Jonathan Creek: Season 1, Episode 1

The Wrestler's Tomb (10 May 1997)

TV Episode  -   -  Crime | Drama | Mystery
7.7
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 161 users  
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An exuberant artist is found dead at home. The only suspect is the artist's wronged wife who was well aware of his affair with his model, but how could she have left her city office without her P.A. seeing her leave?

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Title: The Wrestler's Tomb (10 May 1997)

The Wrestler's Tomb (10 May 1997) on IMDb 7.7/10

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Cast

Episode cast overview, first billed only:
...
Hedley Shale
Paul Allen ...
Radio Interviewer
...
Francesca Boutron
...
Serena Shale
Rebecca Charles ...
Joy
Jane Hazlegrove ...
Katrina Toplis
Alan Thompson ...
Mr Winstanley
Lloyd McGuire ...
D.S. Owen Davey
...
Drunk (as Mem Ferda)
Christine Ellerbeck ...
Supermarket Cashier
...
Clare McCarron ...
Woman in Supermarket
John Marquez ...
Supermarket Manager
...
Scott Chisholm ...
Rhino
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Storyline

A controversial artist is dead, apparently the victim of a botched robbery at his suburban estate. Take-no-prisoners journalist Maddie Magellan is unconvinced, and she casts her suspicions on the deceased's possessive wife and his frivolous mistress. But one was in her city office at the time of death, and the other was bound, gagged and blindfolded by the "robber". A chance meeting with Jonathan Creek, a famous illusionist's technical advisor, leads Maddie to believe that his "lateral mind" may allow him to see through the deceptions in the case, and she recruits the reluctant genius as her partner. Written by balkaster

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Genres:

Crime | Drama | Mystery

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Release Date:

10 May 1997 (UK)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Goofs

When Madeline Magellan is trying to tap into someone's answer machine she says "BT use a two digit code, that's 99 possibilities" There are 100 possibilities though. 00 through 99. See more »

Quotes

Jonathan Creek: [to Madeline] I never wanted to be a magician as such - swanning about with a silk handkerchief. It was, I don't know, the ingenuity at the back of it always fascinated the hell out of me.
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Connections

References Psycho (1960) See more »

Soundtracks

Variation on a Theme from Danse Macabre
Tone poem composed by Camille Saint-Saens (1874)
[Heard under main title and integrated in the score throughout the episode.]
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User Reviews

Crossing the line
6 April 2010 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

The classic 'impossible crime', 'locked room', mystery is basically a puzzle. You don't care too much about fine writing or subtle characterisation. All you really want is a striking character investigating an intriguing mystery that has an ingenious solution.

They are very difficult to do well. Even the acknowledged greats of the Golden Age, Like Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers, got it wrong as often as they got it right. David Renwick is the latest author to try his hand at the form.

Jonathan Creek is a wonderful creation. Renwick has realised that the process of writing a 'classic' detective story is very similar to the process of creating a good stage illusion, so it was a stroke of genius to have a detective whose day job is designing magic tricks. He is the best new super-sleuth we have seen in a long time and this pilot episode is a good introduction to the whole series.

It is also a very shrewd essay on the problems of writing this highly specialised type of fiction.

For me, there are two very revealing scenes in this episode that I suspect were deliberately inserted by Renwich to illustrate two problems that mystery writers have to solve.

Shortly after Maddie has learnt what Jonathan does for a living, he takes her to lunch. She asks him to do a trick and he reluctantly complies. She is astounded and asks him how he did it. He says: "Trust me, you don't want to know, it's mind-bogglingly banal." She begs him to tell her and he finally agrees. Maddie looks crest-fallen and says: "That was mind-bogglingly banal."

This illustrates the first problem. It is not enough to have a possible solution to an intriguing mystery. The solution has to be as satisfying as the mystery is baffling. I once read a large anthology of famous 'locked room' mysteries. Most of them failed this test.

The second scene occurs half-way through the episode and illustrates the other problem.

A burglar is arrested for murdering a famous painter and Maddie takes up his case. She comes to suspect the painter's wife was the real murderer. She was in her office when the crime occurred, but left strict instructions not to be interrupted all morning, so nobody actually saw her for hours. Maddie smells a rat, but is faced with a problem: the office windows don't open and the only door leads to an outer office which her secretary didn't leave, even for a minute. There seems no way the wife could have left her office to commit the murder.

Maddie and Jonathan go to the office posing as a TV crew making a documentary. Jonathan films the two offices and constructs a detailed scale model of them. Using a couple of dummies, he then shows Maddie how the wife could have slipped past the secretary without her knowledge. It is a satisfyingly elaborate and ingenious solution that overcomes the first problem Renwick identified.

Maddie says: "So, that's how it was done." Jonathan replies: "No. That was how it could have been done, but of course it wasn't." Maddie looks puzzled and he explains that although the plan would work in principle, nobody would ever try it in practise. It is just too risky. He asks: "what if an important client turned up and absolutely insisted on seeing her? What if the fire alarm rang and they had to evacuate the building?"

That is the second problem in a nutshell. The more elaborate the solution to the crime, the less likely it becomes that anybody would ever try it. Even some of the best Agatha Christie stories stumble over this issue (A Murder is Announced, Evil under the Sun and Death on the Nile, for example). In truth, so does David Renwick. The final solution to this mystery is as improbable as the one that Jonathan rejects.

Of course, if you want to enjoy this sort of fiction you just have to accept that the solution to the mystery is going to be a bit far-fetched. For the writer, the trick is not to cross the line between far-fetched and utterly ridiculous. But that line will be in a different place for every reader or viewer.

So, do I think David Renwick crosses the line?

Certainly, some of his stories take 'ingenious' to almost surreal heights. But Renwick is so knowing in this pilot episode that I believe Jonathan Creek is actually intended to be a parody of the genre. A successful parody has to be at least as good as thing that is being parodied and that is often the case with this series. But, because it is a parody he can push the line of plausibility further out than straight exponents of the form. As a result, I think Renwick stays on the right side of it often enough to make Jonathan Creek amongst my favourite viewing.

Nonetheless, if you think he goes too far, then I cannot reasonably argue against you.


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