The Perfect Poirot
Agatha Christie's books remain popular today, with bold, unique and interesting characters that stand out, even to those who have yet to read her books.
Among these is the fastidious private detective, Hercule Poirot. This is a character that has been translated before, with the famous detective being portrayed by the equally famous Peter Ustanov.
Poorly, in my opinion.
To me, there is only one Poirot, and that is the Poirot portrayed by David Suchet in this TV series.
I hardly ever watch tv, and have spent many years with either no TV at all, or no cable. I just don't enjoy watching TV in general. I have never actually watched this series on TV. Instead, my family and I have been working our way through the DVD sets.
It began when we moved to Edmonton, to an apartment just blocks away from the main library branch, with its fantastic audio/visual selection. We started going through a number of adaptions of Agatha Christie's novels, and the first Poirot versions we saw featured Peter Ustinov in the titular role.
We hated them. We haven't seen all the Peter Ustinov portrayals and have no intention of doing so. The books are excellent, and it was painful to watch such an interesting character, with such well written plots behind him, get portrayed so horribly. I disliked them so much, it almost soured me completely on the Poirot character.
Then we found the TV series, and I've been hooked ever since.
There are so many things we enjoy about the series, but it is the actors themselves that make it what it is. There are four primary characters in the series, and they are all perfectly portrayed by the actors.
Philip Jackson plays Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Japp. I love watching how the relationship between Japp and Poirot changes throughout the series, beginning with antagonism to respect to friendship. Jackson portrays the rumpled and somewhat bumbling, yet capable and intelligent, Inspector Japp wonderfully. Japp is Poirot's opposite in so many ways, from his indifference to his appearance, to his methods of deduction. Yet, the two learn to recognise each other as professionals in their respective fields, and frequently turn to each other.
One of the things I find amusing about Japp's character is his references to his wife, whom we never get to meet!
Pauline Moran plays Poirot's secretary, Miss Lemon; a paragon of impeccable efficiency and reliability, and someone not above bullying her employer when she feels he is working too hard and needs to take care of himself. Miss Lemon's relationship with her employer is one of both respect and frustration, seasoned with humour and genuine affection. Moran plays Miss Lemon beautifully. If I were ever to have a secretary, I would want Miss Lemon!
Hugh Fraser plays Poirot's associate, Captain Hastings. Though sometimes teased for his lesser intellect (though only when compared with the genius of Poirot!), he frequently falls into the role of Poirot's muscle, as well as his assistant. Fraser portrays Hastings wonderfully, as a man of action who is also sweet and genuine, and falling in love with every beautiful woman they meet! We were thrilled for Captain Hastings when his affections are finally returned, and later learn he marries. Hastings is a character we frequently found ourselves rooting for, simply because we liked him so much!
Now we come to the one who makes the series; David Suchet. He is, quite simply, the perfect Hercule Poirot!
Suchet's first role in the franchise was not Poirot at all, but rather as Inspector Japp, opposite Peter Ustinov. It was a role he didn't want to be playing, and I'm told he did rather terribly at it. It was Poirot he wanted to play, and he read every book and short story with the character, taking notes, in preperation for the role. Suchet has made the character his own, bringing Poirot alive as no other has been able to do. His attention to the smallest details of Poirot's character, from how he walks, to hand gestures to his impeccable manners, has defined the character even more than the books themselves.
As of 2013, the entire canon of Poirot written by Agatha Christie has been filmed for the series. As of this writing, it is availalbe up to series 12, with series 13 available on advance order, and will include Curtain: Poirot's Last Case, and will be the end of the series. My family and I can hardly wait to see it.
Until then, we will continue what has become a favourite passtime. My daughters and I have taken to setting ourselves up with a selection of fine cheeses, bread cubes and fruit, perhaps a bottle of wine (or pop, for my younger daughter!) or a pot of tea, and having ourselves a Poirot marathon. It doesn't matter that we've seen all the episodes so many times before; we still enjoy them, and it's not unusual for us to discover new details we'd missed before.
To us, there is no doubt: David Suchet is the perfect Poirot, and this series is a rare and wonderful gem.
Here are some of the newer episodes in the series. If you have yet to watch it, I encourage you to start right from Series 1.
Some major things happening in these episodes, including a crisis of faith for Poirot. It includes the best - and most disturbing - version of Murder on the Orient Express I've seen.
A returning character - a mystery novelist - collaborates with Poirot in two episodes here.
Among of the darker episodes in the series.