‘Daa-dum dee-dum da-dum-dee-dum, daa-dum-dum da da da da dum-dee-dummm!’ Ahh the haunting strains of ‘Danse Macabre’ (what do you mean you thought it was the old spice song?)
It can only mean you’ve accidentally tuned your radio to Classic FM while vigorously twiddling, or Jonathan Creek‘s back. In this case it’s the latter, as we put on our duffel coat and put together our Top 5 Jonathan Creek episodes for you to revisit on Netflix, presented in no order whatsoever.
No, we haven’t done this list already. Can you believe it? I checked and everything…
(WARNING: Some spoilers follow. Ancient, ancient spoilers.)
‘The House of Monkeys’ (1997)
Dr. Strange (no, not that one, Marvel fans) is found dead in his locked room (this’ll become a theme…), stabbed through the back with his ornate samurai sword. Did one of the fourteen monkeys he lives with do it? Was it paper-eating Samson the gorilla? The truth is actually just as – ahem – strange…
Everyone remembers ‘The House of Monkeys’, simply by virtue of the fact it has monkeys in it. Or maybe they had a particularly good Saturday night tea just before it aired.
Locked room mystery, big old house; it’s a simian Agatha Christie. It sounds bonkers, it is bonkers, and yet, unlike the outlandish fare that David Renwick has provided us with in recent years (unleaded apple juice, anyone?), it works because it’s grounded in a coherent plot
And it has plenty of monkeys. And monkeys are awesome.
‘Mother Redcap’ (1998)
A judge about to pass sentence on a group of unsavoury Chinese gangsters is found dead in his room, despite being surrounded by an iron ring of police protection. He’s been stabbed through the heart, but how? And when? And what does it all have to do with the Mother Redcap pub and the window that kills any man who looks out of it?
Some of the best Creeks are the ones that offer you a terrifying supernatural set-up, only to reveal a train of thought that’s even more diabolical. In this case it’s people being electrocuted, by alarm clocks or elaborate under-floor deathtraps.
Although actually the thing that will make you want to look away from the screen isn’t the idea of a scary window of death, but seeing a bunch of nudists surrounding poor Maddy. So. Much. Flesh…
‘The Omega Man’ (1999)
Professor Lance Graumann (the quarry-voiced John Shrapnel) has an alien skeleton that burns anyone who touches it. And when the US Army seize it, it somehow vanishes en route to their base. Things are getting strange, I’m starting to worry; this could be a case for Mulder and Scully…
It’s magician versus magician. Graumann’s a fake, Creek knows it, we know it too, and so it’s all about the how, rather than the why. It is actually a very easy mystery, especially as Graumann practically spells it out in an obvious planetary riddle, clearly wanting to be sussed. But the answer, when it comes, is still cool.
Quite literally, actually, because the skeleton was made of frozen mercury; the only metal that’s a liquid at room temperature. SCIENCE!
‘The Scented Room’ (1998)
A valuable El Greco painting belonging to critic and utter bastard Sylvester Le Fley (a mouth-puckeringly acerbic Bob Monkhouse, much missed) suddenly vanishes from its super-secure room. Who nicked it? How? Only security guard Eric’s spam-sandwiches hold the key to how it was done…
Responsible for a 23% increase in the sale of spam sandwiches after airing*, ‘The Scented Room’ is one of Creek‘s best locked room mysteries, and thanks to some great character work, arguably one of its strongest episodes.
It’s an episode all about parents, and how they’re not always the people their children need them to be, with a terrific Maddy-centric sub-plot that sheds light on her childhood. That, and it also features the best children’s treehouse ever.
*No, not really. Everyone hates spam.
‘The Three Gamblers’ (2000)
How can a corpse with six bullets in its brain crawl up a flight of stairs?
Was anyone else scared witless as a kid by the sight of Geiger’s dead body reaching up the stairs? No? Oh, well, aren’t you brave. It’s not just the scary dead body that leaves an impression, but also the terrific finale, as Jonathan defeats a drug dealer holding Maddy hostage, and all with just a 3 of clubs and some card throwing skills taught by Ricky Jay. (Incidentally, Jay was also henchman Gupta in Tomorrow Never Dies).
‘The Three Gamblers’ is the end of the Jonathan & Maddy era, and with it the Golden Age of Renwick’s locked room mystery drama.
It’s not surprising that this entire Top 5 list came from just those 17 episodes that comprised the original three series: Davies and Quentin made a double act that could never be topped, despite delightfully feisty performances from Julia Sawalha and Sheridan Smith.
What’s your favourite episode? Let us know below…