Jonathan Creek: The Eyes of Tiresias (TV)

Episode Details

Originally broadcast 4 December, 1999
Season Three, Episode Two
Preceded by The Curious Case of Mr Spearfish
Followed by The Omega Man

Written by David Renwick
Directed by Keith Washington

Familiar Faces

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.

The Verdict

Perhaps not a top tier episode but it boasts a very solid story hook and a logical solution.

Episode Summary

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…

My Thoughts

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.

8 thoughts on “Jonathan Creek: The Eyes of Tiresias (TV)

  1. I’ve never quite figured out how I feel about this one — predicting the future is such a risky gambit in impossible crimes, and my understanding is that the method employed here doesn’t work anyway. To my understanding:

    Vg’f cerggl jvqryl npprcgrq gung lbh qba’g “yrnea” be creprvir va nal zrnavatshy jnl sebz PQf, rgp. juvyr nfyrrc.

    But it’s fun, even if I don’t remember the Maddie storyline to which you refer, and Renwick doesn’t get enough credit for the range of problems he tried to introduce as the programme wore on — it never settled into a predictable “murder of the week” format, and that deserves admiration.

    The best “predicting the future” story is still ‘The Cleaver’ by Paul Halter, however.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the suggestion. I will have to take a look at that one.

      Gung’f na vagrerfgvat cbvag. V fbeg bs nffhzr fur vf bayl irel yvtugyl nfyrrc naq gung vg vf ergnvarq orpnhfr vg wbygf ure njnxr. Gur guvat bayl jbexf ol punapr gubhtu orpnhfr bs gur zhygv PQ cynlre. Ng fbzr cbvag gung qvfp vf tbvat ba svefg naq gura fur jvyy urne vg cebcreyl. Abg gung vg jbhyq uryc fbyir gur pevzr jvgubhg Wbanguna V fhccbfr.
      Gur ceboyrz V unir, gubhtu V qba’g xabj ubj jvqryl xabja vg jnf ng guvf gvzr, vf gung gur ivpgvz znxrf gur svyr hfvat uvf bja pbzchgre. Ng fbzr cbvag nsgre uvf qrngu fheryl gur crbcyr ybbxvat gb svaq cebbs bs uvf rzormmyrzrag ner tbvat gb ybbx pybfryl ng gung pbzchgre naq svaq erzanagf bs gur svyr gurl pna hfr gb erpbafgehpg vg…
      Nf sbe Znqqvr’f fgbelyvar – vg vaibyirf n qehaxra zvfhaqrefgnaqvat jurer fur zvkrf hc gjb qvssrerag zra, bar unaqfbzr naq bar yrff fb, orpnhfr fur trgf urnivyl qehax.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Good points all; thanks for the remainder about the Maddie story — I still don’t remember it, bu then this is one of the episodes I find myself less inclined to rewatch.

        A shame, too, that we didn’t get The Demon headmaster as a villain — he’s so good at glowering an looking sinister, reducing him to mere victim status seems something of a missed opportunity 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  2. For me, this is probably one of the less remarkable Creek episodes. However, I don’t dislike any of them – it’s all relative. As a series it has such a great feel good factor. In family viewing, if we can’t decide between options on the various streaming services, Creek is one of our default choices and it doesn’t really matter which episode.
    Re the method, my understanding is along the lines of Aidan’s reply but – of course – as with all JC explanations they rapidly unravel under the microscope! Of course this doesn’t stop them being delightful. The sweet spot in this series is straddling the line between brilliant revelation and ridiculousness; some episodes succeed better than others.
    The Maddy sub-plot is superfluous but, as ever, nicely played by Caroline Quentin.
    And as for the goldfish….

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Overall, I think that season 3 is one of the weaker in the Jonathan Creek canon. This episode isn’t bad per se, but it’s not particularly remarkable either – well, the premise is fine, but I remember not feeling completely satisfied with the resolution, though I will admit that I can’t fully remember what it was I didn’t truly like… 🙂

    I will agree with you that it’s clearly better than the previous episode, and I think we’ll see at least one episode from this season that is really quite good, but as I said, overall it’s a bit lackluster.

    It is possible that you’ve hit the nail on the head with your observations on the Jonathan/Maddie dynamic – as I’ve mentioned, I’d gone completely off her after the way she behaved in “Black Canary”. And therefore, it’s quite possible that the introduction of Julia Sawalha’s Carla Borrego breathed some life into the subplots and therefore make me remember season four a bit more fondly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t have a particularly strong memory of this one either so I think you are right to say it is not remarkable. Perfectly watchable though and perhaps it benefits a little from following on from a complete turkey of a story…

      Liked by 1 person

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