Originally broadcast 11 December, 1999
Season Three, Episode Three
Preceded by The Eyes of Tiresias
Followed by Ghost’s Forge
Written by David Renwick
Directed by Keith Washington
John Shrapnel was best known for his stage work but made a number of appearances in beloved mystery dramas. Among his television credits are roles in Inspector Morse, Between the Lines, Wycliffe, Foyle’s War, Midsomer Murders, The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, The Last Detective, New Tricks and Waking the Dead.
The science fiction elements are a welcome change of pace but I am unconvinced that the solution is credible.
Maddy is preparing for a media interview to promote her new book when she receives a note from Professor Lance Graumann who promises her ‘the most incredible story of your life’ if she meets him in a warehouse. When she arrives he shows her an alien skeleton in a glass case and explains how touching it caused burns to appear on his assistant’s hands. He offers her the chance to get some photographs but as she goes to her car to get her camera trucks of American military personnel arrive to seize the body and transport it to their base.
When the soldiers arrive they open up the truck only to find that the skeleton has completely disappeared. Desperate to find an explanation they track down Jonathan to demand he explain why the skeleton vanished.
I was really fed up of the whole paranormal alien thing back when this story first aired. Everyone at school was still obsessed with The X-Files, a show I was never able to get into. This story seemed to be pretty clearly influenced by that series and I am pretty sure I resented it a little for that. No doubt that’s the reason I didn’t remember this story particularly fondly and why I skipped over it whenever I would rewatch the stories.
That is, of course, exactly the reason why I decided to revisit these seasons and watch all of the stories in order. To view them once again through fresh eyes. Some have fallen in my estimations as I am much more familiar with common tricks now than I was back then while some, like this one, have definitely gained a little with some distance.
The scenario is certainly hokey although it is a fun change of pace to have a break from those horror elements that dominated the second season and the previous episodes and have a switch to science fiction. It makes the story stand out from those around it, giving it a pretty distinct identity.
The idea of a government agency forcing Jonathan to solve a case for them is also pretty entertaining and I liked the problem it creates for him in terms of keeping Maddy’s involvement in the events of that night secret from them (though the idea of dozens of US troops carrying out a covert operation in uniform on UK soil does seem rather ridiculous – it does reinforce that X-Files feel however). Once again I appreciate it for being a little different from the usual ways he stumbles onto cases and I appreciated the complications this adds to his investigation and to his working relationship with Maddy.
Speaking of Maddy, I think that this episode is one of her best in quite some time. This not only allows us to see her using her journalism skills at work but also reminds us of some of the potential dangers an investigative journalist might face. This episode reminded me that this is the part of the character I am most interested in and that I wish had been the focus rather than the will they, won’t they relationship with Jonathan.
The final thing that I think works well here is the casting of John Shrapnel as Professor Graumann and that character’s general characterization. It is not just that he has a frankly magnificent voice that sounds just right for this sort of character but that he contrasts with Alan Davies in an interesting way. That contrast is drawn quite directly for the viewer with Creek noting that the two men have fairly similar backgrounds and skill sets but use them differently and this casting helps to illustrate that idea.
Given that we know the identity of who devised this trick from the beginning we are simply then looking at how it was carried out. I appreciated that the character is given a little more depth and context by introducing us to one of his acolytes, showing us the impact of what he does. It makes him a pretty enigmatic figure and he stands out for me as one of the more interesting antagonists that Jonathan faces, precisely because he doesn’t behave as such (or, to be more accurate, because Jonathan isn’t really the focus of his activities). He even gives Jonathan a pretty significant, if enigmatic, hint about how the trick was worked.
Which brings me to how the trick was carried out. While the trappings of this episode bother me less today than they did on first viewing, I feel I have become more suspicious about whether the scheme Graumann came up with could work.
The biggest question I have is the economic feasability of his scheme. Graumann’s plan would seem to require a pretty large outlay of cash, not to mention time, to make it work. While I can see that he could expect to make money back from donations, book and VHS sales (!), that takes time and if the trick here is rumbled then he presumably would face total discreditation and financial ruin.
I have further questions but they are all heavily spoilery so I will confine them to the end of this post. To put it briefly, I like the idea of this story but I do have strong doubts that it could actually work.
Overall then I think I liked this one a little more than I did when I first saw it. The concept is still incredibly silly but I think it represents a fun change of pace within the season. I just have difficulty accepting that this scheme could work as shown.
Aidan Spoils It All
ROT-13: Zrephel cevprf ner zhpu uvture gbqnl guna gurl jrer va gur yngr 90f ohg V pna’g vzntvar vg jbhyq unir orra purnc gb ohl vg va gur ohyx erdhverq gb cebqhpr n fxryrgba bs gung fvmr. Bs pbhefr, V nz jvyyvat gb npprcg gung V znl or birerfgvzngvat ubj zhpu zrephel jbhyq or arrqrq ohg vg frrzf yvxr vg fubhyq or fvtavsvpnag tvira gur svther vf fhccbfrq gb or fbyvq.
Va nqqvgvba gb gur pbfgf bs gur enj zngrevnyf lbh jbhyq nyfb arrq gb cnl gur negvfg gb fphycg vg naq gura sbe zbaguf bs pnershy ersevtrengvba juvyr lbh gura pensg na vqragvpny svther nf fubja va gur rcvfbqr naq tb guebhtu gur cebprff bs ohelvat vg naq qvfpbirevat vg. Abar bs juvpu vf bhg bs gur ernyzf bs vzcbffvovyvgl ohg vg frrzf gb or n ybg bs gebhoyr gb tb gb.
