Finessing the King is the second episode of the television series Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime. It was written by Gerald Savory and directed by Christopher Hodson and first broadcast on 23 October 1983. It is an adaptation of the Agatha Christie short story Finessing the King/The Gentleman Dressed in Newspaper.
Tuppence persuades Tommy to attend a fancy dress dance at a night club and they come across a woman who had been stabbed with a jewelled knife.
Comparison with the original story
(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)
Although faithful to the short stories of Finessing the King/The Gentleman Dressed in Newspaper, minor changes were made for this adaptation:
- Through his solicitor, Bingo Hale employs Tommy and Tuppence from prison (where they interview him) to investigate the crime instead of Inspector Marriot telling the two sleuths Hale's side of the story, thus helping the story's exposition.
- The dagger did not belong to Lady Vere Merivale in this adaptation. It belonged to Bingo and was kept in his chambers in Jermyn Street. Lady Merivale had her own set of keys. Bingo did not admit to owning the dagger to Marriott but did so to the Beresfords. Marriott was able to identify the dagger without Bingo' help by questioning the charlady who serviced his chambers.
- Tommy and Tuppence attend the Three Arts Ball dressed as Holmes and Watson, rather than the almost unknown (to modern audiences) Tommy McCarty and Dennis Riordan.
- Sir Arthur Merivale attends the ball dressed as the devil instead of a seventeenth century executioner.
- The same plot device of the dots in the letters of the newspaper name is used. In addition, there are a series of black dots and hieroglyphs next to the first letter--a different pattern each day. As in the original, Tommy is the one with the background knowledge and Tuppence is the one who spots its relevance.
- There is some additional action in the denouement. Sir Arthur pulls a gun on Tommy and Tuppence after Tuppence narrates her reconstructionm of the crime. Tommy disarms him by splashing the liquid from his glass into his eyes and then scuffling with him. They disarm Sir Arthur and Tuppence holds him up with his own gun. However, as Inspector Marriott enters (it was a trap, like in the book), Sir Arthur makes a dash for the window and throws himself out, just as in the original story.
- Francesca Annis as Tuppence Beresford
- James Warwick as Tommy Beresford
- Benjamin Whitrow as Sir Arthur Merivale
- Anna Turner as Widow (possibly the waitress at the Ace of Spades)
- John Gillett as Dr Stoughton
- Annie Lambert as Lady Merivale
- Arthur Cox as Inspector Marriot
- Peter Blythe as Captain Bingo Hale
- Reece Dinsdale as Albert
- Terry Cowling as Detective Sergeant Halliday
- Pat Gorman as Commissionaire (uncredited)
- John Mangan as Pinocchio guest (uncredited)