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Jonathan Creek: 501 “The Letters Of Septimus Noone” Review

jonathan-creek-501

Reviewed by Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull.

With Death in Paradise dominating Tuesday nights (although not for long, the wacky escapades of the Saint-Marie team ends next week) and Sherlock is, regrettably, a distant memory Jonathan Creek is a welcome sight. Headed up by the ever reliable Alan Davies and now with the marvelous Sarah Alexander at his heels (she only got one chance to shine in last year’s Easter Monday special) Jonathan Creek seems like essential viewing for the next three weeks but how did this opener fare?

Creek, now happily married to his glamorous wife Polly (Alexander), is, tragically, duffel coatless attends the theatre one evening. Jonathan and Polly settle down for “The Mystery of the Yellow Room” and in typical Creek fashion he bickers with a camera-wielding neighbour and comes away with a hickey. The main investigation here is not that of the golden room but of how the play’s lead actress, Juno Pirelli was near fatally stabbed after one performance. Intriguingly, we, the audience, know exactly how Pirelli was assaulted: by her lover’s unbalanced partner. However, Creek is in the dark and called in by the eccentric Zelda Niedlespascher (played wonderfully by Marianne Borg) to make inquiries regarding the singer.

Now, I like Jonathan Creek, I really do but, frankly, it’s a bit past its prime. Take the opening title sequence (Danse macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns is on a loop in my head) for instance, while iconic, it’s rather old-fashioned as is the logo. The first shot of The Letters of Septimus Noone is London’s bustling Piccadilly Circus with its instantly recognisable neon signage towering over pedestrians; it’s the picture of modernity and contrasting with the theme tune/logo. The humour is also a bit tame, too, but it’s typical Jonathan Creek (the argument in the theatre and just the shot of Creek riding a Shetland pony are exactly what you’d find on an episode of Jonathan Creek). My point is that Jonathan Creek feels a bit odd in 2014 but it has still managed to churn out engrossing mysteries.

Alan Davies was on top form this evening and Sarah Alexander, too, proving her worth as the latest in Creek’s line of assistants. Supporting them was Kieran Hodgson as Ridley (his total misfire deduction about Reykjavik was an absolute delight, so was his completely preposterous theory about an ‘invisible’ crossbow arrow. It was utterly reminiscent of Sherlock) despite Ridley growing more than a little annoying with his smugness and unknowing ineptitude. The amateur sleuth’s partner, Sharon (Doctor Who’s Raquel Cassidy) was also an exceptionally irritating character but, well, she was supposed to be.

While the spotlight was placed firmly over Pirelli’s stabbing, there was the occasional jump to the episode’s subplot and the ensuing mysteries: how the eccentric Hazel’s (played by Paula Wilcox) father’s ashes supposedly vanished into thin air and the racy letters apparently penned by the titular Septimus Noone. Both cases were handed to Polly and like a lot of Jonathan Creek’s tales; it was both intriguing and utterly improbable.

Verdict: 7/10

While better than the last one-off special, The Clue of the Savant’s Thumb, The Letters of Septimus Noone was just okay. Not anything outstanding but with enough quirks and gags to keep me entertained for an hour. Hopefully next week’s episode will be an improvement but I’m still happy Jonathan Creek’s back even if it isn’t on top form.

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  • Ash Kershaw

    This is the first episode of this series I’ve seen – and whilst not an intellectually challenging hour, I thoroughly loved it.

    I think the cultural references throughout were the highlight. The more subtle things, like the fact that the musical was based on a book by Gaston Leroux, which many people will know is a reflection of The Phantom of the Opera – and there was a plethora of Phantom imagery in there. The boat, the hanging from the rafters, etc.

    And the very obvious Sherlock baiting was brilliant.

  • Steve Willis

    Felt like this episode was a morbid soap opera.

    It wasn’t bad. But, wasn’t what I was expecting either (not in a good way).

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