Monday, January 03, 2011

1936 - A Spot of Bother

1936 is the year in which most of the Poirot episodes have been set by the script writers and producers. Consequently, it’s the year that has given me the most trouble. It’s definitely the busiest year in TV-Poirot’s life. How can I possibly make it fit, with cases/episodes following each other almost nonstop – some even overlapping or taking place at the same time! My solution has been to follow the references of the producers as far as possible, and make some drastic changes to the chronology when needed. I hope you agree with my decisions – I have at least tried to make choices that correspond in the best possible way with both Christie’s stories and the television series.

The main “clashes”

The Mystery of the Blue Train:
Mirelle Milesi’s ticket for The Blue Train is dated “17 MAY 1936”. The story also has to take place before Murder on the Orient Express (see 1938 post).

Murder on the Links: 
There are specific references to the 1936 Deauville cycling contest, and a calendar in Giraud’s office is dated “Mercredi 18 Mai” (Wednesday 18th May). May 18th, however, was not a Wednesday in 1936. The closest fit is 1932. Also, it clashes with The Mystery of the Blue Train, set at EXACTLY the same time.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd:  
Lord Edgware Dies (placed in late June/early July 1936 by the script writers, see below) seems to follow this one in the series. But Poirot has been in King’s Abbot “nearly a year now”, according to Mr. Ackroyd. How could he possibly have been retired in the busiest year of his life?

The Million Dollar Bond Robbery:
Poirot and Hastings travel with the Queen Mary on its maiden voyage, which according to Wikipedia was May 27th 1936. This is really close to Mystery of the Blue Train (May 18th) and Murder on the Links (May 17th). In addition, Hastings fancies one of the culprits, so he can’t have met Bella Duveen yet. 

Lord Edgware Dies: 
Carlotta’s letter is dated June 29th 1936, and Poirot is moving in again, having been retired in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (probably set more or less directly before this episode). In addition, Hastings returns from the Argentine, having lost the farm in financial difficulties. How could he have had time to move to the Argentine in the first place, having met Bella Duveen only a month earlier, in Murder on the Links? And how could he have been with Poirot in The Case of the Missing Will (June 15th) and The Underdog (June 23rd) if he's been living in the Argentine?

Death in the Clouds/The Adventure of the Clapham Cook: 
Again, there's a time and date difficulty. A newspaper in Death in the Clouds reads "5 Juillett 1935" (5 July 1935) and a cheque in The Adventure of the Clapham Cook is dated July 11th 1935. But I guess this is just about plausible, so I won't make any changes here.

The ABC Murders/Evil under the Sun:
The letters Poirot receives (The ABC Murders) are dated between August 13th and September 9th 1936. Hastings returns from a journey to the Amazon on August 22nd, the same day as the second letter. The difficulty here is Evil under the Sun. An invitation to Hastings's Argentinean restaurant is dated August 3rd 1936. Poirot ends up in hospital, and he soon travels with Hastings to the health resort - Miss Lemon has booked him "a room for two weeks". How could Hastings have had time to open a restaurant while at the same time exploring the Amazon? Also, Hastings asks Poirot in The ABC Murders "how have you been this last six months?", a frankly impossible question since he has been with Poirot throughout spring 1936!

Yellow Iris:
Hastings is supposed to have had a ranch in the Argentine two years earlier than he actually does! Or, at least, he was apparently there for some time in 1934, judging by Poirot's story. (see 1934 post).

Cards on the Table/Third Girl:
Here, the issue is simply a weather problem (looks like summer/spring). In order to make it fit, it has to be autumn ("Christmas is coming" in Cards on the Table, and Third Girl has to follow that episode, since the former includes the first appearance of Mrs. Oliver).

As you read the following posts, you will see how I've tried to solve these clashes. Interestingly, what causes the most problems are really three episodes, all produced after the five year hiatus in the late 1990s: Lord Edgware Dies (2000), Evil under the Sun (2001) and Mystery of the Blue Train (2006).  I can sort of understand why these errors have been made. The producers were probably delighted to be back after the hiatus, and they clearly attempted to make the hiatus fit in to the chronology of episodes, hence starting off with The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I love the fact that we see Poirot visit his hold flat, and then moving in again in Lord Edgware Dies, as Hastings returns and they visit the health resort in Evil under the Sun. I only wish they had paid attention to the 1936 setting they were trying to create. Anyway. As to the date in The Mystery of the Blue Train, I would excuse that as a simple continuity errror, probably not intentional at all (it's hardly noticeable on screen), and more to be blamed on the production crew than on the script writers.

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