The Underdog is the second episode of series 5 of the ITV British television drama series Agatha Christie's Poirot featuring David Suchet as Hercule Poirot, first broadcast on 24 January 1993 in the UK and was directed by John Bruce with dramatisation by Bill Craig. The episode is an adaptation of Agatha Christie's short story The Under Dog.
Poirot investigates the violent death of Sir Reuben Astwell, a CEO of a chemical company and an uncommonly heartless man, whose list of enemies seems to be without end.
Comparison with Original Story
(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)
- The adaptation is reasonably faithful to the original. Here Sir Reuben's main commercial interest is not mines in Africa but his Astwell Chemical Corporation. Most of the other characters are related to this chemical industry. The grievance leading to the murder to other suspicious activity is linked to the chemical invention of astroprene, a form of synthetic rubber, rather than a gold mine.
- Poirot is on scene earlier than in the original story--here he and Hastings are guests of Charles Leverson at Mon Repos because Hastings is Charles' partner at a golf tournament. Poirot, despite his usual reticence about these things, nonetheless accepts the invitation because Sir Reuben is reputed to have one of the finest collections of Belgian bronzes. They are thus dinner guests on the night Sir Reuben is murdered.
- The terms of Sir Reuben's will are different. Here, Lady Astwell and Victor get half each. Charles never got anything. However he still has a plausible motive as the night of the murder, Sir Reuben had threatened to cut off Charles' allowance unless he agreed to work for the chemical company.
- The broken knife tip was not noticed by Lady Astwell. Gladys discovered by cutting herself while cleaning the dining table.
- The piece of green chiffon is not a plant by Poirot but a clue he actually discovers.
- The way the murderer is discovered is slightly different although it still involves hypnosis.
- The pattern of relationships is also changed. Here Lily Margrave is not about to marry Victor--she is attached to Charles Leverson. Lady Astwell and Victor love each other.
- David Suchet as Hercule Poirot
- Hugh Fraser as Captain Hastings
- Pauline Moran as Miss Lemon
- Ann Bell as Lady Astwell
- Adie Allen as Lily
- Denis Lill as Sir Reuben
- Jonny Phillips as Charles (as Jonathan Phillips)
- Bill Wallis as Horace Trefusis
- Ian Gelder as Victor Astwell
- Andrew Seear as Humphrey Naylor
- Lucy Davidson as Gladys
- John Evitts as Parsons
- Michael Vaughan as Sergeant
- Charles Armstrong as Receptionist
- The Uplands, Blythe Bridge, Stoke-on-Trent - Mon Repos, although this house name is not used in the episode.
- Boots D6 Building, Beeston, Nottinghamshire - Astwell chemicals externals.
- St George's Hill Golf Club, Weybridge, Surrey - golf club externals.
- Imperial College, London - Naylor's office and laboratory.
Tropes and themes
- The Art Deco 1930s
- Uplands is an example of Moderne architecture.
- The Boots D6 building is an example of Art Deco architecture
- Poirot's pride in all things Belgian - to him Belgian bronzes are the best in the world because they are the largest
- Hasting's interest in cars
- The chase scene - in this case, Hastings and Poirot drive to London, attempting to beat Lily Margrave who makes the same journey by train.
- The title of the original story was The Under Dog. The title of the episode as given in the opening credits is The Underdog (one word).