wed 27/01/2021

Jonathan Creek: The Clue of the Savant's Thumb, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

Jonathan Creek: The Clue of the Savant's Thumb, BBC One

Jonathan Creek: The Clue of the Savant's Thumb, BBC One

A gaggle of galloping thespians helps paper over the cracks in the plot

Vanishing corpses and inexplicable deaths hold no terrors for Jonathan Creek (Alan Davies) and Joey Ross (Sheridan Smith)

Three years after Jonathan Creek's last one-off special, tellies across the land resounded once again to the strains of Saint-Saëns's Danse Macabre, a theme tune cunningly chosen to reflect the show's mix of menace, wit and whimsy.

Three years after Jonathan Creek's last one-off special, tellies across the land resounded once again to the strains of Saint-Saëns's Danse Macabre, a theme tune cunningly chosen to reflect the show's mix of menace, wit and whimsy. Nor had writer David Renwick stinted on the bizarre quirks and fiendish sleights of hand, in a tale featuring a vanishing corpse and an unsolved supernatural mystery from the past, amid a herd of gambolling old thesps having a whale of a time.

Chief among these were Nigel Planer and Joanna Lumley as polymath and TV producer Franklin Tartikoff and his unfaithful wife Rosalind, with a flavourful side-order of Rik Mayall as DI Gideon Pryke (pictured right). The latter had been confined to a wheelchair by a sniper's bullet, but compensated with his own mobile arsenal of technology and an air of raffish insouciance. The notion of a policeman who is almost as clever as the maverick detective in the title role was a minor conceptual revolution in itself.

Creek himself (Alan Davies) had moved on in life since his last appearance. We now found him on the board of a lavish City of London advertising agency, with his own colossal corner office with acres of panoramic glazing and a diary filled with power-lunching engagements. He is also equipped with a brusque and businesslike wife, Polly (Sarah Alexander), who's apt to fly off to Manhattan business summits at short notice.

Clearly all this wouldn't do, and with a little guile and perseverance, amateur paranormal investigator Joey (a fizzingly extrovert Sheridan Smith) slipped past Creek's officious PA-watchdog and soon had Creek intrigued by the story of the dead body - Franklin Tartikoff's - which had vanished from a locked room. So fascinated was he that soon he was flinging off his tailored tycoon suits and pulling his weather-beaten duffle coat out of the cupboard, like a kind of Oxfam Batman (Joanna Lumley as Rosalind, pictured below).

Renwick admits that his labyrinthine plots take him ages to construct, and there was plenty to tear your hair out over here. What could explain the 1960s shenanigans at the convent school of St Barnabus, where the young Rosalind had experienced a mind-blowingly tactile religious vision and a girl was found dead with a mysterious circle on her forehead but no discernable cause of death? How did all this relate to the death of Tartikoff, bafflingly glimpsed through a keyhole slumped dead against a wall, yet nowhere to be seen when the door was finally kicked down? Joey's solution to the puzzling collection of symbols found in the young Rosalind's handwriting was inspired, though utterly unbelievable.

Herein lay the problem. While Renwick's technical ingenuity knew no bounds, he wasn't so surefooted when it came to fitting all the puzzles, clues and red herrings together into a coherent plot. It was as if the different aspects of the story existed side by side rather than being dependent on each other, and the concluding section - a wild detour into the political lies surrounding the Iraq invasion - seemed to have little purpose beyond bulking up the running time. Still, the characters were vivid and the acting enjoyably unrestrained. A new three-part series is in the offing. 

While Renwick's technical ingenuity knew no bounds, he wasn't so surefooted when it came to fitting all the puzzles into a coherent plot

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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Comments

couldn't agree more. can't believe some of the reviews are good. this was as clunky as a bad Agatha Christie. I don't know anything about Johnathan Creek. But is this all there is?

I was just irritated that '"Aethism" on the cover of a book displayed during the action was spelt like that.

I was looking forward to this, and the trailers indicated that it could be a good way to spend my bank holiday monday evening... but wow, what a waste of time! I've also seen good reviews of this appearing online, but I think that perhaps some of the diehard fans will cheer on Alan Davies in even the crummiest of plots. The initial idea seemed to be pretty good fun, but 2/3rds of the way in this episode completely lost me (and i don't mean I didn't 'get' what was going on). I was even prepared to overlook the way the episode used a pretty appalling transgender stereotype. The dialogue in the scene where we first meet 'Jaqueline Hyde' just didn't seem to fit with JC at all - I imagine a fair few people thought the same.I'm pretty sure that this character only existed because to allow the script writer to use the name pun. Briefly summed up, it was just a very poor plot with some very good actors trying their best to save it - but unfortunately, the two-dimensional characters could not be saved by any amount of talent. The script regularly insulted the intelligence of the viewer, and at times (such as the implied barn romp) it felt like an adult theme had suddenly been slotted into a CBBC program. I don't hold much hope for the next round of episodes...

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