BBC’s And Then There Were None

I’ve already written about the fact that And Then There Were None is my favorite mystery, and probably novel, of all time. It’s a perfect mystery without the added ending, and the amount of suspense and terror coming up to the end is almost too much. Recently I was browsing on Amazon and was surprised to discover that the BBC had adapted the novel to a 3-episode miniseries. While my expectations were sky-high, I went ahead and ordered it since the reviews all seemed to be pretty good (I didn’t read them, as I didn’t want to be spoilered by what changes may have been made in the adaptation).

The first impression when I started to watch this is the incredible music by Stuart Earl; the cello and other instruments engulf the viewer and like the mansion on the island seem to be an inescapable trap, in turns caressed and pummeled like the the waves of water as the weather worsens. Unlike the book, in the miniseries the backgrounds of the characters are brought up throughout the show in a more prominent manner. It’s an interesting change and I don’t mind it, but it does cause the beginning of the miniseries to be a bit confusing as to what’s actually happening at the present time.

Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, the caretakers, also share some screen-time, and unlike the book their relationship is shown to be much more precarious, culminating in Mr. Jones even striking his wife. The rest of the characters follow their book counterpoints for the most part. Some of the characters, notably Dr. Armstrong, are a bit over-dramatic and amped up for the screen, but I guess that’s not really surprising these days. I also pictured Justice Wargrave as being shorter and heavier. The house itself is a wonderful feature, and pretty close to what I had always pictured. I did always envision a full wrap-around balcony both on the ground and second floor.

While I mention that I pictured Justice Wargrave differently, I must say the casting of Charles Dance was perfect (if you’ve never watched Game of Thrones, he’s fantastic as Tywin Lannister!), especially in the last scene of the third episode here. His reasoning and underlying sinister behavior just makes everything that much more unsettling. The other actors are also excellent, and I was pleasantly surprised to see Sam Neill as General MacArthur.

Overall while I was happy to see a miniseries from the BBC, I do wish it was a little bit longer. I have no doubt this 3-episode miniseries handled the source material better than a movie could, but there’s no doubt the book spends more time between each murder; that helps the suspense and unease grow, as well as prolonging the mystery of what’s going on inside the house and on the island. I do remember reading the book that more time was also spent with several pairs or groups searching the island, as well as taking time to talk at either the dining table or in the lounge room; almost all of that is skipped in the miniseries. I think going to 5 or 6 episodes could have easily been done, even if more time was also used for the characters’ backstories and such.