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The Witness for the Prosecution

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

I first heard that the BBC were going to film an adaptation of Agatha Christie's Witness for the Prosecution back when I visited Torquay for her birthday celebrations. It was aired in two parts on Boxing Day and the evening after, and if you didn't manage to catch it then, you've got three more weeks to watch it on iPlayer (provided you live in the UK and have a TV license).

The original Witness for the Prosecution is a short story rather than a novel, which is interesting because usually I feel as though these stories are condensed down for film or TV. Since Ten Little Astronauts is itself a reimagining of And Then There Were None, I'm always curious to see what other people make of Christie's work. I was especially interested in last year's BBC adaptation of And Then There Were None itself, which aired shortly after I handed my novella in as the final project of my MA course: the timing felt very unfortunate! The series itself certainly didn't disappoint, though, and did an excellent job of highlighting the steadily mounting tension and paranoia that I tried to emphasise in my own take on the story.

However, while And Then There Were None revolves around a small cast of characters trapped on an island with the knowledge that one of them is a murderer, Witness for the Prosecution focuses on a murder trial after the bulk of the action has already played out, with its protagonist's interest in the case being primarily professional. The overall tone of the story is completely different to And Then There Were None, though I did notice that this particular adaptation seems to give the main character more of a personal stake in the proceedings.

Personally, I wasn't terribly keen on this BBC adaptation in the end - especially in comparison to last year's And Then There Were None, which was staggeringly good - but it was certainly worth watching. I think my main problem with this one is simply that it feels a little bit like The Hobbit to And Then There Were None's Lord of the Rings. Rather than condensing down a longer story, it's spreading out a shorter one, and it's adding in extra material to do it.

That said, Agatha Christie herself tended to rework her stories and change the endings for stage or film, so I like to think she'd appreciate a different take on them here and there. I hope so, at least, since I've already taken the liberty of blasting one into space.

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