The major advantage of a format broken up into more episodes is that it allows the program to tackle a wider and more interesting range of Christie's work. Although she is known for her mysteries, these big questions in these stories break away from murder investigations, and branch off into other interesting arenas. One episode is like a spy thriller, following a young man who meets a woman on a train and gets wrapped up in an adventure. Another involves a premonition, and the suspense of wondering whether or not it will come true, while a third concerns the truth behind the repeated cry of a woman, which haunts a young man's every waking moment. In execution, the tone and style of these episodes range from spy thriller to horror movie.
The "horror" episode, "The Fourth Man", is one of the best in the set. Raoul Letardau (John Nettles) places himself inside the train compartment of Dr. Campbell Clark (Alan MacNaughtan) and his two friends, lawyer George Durand (Michael Gough) and vicar Canon Parfitt (Geoffrey Chater). Dr. Clark has just given a lecture on the strangling death of a young woman, Felicie (Fiona Mathieson), who strangled herself, and Raoul has a distinctly different idea of why she did it. Thanks to Mathieson's eerie dual performance (as well as those by the veterans in the train car), the after-the-fact structure of the mystery (told in flashback) and somewhat open-ended ending allow this episode's unsettling ideas to linger in the air long after it ends.
Two of these episodes are based on Christie's character Parker Pyne, a retired statistician who uses his extensive knowledge of odds in the way people act to help them out of emotional ruts. Both episodes are fairly charming (the first turning marital suspicion on its ear), but I give the edge to the second, "The Case of the Discontented Soldier". Major John Wilbraham (William Gaunt) is struggling with the mundane routine of civilian life, having just returned from an exciting assignment in Africa. He spots Pyne's iconic newspaper advertisement -- "Are you happy? If not consult Mr Parker Pyne, 17 Richmond Street!" -- and is swept up in an exciting puzzle involving a lost African treasure, and the people trying to get the details from Freda Clegg (Patricia Garwood), the daughter of the man who buried it. Wilbraham is a charming character, and his miniature spy adventure is a bunch of fun (made possible thanks to the contributions of crime author Mrs. Oliver, played by Lally Bowers, who is clearly a Christie surrogate).
Other charming episodes include a couple of thriller comedies, "The Girl in the Train" and "Jane in Search of a Job". In the first, George Rowland (Osmund Bullock) is swept up into an unexpected request to tail a mysterious foreigner when he hides Elizabeth (Sarah Berger)in his train car, while the second follows Jane Cleveland (Elizabeth Garvie), who lands an unbelievable offer to pose as Princess Anna of Ostravia (Stephanie Cole) for a short time and a tall payoff. The former has the more interesting and unexpected payoff, while the latter has the more charming performances. Conversely, the only serious dud in the bunch is "Magnolia Blossom", a bland and remarkably dated story about Theo Trent (Ciaran Madden), trapped in an unhappy marriage. When her husband, Richard Trent (Jeremy Clyde), is suspected of criminal activities, he asks her to do something horrible, an activity which allows her to weather sexism from both directions. In addition to being ugly, it doesn't have much of a payoff, and the performances are on the stiff side.
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