A central Christmas present for us, from Monique and John, was a Blu-Ray DVD which gave us access to streaming—from Netflix and others. A byproduct has been exposure to the turmoil in streaming. What up to now we’d barely have noticed is now Big News, thus, for instance the following web headline: Netflix is Yanking These Movies and Shows on February 1. Evidently a source’s list of titles is not a permanent but a dynamic sort of thing. Our access to Netflix in this new format gave us the means to see, again, the original Miss Marple series, 1984-1992, in which Joan Hickson is the lead character. That version, you might say matters. It is by every measure the very best. (Joan Hickson, incidentally, quite resembles my Mother in her advanced years).
This series was then followed by Agatha Christie’s Marple where first Geraldine McEwan (2004-2009) and the Julia McKenzie (2009-2013) have the leading role. This second presentation illustrates how current culture, let us call it, can bend, twist, and deform a traditional body of work, that body being the 12 novels Agatha Christie actually wrote with Marple its main character. This series has 23 episodes in 11 of which Marple is, as it were, forced into other Christie plots by the latter-day dramatizers. Not only that. The plots of virtually every episode are updated by introducing new story lines, sometimes changing the “who done it,” and peppering up the characters so that, as carriers of the new political correctness, they will presumably appeal to more sophisticated modern viewers.
If we view these as three series, the Miss Marple figure is played by ever younger people. Hickson was 78 when she began Miss Marple in 1984, McEwan 72 when she began playing Marple in 2004, and McKenzie 68 when she took up the role in 2009.
There is here also a seemingly deliberate effort to “lighten” the mood of the series, loosening the manners, and making characters young—with the net effect that some do not fit the times that Christie was actually writing about.
If we wait long enough, Miss Marple will eventually morph into an actual (if probably digital) cartoon—in which she’ll be a teenage sleuth brandishing the most recent devices and apps to bring the crimi to justice.
The version matters. Check your birth certificate before ordering the stream—or the disk—if there is still a disk to be had. The older you are the more likely you’ll be to like he original series. Which, incidentally, will stop streaming from Netflix on February 1. Shame, shame, and double shame.