First edition
First US edition, 1940

And Then There Were None

Also called Ten Little Indians
Novel, 1939
approx. 53,500 words

And Then There Were None

THE NOVEL | THE TEXT | THE MOVIES

Movies: 1945, 1959, 2015

Darkness to the end

And Then There Were None (2015): Director Craig Viveiros; writer Sarah Phelps; featuring Charles Dance, Sam Neill, Miranda Richardson, Aidan Turner, Toby Stephens, Maeve Dermody

By 2015, the BBC figured out how to produce from Agatha Christie's aging novel a mystery with the depth expected in today's television dramas: turn it into a miniseries.

The characters on the island in this series all have back stories longer than the few seconds they're given in the novel and earlier adaptations to justify their execution.

This version starts with the individuals being convinced or tricked into coming to the island, rather than with just a bunch of unknown strangers arriving together as other adaptations have it. Then, through their interactions in the deserted house and through extended flashbacks, we actually get to know them and their guilty secrets—some more than others—before they are snuffed out.

It's forty-four minutes into the first of three hour-long episodes before the first death occurs.

Writer Sarah Phelps, who has been responsible for a number of acclaimed serials based on mysteries and literary classics—has outperformed Christie in her treatment of And Then There Were None. Characters respond much as we imagine real people would when faced with murder and threats to their own lives.

This is plainly a psychological drama as much as, if not more than, it is a whodunit. It's no wonder the show scored so highly with both viewers and reviewers in this more sophisticated—and jaded—age.

Trailer for 2015 miniseries And Then There Were None

Although the time period is the original novel's 1939, sex and violence are featured in this series, unlike in most Christie productions. Actual blood is shed. Actual bodies entwined.

But the serial also retains the darkness of Christie's original novel. No one is innocent. In fact, the ten are even more guilty of the charges they are accused of than in the novel or previous adaptations. While originally their crimes were carried out indirectly (like the general who sent his wife's soldier lover to certain death), here they are actively engaged in murder (with the general shooting his rival in the back).

The darkness extends right down to the end of the story, replicating Christie's original misanthropic conclusion.

Strange that it took this long for it to be judged that the viewing public could accept the gloomy ending of the novel.

— Eric

THE NOVEL | THE TEXT | THE MOVIES

Movies: 1945, 1959, 2015