Agatha Christie fans upset with change in plot in TV adaptation

LONDON • A BBC adaptation of a classic Agatha Christie murder mystery has upset some fans by changing the ending and even the culprit, said British reports.

The finale of Ordeal By Innocence, which was adapted by screenwriter Sarah Phelps with the blessing of Queen of Crime Christie's great-grandson James Prichard, got mixed reviews when it aired on Sunday.

Some, including mystery author Elly Griffiths, thought an Agatha Christie story could not be improved on, said reports.

"I enjoyed #OrdealByInnocence as a visual spectacle but why mess with the plot?" Griffiths tweeted. "Christie was great at plots."

However, the Daily Telegraph was among the media outlets that praised the three-part series.

(Spoilers follow.)

In the original, housekeeper Kirsten Lindstrom turns out to be behind the brutal murder of matriarch Rachel Argyll.

But in the new adaptation, the culprit is Argyll's husband, Leo (Bill Nighy), and the murder weapon an Egyptian statuette.

Mr Prichard, chief executive of Agatha Christie Ltd, the company which manages the rights to her works, was quoted as telling BBC News he had "sleepless nights" over the latest adaptation.

"We agonised long and hard over it, but we did allow it," he said. "We didn't do it lightly - or without understanding that a lot of people would be upset."

Mr Prichard said it was clear to him Phelps had been struggling to write Kirsten as the murderer.

"It was obvious that she wanted Leo to be the killer," he told BBC. "She didn't admit it to me early on, but I got a feeling that that was at the back of her mind. I had a phone conversation with my father and he said, 'Why don't you just let it happen?'"

Mr Prichard said Christie herself was not averse to reworking her novels for adaptations, adding: "She took Poirot out of most of the books she adapted for theatre. She understood that sometimes you need to change things for different mediums.

"Every adaptation has changes. You cannot just directly translate a novel into a TV film or a play."

Phelps, who has adapted other Agatha Christie mysteries, was quoted as telling Digital Spy: "I wanted to write something that you think is familiar, but it isn't."

Christie, who died in 1976 at age 85, is cited by the Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling novelist of all time. The latest film based on her work was last year's Murder On The Orient Express, directed by Kenneth Brannagh.

Mr Prichard called Ordeal By Innocence a "fantastic piece of TV", but assured fans that "this is not the start of a road where we're setting about rewriting all her work".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2018, with the headline 'Agatha Christie fans upset with change in plot in TV adaptation'. Print Edition | Subscribe