V pregnvayl erpbtavmr gung vs ur chyyf guvf bss vg urycf gb ervasbepr uvf fgnghf nf n cvbarre naq n svther gur tbireazrag vf gelvat gb xrrc dhvrg ohg jvyy vg cnl sbe vgfrys? V nz fxrcgvpny.
V fvzvyneyl unir n dhrfgvbaf ertneqvat jung unccraf gb gur yvdhvq – vf vg cbffvoyr sbe gung zhpu yvdhvq gb or nofbeorq vagb gur zngrevny ng gur onfr bs gur pnfr? Fheryl fbzrbar fubhyq guvax gb nanylmr gubfr qebcyrgf fgvyy ivfvoyr ng gur obggbz.
Naq gura V jbaqre ubj dhvpxyl zrephel jbhyq zryg ng ebbz grzcrengher. Gur qvfpbaarpgvba bs gur pbbyvat zngrevny jvyy pnhfr gur grzcrengher gb evfr vafvqr gur pnfr ohg jbhyq vg or dhvpx rabhtu sbe gur cebprff gb or pbzcyrgr ol gur gvzr gurl unir qevira gur qvfgnapr (cerfhznoyl zhpu yrff guna 50 zvyrf onfrq ba ubj ybat Wbanguna vf noqhpgrq sbe gur arkg qnl) onpx gb gurve onfr. V nz hapbaivaprq.
12 thoughts on “Jonathan Creek: The Omega Man (TV)”
I really liked the premise of this episode and mentioned in a recent review (Q.E.D. vol. 12) that ufology is a largely untapped reservoir of yet-to-be-used plots as aliens and flying saucers make for nice change from the usual array of haunted houses, rooms that kills and deadly seances. Unfortunately, The Omega Man has a ramshackle that falls apart when you squint at it.
You mentioned the economic feasibility, but there’s a much simpler and more destructive flaw in the scheme: lbh unir gb npprcg obgu gur zvyvgnel naq Perrx, jub perngrf fgntr vyyhfvbaf sbe n yvivat, qvqa’g guvax bs vg fbbare gb vafcrpg gur pengr zber pybfryl. Vs gur zvyvgnel jrer dhnfv-pbzcrgrag va guvf rcvfbqr, gurl jbhyq unir gnxra gung pengr ncneg naq fghzoyrq gb gur gevpx. Naq gurer jbhyq unir orra ab arrq gb trg Perrx vaibyirq.
So, yeah, one of the more original premises in the series that sorely needed a better plot.
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I sort of agree with your final paragraph. It is super silly, but still has an acceptable impossibility that somehow makes it watchable anyway. Unlike you, I did rather enjoy “The X-files” but that doesn’t mean that I accept these outlandish alien stories in what purports to be a regular mystery. 🙂
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I am trying to remember if there is anything similar later on in the series. I wouldn’t have wanted sci fi mysteries every season but I did appreciate the change of pace here.
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I can’t recall anything like this one. There are of course episodes that trade in the supernatural and horror tropes, but nothing like this one.
I thought as much!
You’re all correct — even TomCat, surprisingly 🙂 — but I still really admire this episode for not just playing out the “murder of the week” format that would have been so tempting. Renwick had his flaws as a writer, and they got only more apparent as Creek creaked on, but the versatility he brought to the impossible crime during an era when practically no-one had any interest in it is wonderful.
You are absolutely right. I have issues with some of these stories but I cannot fault Renwick’s ambition and, like you, I appreciate that not every crime is a murder.
I can’t recall the last time there was this much consensus. It could make an outsider believe we actually like the same thing. 🙂
V guvax nyy gurfr cbvagf ner inyvq. Nyfb, vg vfa’g pyrne jung npghnyyl unccrarq gb gur yvdhvq zrephel – vs vg jnf whfg erfvqvat va gur onfr, vg zvtug unir orra urneq fybfuvat nebhaq jura gur onfr jnf zbirq, be rira unir fcvyyrq bhg vs vg jnf vairegrq. (V qba’g guvax gurer vf nal zngrevny gung pna nofbeo zrephel.) Cyhf, ubj pbhyq vg or xabja gung ab-bar jbhyq or jvgu gur “fxryrgba” qhevat gur wbhearl?
I wonder, incidentally, if this plot was inspired by the so-called “Starchild” skull, which was alleged to be of a human-alien hybrid (now generally accepted to be of a child with hydrocephalus)? That came to prominence in 1999.
V qvq jbaqre nobhg gung gbb. V xabj jr ner fhccbfrq gb guvax gung gur zngrevny ng gur onfr nofbeorq vg (be gung vg qenvarq vagb n erfreibve ng gur obggbz bs gur pnfr) – gur vffhrf lbh envfr jvgu gung nyy frrz cerggl inyvq naq jr xrrc pbzvat onpx gb jul qvqa’g nalbar bcra gur pnfr? V pna bayl guvax ur jnf tnzoyvat gung gur nezl crefbaary jbhyq xrrc gur zngrevnyf obkrq hc hagvy gur fpvragvfgf pbhyq ybbx ng vg va pnfr gurl jrer qnatrebhf.
As for the Starchild skull, I had never heard of it but reading some of the details I am sure you are right!
Wasn’t ’99 also the year of the UFO disclosure movement? A lot of people expected 2000 would be the year the U.S. government was going to reveal the existence of aliens. Just imagine, the ’00s could have been the decade that hurled humanity into the uncharted territory of exopolitics. And look what we got instead!