Nobody does period better than the English, and nobody does British TV collections better than Acorn Media. This three-disc, 11-episode set collects the 1983 series Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime: The Tommy & Tuppence Mysteries, starring Francesca Annis and James Warwick.
The character pair first appeared in Christie’s The Secret Adversary. Old friends Tommy and Tuppence met during the War, then went their separate ways. When it’s over and they meet again by chance, they’re both strapped for money and so team up to find work. (The book was published in 1922, and the story is set a little earlier.) They decide to seek adventure and quickly find themselves drawn into a search for the missing Jane Finn, which leads to espionage plots around a missing treaty.
The TV movie based on this story is the first in the set, running twice the length of the others. It guest-stars Honor Blackman, Gavan O’Herlihy, and Reece Dinsdale as young helper Albert, who continues with them into the series.
The characters are a more reserved (of course, they’re British) Nick and Nora without the drinking but with the same devil-may-care adventures. He’s the strapping young Brit, ready to run after the bad guys, while she’s the high-spirited newly modern woman with some truly amazing hats. He’s logical, she’s intuitive. But compared to Christie’s other work overall, they’re both less cerebral, more emotional, light-hearted with a tendency to be suddenly inspired. The 1920s period adds to the fun with great costumes and settings.
After the opening movie, each episode runs a little under an hour and adapts one of the short stories featuring the characters from the collection of the same name. It’s six years later, Tuppence and Tommy are now married, and they’re running a private detective agency. I like that they’re charming and clearly in love and having a good time. Cases range from finding missing jewels to a fake haunting to murder, particularly those in which they need to clear an innocent suspect.
The pacing of the show is true to the period of its creation, with deliberate movement that may seem slow to modern viewers, but those interested in this set are likely to appreciate more time with the characters and time period. The quality can be a little scratchy, but it’s just fine considering that this film is 30 years old. It contributes to the feeling of nostalgia, anyway. I’ve only had a chance to watch the first two episodes so far, but I’m very much looking forward to enjoying the rest. Any fan of classic TV mysteries should check it out. (The studio provided a review copy.)