Tuesday, February 01, 2011


JANUARY: Appointment With Death

The on-screen caption reads "Syria 1937". My guess would be January, simply because Death on the Nile was placed in January 1936 (and I find it likely that Poirot would escape the English winter for a warmer climate, e.g. because of his obsession with central heating, see Hercule Poirot's Christmas).

MAY: The Mystery of the Blue Train

Mirelle Milesi’s ticket for The Blue Train is dated “17 MAY 1936”.  It has to precede Murder on the Orient Express, because the following exchange takes place between Katherine Grey and Poirot:
Katherine Grey: I’m going to go to Vienna, I’m picking up the Orient Express. The idea thrills me. But I expect you’ve been on it millions of times.
Poirot: Not once. But I must!
This certainly points towards a 1936-setting. The problem is, though, that FIVE other episodes should ideally be placed in the exact same month/week/day (see this post)! In an attempt to solve this intricate problem, I’ve decided to move the adaptation one year forward, because the episode fits better in with the post-Hastings time period of Poirot’s life – and the post-1936 chronology of the new producers.In any case, I would put this error down to the production designers rather than the script writers, as this ticket is the only evidence of an intended 1936 setting

JUNE: Five Little Pigs

I can't see the year on Lucy Crale's letter to Poirot, but it's dated '7th June' which gives us a time of year to work with. The murder is said to have happened 14 years earlier, and the archive newspaper Poirot looks at is dated "Thursday, May 3". If we start by assuming another late 1930s setting for "the present day", we find that the best fit for Thursday 3rd May is 1923.  So I reckon the story itself is set in June 1937.

JUNE/JULY: Lord Edgware Dies

Carlotta Adams’ letter is dated June 29th 1936, and Hastings says of a date on a box (November 10th): "that's seven months ago!". We see Miss Lemon’s case files being returned to the apartment, and Poirot stating “Have the final cases arrived?”. Yes, I know this sounds like they’re moving in again (see The Murder of Roger Ackroyd), but this is never actually mentioned explicitly. I choose to imagine that the files have just been stored up somewhere while Poirot's office has been rented out during his six month semi-retirement (see 'Hercule Poirot Timeline'). Poirot cooks dinner and tells Miss Lemon it’s “a dish that I discovered during my retirement”. This can quite as easily be several years ago, as I have chosen in my chronology (see 1933 post), or possibly on one of his journeys abroad in semi-retirement that year (see 'Hercule Poirot Timeline').

The Hastings Storyline: Hastings returns to Britian having lost the farm in Argentina (bad investment in a railway company).  Hastings explains: “poor Bella stayed behind to sell the ranch. I’ve come here to find somewhere for us to live … if I can afford London prices”. At the end of the episode, Hastings receives a cheque from the Duke of Merton (judging by the look on his face, it's a substantial amount of money):
Hastings: But shouldn’t this be made out to you?
Poirot: Oh, non, non, non. It was you who provided the clue that was vital.
Poirot (after some time): It should be sufficient, mon ami, for you to purchase an apartment in London

Hastings (after being fooled by Poirot, Japp and Miss Lemon): You know, I think I’ll put this in the bank.
In my chronology, this fits with Hastings having returned in 1937. He uses the money from the Duke of Merton – either to buy back the farm in Argentina, or to buy back his Argentinean restaurant in London (see Evil under the Sun), depending on how large the amount of money was. Personally I would go for the former option, leaving Poirot alone from July 1937 onwards. (see 'Hastings Storyline').

AUGUST: One, Two Buckle My Shoe
The murder occurs on August 6th (the reseptionist tells Miss Sainsbury Seale that her next appointment is 6th August at 11:45), and the British Union of Fascists (1932-1940) is in evidence. The prologue in India is dated 1925, as stated in the newsreel footage, and a screen caption reads 'London 12 years later'. In other words, the episode is set in August 1937, the latest setting of the pre-2000 episodes. It's also the last episode, chronologically speaking, in which we see Poirot in his old apartment.  

