere is helped by the odd servants, played by Noah Taylor and Anna Maxwell Martin.

The rest of the shifty-looking characters are performed by Toby Stephens, Maeve Dermody, Douglas Booth and Burn Gorman.

All of which makes it a rich confection of a show – and perfect for Christmas.

See also: agathachristie.com

• My recent feature in the Sunday Mirror: The celebrity kidnap that inspired Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express

An Inspector Calls, BBC1, David Thewlis, Miranda Richardson

The Inspector (DAVID THEWLIS) Credit: BBC Pictures/Drama Republic

Unwanted guest: David Thewlis as the mysterious inspector

The classic mystery is updated in gripping style

★★★★ BBC1, Sunday, 13 September, 8.30pm

8958140-low_res-an-inspector-calls Eric Birling (FINN COLE), Sybil Birling (MIRANDA RICHARDSON), Arthur Birling (KEN STOTT), Sheila Birling (CHLOE PIRRIE)

The Birlings: played by Finn Cole, Miranda Richardson, Ken Stott and Chloe Pirrie

WHILE AMERICAN networks push the boundaries of TV drama with nihilistic protagonists and provocatively adult storylines – Breaking Bad, Banshee, True Detective – their British cousins still prefer the drawing-room comforts of the classic cosy-era detective tale.

So, hot on the heels of Poirot, Father Brown and Tommy and Tuppence comes this adaptation of JB Priestley’s 1912-set country house mystery play, first performed in 1945 and which went on to become something of a classic, even a staple of the GCSE syllabus.

Many viewers will be familiar with it. It’s undoubtedly a contrived, stagey and preachy drama, but this BBC production, adapted by playwright Helen Edmundson and directed by award-winning Aisling Walsh, breathes life into the rather spooky tale with a classy and compelling production.

Miranda Richardson and Ken Stott

And the cast! Everyone is terrific as the mystery unfolds, with David Thewlis severe as the unwanted inspector who turns up during a dinner party at the wealthy Birling residence. Ken Stott is spot on as industrialist Arthur Birling and Miranda Richardson horribly callous as his wife, Sybil.

As their implicated but rebellious children Chloe Pirrie (recently seen in The Game) and Finn Cole (Peaky Blinders) are both pitch perfect. Finally, Kyle Soller is suitably patrician as Gerald, veering from smug to horrified at his own misuse of Eva Smith

Sophie Rundle appears in flashbacks as Eva, the victim of all the Birlings’ sneers and betrayals. This character never appears in the play, but Helen Edmundson follows the 1954 Alastair Sim movie in bringing her decline into focus. [Read more…]

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