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N or M?: Part 1 

Tommy is sent on a secret mission to discover the identity of Soviet spy staying at a seaside guest-house; Tuppence refuses to be left behind.


Edward Hall


Claire Wilson




Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Danny Lee Wynter Danny Lee Wynter ... Gilbert Worthing
Hannah Waddingham ... Blonde Assassin
Jessica Raine ... Tuppence Beresford
David Walliams ... Tommy Beresford
James Fleet ... Carter
Tam Williams Tam Williams ... Harrison
Saffron Hocking ... Teller
Trevor Cooper ... Mr Harrison
Susan Brown ... Mrs Harrison
Matthew Steer ... Albert
Joanna Horton Joanna Horton ... Barbara Kemp
Josh Cook Josh Cook ... Dennis Harrison
Paul Cawley ... Shopkeeper
David Moorst ... Wilfred
Aoife McMahon ... Sheila Perenna


Nuclear physicist Gilbert Worthing is abducted from a Norfolk RAF base along with secrets vital to national security. Carter gets Tommy to link up with agent Harrison but he is murdered by a hit-woman who also pursues Tuppence. Harrison's dying words concern N and M, two Russian spies, and lead Tommy to the Sans Souci hotel on the Norfolk coast where Gilbert was staying, to unmask the traitors. He is followed by Tuppence and together they meet a group of likely suspects including the glamorous Mrs Sprot, cocky young Carl Denim and two military types, Commander Haydock and Major Khan, the latter challenging Tuppence. Written by don @ minifie-1

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Mystery


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Release Date:

16 August 2015 (UK) See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs




Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


In the original novel, the man claiming to be Carl van Deinim is actually an impostor, who had assumed Carl's identity in order to leave Germany after Carl had committed suicide by gunshot. See more »


As Gilbert drives the truck away from the base in the opening scenes, the sound of the engine is clearly that of a modern turbocharged diesel engine. See more »

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User Reviews

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Although Agatha Christie is one of my favourite authors, adaptations of her work have always personally been judged on how good they are on their own merits, regardless of how good or bad an adaptation it is.

The Tommy and Tuppence books/stories are entertaining reads, though none of them are among my favourites from Christie, and the 80s 'Partners in Crime' series is not only true in details and spirit to the stories but charming, suspenseful, light-hearted entertainment in its own right. But when advertised, surprisingly didn't find myself desperate in seeing this, which is highly unusual for an Agatha Christie adaptation. Despite looking good visually, the casting just seemed off and even when advertised the writing seemed clunky.

Finally giving it the benefit of the doubt, and without comparison to the source material and the previous 'Partners in Crime' series, as someone who loves Agatha Christie and who has enjoyed a large amount of adaptations of her work. Didn't care at all for "The Secret Adversary", things are no better with the first part of "N or M?"

It has a few plus points, with the best thing about it being the production values.

The 1950s setting is evoked beautifully, the scenery is positively sumptuous and at times effectively mysterious and a lot of work clearly went into evoking the period, because the attention to detail is great. It is also very stylishly filmed and atmospherically lit.

While the acting is a vast majority really not very good, it's not without bright spots.

In fact Christina Cole and Roy Marsden are pretty good, particularly Cole, though the only actors to make much of a positive impression.

However, that is pretty much it for the good things. One of the main things that ruins "N or M?: Part 1" (and this would continue to be one of the series' biggest problems) is the woeful miscasting of David Walliams as Tommy, have nothing personal against Walliams but there was the fear that he would be out of place and stick out like a sore thumb and that fear was proved correct. Walliams even when playing straight often looks vacant and doesn't seem to have a clue as to whether to camp it up as Tommy or underplay, his performance here is a mess of both and he never looks comfortable doing either, he acts jarringly buffoonish when camping it up, the dramatic scenes being very overwroughtly played, and when underplaying he is incredibly wooden.

While Jessica Raine is not as badly affected, this viewer is in the camp of not finding her that much better, she doesn't look very engaged as Tuppence (as if she didn't want to be there), a very charming and authoritative role, and comes over as rather too forceful in the more dramatic scenes. Although this is more to do with how the character is written here Raine seems and acts too modern for the 50s, at least here and throughout 'Partners in Crime'.

The two have no obvious chemistry together, while it may not have been the case at all it was like they didn't get along, or maybe it was how the roles were written because Tuppence looked more annoyed with rather in love with Tommy. Both manage to do something seemingly impossible and make Tommy and Tuppence annoying. The rest of the acting is not good either, the lack of chemistry also applies to the supporting cast which severely undermines the tension and pacing of the story and few seem sure of how to play their roles.

As good as the production values are, the effort put into them doesn't translate in the music, script and storytelling. The music is too loud, too much, too constant and too intrusive, not to mention very one-note mood-wise, even in scenes that would have benefited from more understated scoring or none at all.

Script-writing is clunky and instead of being suspenseful and light-hearted it's like trudging and struggling through very thick mud, and it never feels like it belongs in the 1950s, constantly the viewer feels like they are yanked back to 21st century. The dialogue, complete with comic elements in serious need of a toning down, dramatic elements that are talky and overwrought and mystery elements that feel under-explained and as long a way from tense as one can get, is rather stilted and lacks pulse and urgency, especially in the talkier scenes.

Sadly, the storytelling in "N or M?: Part 1" is not good. On the page, 'N or M?' seems slow going but it was really quite diverting. Here the storytelling rambles on ponderously as a result of far too much padding with a lot of the 'tense' or 'suspenseful' scenes instead bordering on the laboured. And there are additions that are either silly, pointless or confuse the story, sometimes even all three, it's only the first part and already it's a slog and needlessly convoluted.

Regarding the direction, while it fares well visually and does a good job bringing a sense of period it does poorly in the direction of the actors, most of whom look lost at sea with what to do, and with the storytelling.

In conclusion, weak. 3/10 Bethany Cox

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