Home > TV and anime > Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Case of the Missing Will (1993)

Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Case of the Missing Will (1993)

Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Case of the Missing Will (1993) (Season V, Episode 4) is something of an oddity. For all we have the usual cast of stalwarts with David Suchet as Hercule Poirot, Hugh Fraser as Captain Hastings, Pauline Moran as Miss Lemon and Philip Jackson as Inspector Japp, this is essentially an original story rather than an adaptation of the short story bearing the title which first appears in 1923 before being collected in Poirot Investigates, first published in 1924. In most of the other television shows featuring Poirot, there’s at least a tip of the hat by the scriptwriter to the Agatha Christie original. Perhaps surprisingly, Douglas Watkinson obviously wrote down the title at the top of a blank sheet of paper and then decided to write his own story to go with the title. Or perhaps someone at Granada Television instructed this change. Who knows after so many years.

Beth Goddard as a very modern girl

So let’s take this step by step. The original has a young lady approach Poirot with a puzzle. A will has “gone missing” and she would like him to find it for her. After a little thought, Hercule Poirot complies and so, through his agency, the woman meets the condition in the discovered will and inherits the estate. Hercule Poirot accepts her intelligence in asking the best detective in the world to crack the mystery and walks away. This story has us start with the childless Andrew Marsh (Mark Kingston), a wealthy businessman, announcing the terms of his will in the 1920s. Some years later, as Hitler and Mussolini are starting to make waves in Europe, the action relocates to Cambridge University where two of the three children who heard the announcement are now students. The theme of this episode is the pressure for more gender equality. Under the terms of his will, Violet (Beth Goddard) is expected to marry and effectively gets nothing. The patriarchal Marsh assumes her future husband will provide for her. John Sidaway (Terrence Hardiman) and Peter Baker (Neil Stuke) are to receive what would, in those days, have been a reasonable capital sum. They are, respectively the children of Sarah Siddaway (Rowena Cooper), a friend of the family and an Australian woman who had come over to England as Marsh’s housekeeper. When Hercule Poirot comes to meet the family again, Marsh tell him that the will is to be changed and our detective hero is to act as the executor. The intention is to remove the bequest of the bulk of his estate from a medical foundation, and to leave everything to Violet. Before he can make this change, he’s found dead.

Rowena Cooper as a loving mother and loyal friend

So far, so good. There’s a good command of the two different periods with the Cambridge scenes particularly well done. There’s also a nice moment in the London underground. A researcher must have found one of the older style escalators. Except the plot left me somewhat confused. When the family and Hercule Poirot come to the offices of the family solicitor, he announces that the will has gone missing. At no point thereafter does there seem to be any serious attempt to find the will. The police are not informed. It’s just assumed the property will now pass on intestacy. Frankly, this is incomprehensible. There are innumerable witnesses to attest to the terms of the will and the solicitor would confirm that his client had given no instructions to destroy or otherwise revoke the will. The fact the will had evidently been removed from the solicitor’s office without permission would fuel a murder enquiry. The Probate Court would have granted probate on the original will, giving all the property to the medical foundation. If anyone tried to establish a claim based on intestacy, this would have been taken as prima facie evidence of the murder.

Anyway, Hercule Poirot defines the terms of the investigation to decide which of the three children is Marsh’s illegitimate heir. Since I was having real difficulty in distinguishing between the two young men (even though one was at University and the other was in the army) I rather gave up trying to follow who might be the child of whom or might have been the killer. If I had watched this from the DVD, it would have been easy go back through the episode to work it out after the event. But since I’m watching these episodes rerunning on a terrestrial channel, I’m left with an imperfect grasp of what happened. I understand how and why the murder took place but, even now, I can’t honestly say I care. This is one of the worst episodes of all time. If a scriptwriter is doing nothing more than adapt an existing plot, he or she can blame the quality of the source material if the adaptation faithfully reproduces it. But if you are writing an original, then a professional writer researches the law and gets a plot to make sense. Then, in the casting, we should get people more easily distinguishable.

For reviews of other Agatha Christie stories and novels, see:

Agatha Christie’s Marple (2004) — the first three episodes
Agatha Christie’s Marple (2005) — the second set of three episodes
Agatha Christie’s Marple (2006) — the third set of three episodes
Agatha Christie’s Marple (2007) — the final set of three episodes
Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Blue Geranium (2010)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: A Caribbean Mystery (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: Endless Night (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: Greenshaw’s Folly (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side (2010)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: Murder is Easy (2009)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Pale Horse (2010)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: A Pocket Full of Rye (2008)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Secret of Chimneys (2010)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: They Do It with Mirrors (2009)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (2009)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Big Four (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Chocolate Box (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Clocks (2009)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Curtain. Poirot’s Last Case (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Dead Man’s Folly (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Dead Man’s Mirror (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Elephants Can Remember (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Hallowe’en Party (2010)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Labours of Hercules (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Murder on the Orient Express (2010)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Three Act Tragedy (2011)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Underdog (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Yellow Iris (1993)

  1. March 22, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Queen of crime is Agatha. She is unsurpassed and the first in everything. She is the best! Thank you for this!

    • March 22, 2012 at 5:48 pm

      You’re right! Agatha Christie was the most ingenious of the Golden Age detective writers and the first with many of the plot twists we now take for granted.

  2. August 4, 2013 at 12:04 am

    Miss Marple {played by ANYONE but Geraldine McEwan!} and M. Poirot {played preferably by David Suchet}, are my favourites. :-)
    Getting away from Miss Christie, Sherlock Holmes played by Basil Rathbone was a veritable classic!

    • August 4, 2013 at 12:20 am

      As to Miss Marple, Margaret Rutherford’s battiness remains my favourite performance albeit the films are poor by modern standards. I agree that David Suchet is the best of the Poirots. I also agree that, as a performance, Basil Rathbone does justice to the role but the majority of the films are more or less unwatchable by modern standards. Because the production values are closer to our modern sensibilities, Jeremy Brett gets my vote for “being” the best Holmes in a series.

  3. Dee
    March 1, 2014 at 4:02 am

    Thank you for confirming what I also thought about this episode. I was so befuddled I watched it again, and still didn’t “get it.” Which is why I googled this. Good to know it wasn’t me being dumb, but incomplete writing. ;)

    • March 1, 2014 at 1:48 pm

      Congratulations. You’re elected to the ranks of thoughtful viewers. It’s a truly dumb episode. :)

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