Written by David Renwick
Directed by Keith Washington
Rebecca Front will probably be best known to genre fans for her recurring role as Chief Superintendent Innocent in Inspector Lewis. At the time this episode was made though she was best known as a comedic actor having appeared in shows like Knowing Me, Knowing You and The Day Today.
Terrence Hardiman is probably best known to people of my generation as the Demon Headmaster. He does have a number of genre credits which include the recurring role as Abbot Radulfus in the Cadfael television series and has roles in Poirot, Inspector Morse, Wallander, the 80s Miss Marple among his credits. In addition to his acting performances he is also an excellent audiobook narrator – I can particularly recommend his reading of Ruth Rendell’s From Doon with Death which makes me wish he had recorded all the others too.
Perhaps not a top tier episode but it boasts a very solid story hook and a logical solution.
Audrey is settling down for a relaxing night in, reading a book about Greek mythology and listening to music. She drifts off to sleep in her armchair, waking up in a start after a nightmare in which she hears a man being murdered. She tells her niece who is staying with her about what she had dreamt, commenting on how vivid it seemed. She is shocked when she learns of the murder of Andre Masson in circumstances exactly like those she imagined a few hours later.
When she has other dreams that seem to come true, Audrey becomes concerned that she can predict death – particularly as she has forseen her own…
I found last week’s episode to be pretty hard going so I am really happy to be able to say that the show quickly rebounded back to form. Even better, it turned out that I had little memory of this episode beyond the predicting the future hook so this one felt pretty fresh to me.
Let’s start by discussing the episode’s concept that someone might be able to predict the future. As with the previous episode, there is a sense that this story is playing with some supernatural elements. There is a significant difference in tone however between the two with this story focusing more on how those ideas are really distressing to Audrey. That makes it easy to empathize with her and only increased my desire to see Jonathan work out what has happened to bring her peace.
The episode takes great care to clearly show us the events of the evening when Audrey has the nightmare as well as the events in the Masson home, establishing the core facts of the case. We know, for instance, that Audrey definitely makes her predictions before the murder happens and was quite specific in her description of what happened. While there are a few minor differences in the account, it is clear that her prediction is detailed enough to be tested and that she had no personal knowledge of Masson to be able to predict it in some other way.
The episode is similarly very clear about the sequence of events leading up to Masson’s death, introducing us to the most significant figures in his life and establishing that they were both on the other side of his locked office door at the moment he is murdered. The problem is that the suspect with the strongest motive seems to have a pretty unbreakable alibi.
I think it would be fair to suggest that the Masson murder is rather simpler than most cases on Jonathan Creek. Assuming that there is no random murderer breaking in, have an extremely limited pool of suspects and some pretty clear motives for murder. It is the overlap between this case and Aunt Audrey’s visions of the future that provide much of this story’s novelty and much of the interest here for me.
The solution is, I think, quite logical, and clearly explained. While there are parts of the killer’s plan that strike me as having the potential not to work as planned, I have no problem accepting that they do. Jonathan’s method for getting there is similarly quite solid and while I think this is a case where the truth could well have been discovered eventually without his efforts, I enjoyed seeing which details would lead him there and felt it ultimately played fair.
I have a rather more mixed response to some of the material around those two mysteries. I think the way in which Jonathan first meets Audrey’s niece and the consequences of that are pretty amusing. Given I am a strong advocate for more Rebecca Front in everything, I predictably enjoyed her scenes with Alan Davies. The pair play nicely off each other and I enjoyed some of the other business that it sets up on the grounds of Jonathan’s windmill.
On the other hand Maddy’s subplot with her romantic misadventures didn’t really work for me. For one thing it doesn’t get much time, meaning that the gag has to be pretty simple. The basic idea that she will do something that she will be really embarrassed by is solid enough but if you’re going to go that route then the situation ought to be mortifying or feel like their getting their just desserts. Instead what we get just struck me as pretty tame and a little cringeworthy.
At this point I am long over the will they, won’t they relationship with Jonathan, particularly given it often seems to come back to some variation on the same gag in the end. It all rather feels like the show is treading water, unable to advance their relationship for fear that changing the frustrated dynamic between them will somehow damage the experience. The first series at least felt pretty focused and consistent – as we went through the second and into the third I felt that it was far from clear how they each felt about the other, making it hard to invest in them.
Take away these sideplots and distractions and you are at least left with a pretty interesting case. I doubt I will be picking it in my top 5 Jonathan Creek episodes of all time list whenever i come to make that but I appreciate the cleverness of the problem the pair have to solve.