SEPTEMBER: Cards on the Table

No references. This is the first appearance of Mrs. Ariadne Oliver, so it has to be placed before all the episodes with her. Since Poirot has recently moved in this episode to a new apartment (presumably in the same building), we must assume that it’s placed after the last episode showing his old apartment (August 1937). Poirot is buying stockings for his nieces for Christmas. The trouble is that the weather looks too good to be thate late in the year - it looks more like summer, possibly early autumn.  To try and make some sense of it all, I've decided to assume that Poirot is impressively early with his Christmas shopping (which wouldn't surprise me, considering his personality!), and therefore place the episode in late August/early September. How Mrs. Oliver can notice the change of flats is beyond me, as she is only introduced in this episode, but we'll have to assume that the two friends have known each other longer in the TV universe. Also, it's hard to believe that the flats at Whitehaven could possibly have been completely refurbished in less than a month, but that's one of the quirks of the chronology we'll just have to accept.
Mrs. Oliver: Have you redecorated?
Poirot: No madame, I have moved.
Mrs. Oliver: Of course, how silly of me not to remember. What was wrong with your last apartment? Walls not straight enough?
Poirot: You hit the nail right on the head.

Poirot (to Anne Meredith and Rhoda): As you know, Christmas is coming on, and I like very much to send my parcels a’lavance (…).

SEPTEMBER: Sad Cypress

Alongside "Gershwin Dies" (he died in July!), the obituary section of Poirot's newspaper in the taxi gives Aunt Laura's date of death as September 16th 1937.

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER: Taken at the Flood

This episode contradicts itself. Two different newspapers suggest the death of Underhay and the gas explosion happened on the very same day in 1934 (Friday, July 6, “one Sunday afternoon two years ago”). Actually, the newspapers look exactly the same, apart from the articles Poirot is reading. Not a very good job by the production designers, I must say... 

Both Spt. Spence and George are introduced for the first time, so the adaptation has to be placed before Mrs. McGinty’s Dead and all episodes with George present.
Poirot (complains about the new apartment to George): My good Georges, all things in my new apartment they are delightful, yet this morning I am troubled with a draught. Ah, and also, in the matter of the ordering of my books… (looks towards bookshelf, badly organized).   

Obviously, Poirot has aqcuired George when he changed apartments. He might have fired Miss Lemon (or she retired) in the process and he needs someone else to assist him. This would also fit with my decision to move Poirot into semi-retirement from 1937 onwards (see Poirot Timeline). As to the fact that he complains about the ordering of his books, that can easily be the cleaning lady he complains about in some of the later novels.


Third Girl has to come after the first appearance of Mrs. Oliver (Cards on the Table). Or, considering the fact that they've decided to make the friendship between her and Poirot longer in the TV universe, I guess it could be set before Cards, but then why would she forget that he has moved? In other words, I think this is better. George plays an important part, so the episode must be after Taken at the Flood. There is evidence that Norma was five years old in 1917, and that she “is soon to reach her 25th birthday”, as stated by headmistress at Meadowfield school (ref. to Meadowbanks in Cat Among the Pigeons, perhaps? Hopefully not). And “Meadowfield school was only established since it is now 18 years ago”, Poirot says. A sign on the building says “founded 1919”. Hence, the year is 1937. The problem is, once again, that the weather is wrong; it looks more like early spring. Ignoring the weather, it could reasonably be placed in late autumn 1937.


  1. So I reckon the story itself is set in June 1937.

    Judging by the females' hairstyles featured in "Five Little Pigs", I suspect that particular story was set in 1939.

    Regarding "The Mystery of the Blue Train", why is most of the story set during the month of May? It was popular for the wealthy to travel to the Riviera by the famous train between November and April.

    1. Wow, that thing about hairstyles is really interesting. Certainly not my field of expertise, but thank you for the comment! I would be delighted if the story was actually supposed to be set in 1939, but I still think it more likely that they intended the episode to be set in 1937, especially since the season this episode is a part of (2003-2004) was the first time they actively introduced a 1937setting (see 'Sad Cypresss'). Sadly, the producers have a tendency, it seems, to take elements of design, fashion and history that suits them, rather than the story/setting/year they intend to portray. Oh well.

      I agree with you completely on the winter setting for the Riviera stories. Again, however, the producers have decided on a specific setting(my guess would be because the episode was actually produced in May, i.e. in 2005).

  2. In 'Five Little Pigs', the newspaper Poirot looks at is dated May 1925. So fourteen years later would place the episode in 1939 - and this would account for the hairstyles mentioned above.