The final episode of the BBC’s lavish Agatha Christie adaptation Ordeal by Innocence aired last night – and the dramatically altered ending sparked outrage among the crime writer’s die-hard fans.
Far from taking pains to remain faithful to the plot of the much-loved crime writer’s 1958 murder mystery, the BBC version went so far as to change the identity of the killer.
In the original story, wealthy but overbearing mother-of-five Rachel Argyle is murdered by the family housekeeper, Kirsten Lindstrom.
But at the end of the small screen version it emerged Rachel had died at the hands of her own husband, Leo, played by Bill Nighy.
The decision caused consternation among viewers, with one outraged Christie fan tweeting that it ‘should be illegal’ to change a murderer in a TV adaptation of her work, and that the writer’s estate ‘should sue’.
Plot twist: Ordeal By Innocence viewers were stunned to see Bill Nighy’s character Leo Argyll named as the killer – a different outcome to that of Agatha Christie’s book
In Christie’s 1958 book, the bitter housekeeper Kirsten Lindstrom – played by Morven Christie in the BBC version – is revealed as the killer
Some murder mystery fans insisted it was ‘arrogant’ of the BBC to alter Agatha Christie’s plot
As the show, adapted for the small screen by screenwriter Sarah Phelps, drew to a close on Sunday night, viewers voiced their confusion on social media, with many deeming it arrogant to tinker with Christie’s plot-line.
One underwhelmed fan of the crime writer declared the show ‘Agatha Christie in nothing but name’ on Twitter.
‘Her name was seemingly only attached to give it a credence it didn’t deserve,’ she added.
Another Twitter user said Sunday night’s unravelling of the mystery was simply ‘too easy’, and ‘crap’.
Viewers learned of Rachel’s death in the first episode of the star-studded three-part drama, which also featured Poldark’s Eleanor Tomlinson, The Crown’s Matthew Goode, and Morven Christie.
Eighteen months later, the identity of her killer is thrown into doubt.
At the end of the 1958 novel, housekeeper Kirsten, seduced by Rachel’s money-grabbing adopted son Jack, is revealed as having killed the heiress on his behalf as part of his plan to steal some much-needed cash.
But in Sarah Phelps’ version, it turns out Jack is innocent – framed by Leo, who actually killed his wife.
As well as taking issue with the substantially altered plot, some purists had expressed distaste for the colourful language used in the TV version, too
Bill Nighy as Leo Argyll and Anna Chancellor as murdered heiress Rachel Argyll in the BBC adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Ordeal By Innocence
But in the final episode of the BBC show, which aired last night, Rachel’s husband Leo, played by Nighy, emerged as the killer
Praise: Not all viewers were put out by the liberties taken with the original story – other fans took to Twitter to hail the adaptation as ‘epic television’
Agatha Christie’s great-grandson previously revealed that letting the BBC change the identify of the killer for its TV version of the book was one of the hardest decisions he’s ever made.
The colourful language in the show – in addition to the significant plot change – had also raised eyebrows.
He told The Sunday Telegraph: ‘It was probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve taken in my working life. But in the end it felt right.
‘Yes, we will upset a lot of my great-grandmother’s fans and to some extent I apologise to them and to some extent I don’t.’
The BBC show has been mired in controversy before – it had to be reshot after original cast member Ed Westwick, of Gossip Girl fame, was accused of rape. He denies the allegations.
Christian Cooke was recast as Mickey Argyll, one of Rachel and Leo’s five adopted children.