Hugh Laurie’s three-part adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Why Didn’t They Ask Evans debuted yesterday on BritboxUS and Thursday on BritboxUK, with all three episodes available to watch in one go, as this mini-series in particular, is meant to be watched.
WDTAE follows Bobby Jones (Will Poulter), a golf caddy who discovers a body at the bottom of a cliff and he races to the bottom to find the man near death. As he tells him help is on the way, the man takes his hand and utters his famous last words: why didn’t they ask Evans?
Bobby finds that the man is armed with nothing but the photo of a mysterious woman and when his childhood friend, Lady Frances “Frankie” Derwent (Lucy Boynton) catches wind of the incident, they join forces to figure out what happened. Did the man fall from the cliff, or worse yet, was he pushed? Who is the woman in the photo? Is she somehow connected?
The three-part setup allows the series to function as a three-act play, each episode building on from the last as it introduces more complex details behind the mystery man’s demise and brings in a stellar supporting cast, with director and writer Hugh Laurie himself making an appearance as one of the shadiest characters in the series, Dr. Nicholson.
Laurie’s adaptation of the novel is an homage to Christie’s original text, not deviating far from the source material as many are prone to do with adaptations, letting creative liberty get their heads. There is one deviation from the source at the end of the last episode, but it doesn’t take away from the series — instead, it wraps it up with a neat little bow.
The dialogue is quick and witty — straight to the point, something that many recent period pieces lack, often using jargon that’s hard for a modern audience to follow. It’s also funny, with one-liners such as “you’re not supposed to ask a question and then just…die” and “I also wondered if you fully understood how gloves work”. It’s elevated by the chemistry between Poulter and Boynton, who are a delight to watch bounce off of one another as their characters work together to solve the mystery, the banter between the two sometimes turning into outright flirtation. Poulter is the ying to Boynton’s yang, as Bobby is far quieter and reserved than Frankie, whose fearlessness is what drives them to discover what really happened to the mysterious man from the bottom of the cliff. That isn’t to say that Bobby doesn’t get up to his fair share of mischief as well; but what he does best is coming not only Frankie’s rescue but the rescue of others as well throughout the three episodes.
Boynton in particular steals the show as Frankie. The charm she brings to the character is captivating, making it nearly impossible to keep your eyes off of the screen when she appears. She perfectly portrays the tenacity needed for this character and instead of making Frankie seem bossy and nosy, she’s simply naturally inquisitive in the face of a clear murder mystery. It’s a testament to the care Laurie put into this adaptation as both director and writer, ensuring that they stay true to character with Boynton in this role.
A personal highlight of the series is Emma Thompson’s cameo as Frankie’s mother, marking the first time she works with Laurie in nearly two decades. The pair started their careers together in BBC’s Alfresco. It also marks the first time Laurie has written anything for the screen in nearly thirty years since the last series of A Bit of Fry and Laurie aired in 1996.
WDTAE is a delightful watch, serving unexpected twists and turns as the characters work together to solve the mystery, unraveling an even more complicated plot the closer they get and proof that adaptations can be well executed when they don’t deviate too far from the source. One thing for sure is that it will definitely leave audiences wishing for more.
“Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?” is now streaming on BritBoxUS — you can sign up for a 7-day free trial here.