The Pale Horse is the first episode of the fifth series of Agatha Christie's Marple.It was broadcast on ITV by Granada Television on 21 July 2010. The screenplay was written by Russel Lewis and the episode was directed by Andy Hay. It was an adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel of the same name although the original did not feature Miss Marple.
Miss Marple is shocked when she receives a note from an old friend, Father Gorman, only to read in the newspaper the very same day that he was murdered. He had attended a dying woman, Mrs. Davis, who died the previous evening and it was while he was on his way home that he was apparently attacked. The police have put it down to a mugging but the letter Miss Marple received from him intrigues her: a list of surnames and a quote from the bible. The policeman in charge of the case, Inspector Lejeune is skeptical about it all being a murder but when Miss Marple inspects Mrs. Davis' rooms, she finds an identical list to that sent to her by Father Gorman and also a reference to the Pale Horse Inn in Much Deeping, Hampshire. She soon checks into the inn and pursues her own investigation.
Comparison with the original story
- This version adds the character of Miss Marple as the chief sleuth of the plot. Her presence reduces the roles played by Mark Easterbrook and Ginger Corrigan although they still have significant parts. Otherwise, the adaptation is fairly faithful to the original story.
- It eliminates the characters of Ariadne Oliver, John Despard, Rhoda Despard, Maud Dane Calthrop, Caleb Dane Calthrop, Hermia Redcliffe. (The omission of Rhoda and Colonel Despard is possibly due to the fact that in the Agatha Christie's Poirot adaption of Cards on the Table, Rhoda dies in place of Anne Meredith and Colonel Despard falls in love with Anne instead.)
- There are a number of non-canonical ones such as Captain Cottam, Kanga Cottam, and Lydia Harsnet added to the story. Some parallels to the Despards can be found in the Cottams because they also had a dog which needs to be treated for ringworm and this gives Miss Marple an idea that thallium salts might be involved.
- Mr Osbourne is changed from being a pharmacist into one of Mrs Coppins' lodgers. His occupation in this adaptation is not stated except that he was typing out his sales report when he met Miss Marple.
- Father Gorman did not hide his list of names in his shoe. He posted it to Miss Marple. In his list, there are no question marks against any of the names. Later, Miss Marple in searching Mrs Davis' things, finds another list in her shoe. This one has dates against the names and is written on notepaper from the Pale Horse Inn.
- Unlike in the novel, the Pale Horse is still an inn in Much Deeping, which in this case is in Hampshire and not Devon. Thyrza Grey, Sybil Stamfordis jointly run the inn while Bella is a cleaner there. "Clients" of the murder service are sent by Bradley to stay at the inn and then attend the seances conducted by the three women.
- There is the additional death of Captain Cottam, from consuming a poisoned love potion. This had been done to implicate Venables further.
- Like in the original novel, there is a "sting" done to smoke out how the murder-for-payment scheme works. In this case it is done by Miss Marple and Mark Easterbrook with Ginger as the "victim". Miss Marple called on Bradley at first but later Mark Easterbrook went to actually place a "bet". In this adaptation, Ginger did not actually get poisoned as by this time Miss Marple has a fair idea how the poisoning is done. Forewarned, Ginger notes the man who comes to her house ostensibly to read the gas meter. During the denouement, she identifies the man as Osbourne. Inspector Lejeune also had policemen staking out Ginger's place and they corroborated.
- Like in the original, Inspector Lejeune's men also witnessed Osbourne planting a bottle of thallium salts in Venables's house.
- Osbourne also tried to poison Miss Marple by spiking her face cream but Miss Marple doesn't fall for it, although she pretends by having a hair brush full of hair for Osbourne to see.
- Julia McKenzie as Miss Marple
- Nicholas Parsons as Father Gorman
- Lynda Baron as Mrs Coppins
- Elizabeth Rider as Mrs Davis
- JJ Feild as Paul Osbourne
- Jodie Hay as Bertie
- Jason Merrells as Dr Kerrigan
- Neil Pearson as Inspector Lejeune
- Jonathan Cake as Mark Easterbrook
- Nigel Planer as Mr Venables
- Jenny Galloway as Bella
- Susan Lynch as Sybil Stamfordis
- Pauline Collins as Thyrza Grey
- Tom Ward as Captain Cottam
- Sarah Alexander as Lydia Harsnet
- Holly Valance as Kanga Cottam
- Amy Manson as "Ginger" Corrigan
- Mike Shepherd as Chief Mummer
- Holly Willoughby as Goody Carne
- Julia Molony as Thomasina Tuckerton
- Bill Paterson as C. R. Bradley
- Uncredited actress as Amelia Tuckerton
- Uncredited actor as Billy - newspaperboy in St. Mary Mead
Mentioned but not cast
- John Corrigan
Tropes and Themes
- St Michael and All Angels church, Hughenden
- Hughenden Manor, Hughenden - Venables's house
- Dorney Court - externals and internals of Pale Horse inn