The Witness for the Prosecution (TV series)

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The Witness for the Prosecution
Based on The Witness for the Prosecution
by Agatha Christie
Written by Sarah Phelps
Directed by Julian Jarrold
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 1
No. of episodes 2
Executive producer(s)
  • Mathew Pritchard
  • Hilary Strong
  • Karen Thrussell
  • Damien Timmer
  • Matthew Read
  • Sarah Phelps
Producer(s) Colin Wratten
Running time 120 minutes
Production company(s)
Distributor BBC
Original network
Picture format HDTV 1080i
Audio format Stereo
Original release 26 December (2016-12-26) – 27 December 2016 (2016-12-27)
External links

The Witness for the Prosecution is a 2016 British mystery drama thriller television serial broadcast on BBC One over Christmas 2016. The two-part programme was adapted by Sarah Phelps and directed by Julian Jarrold and is based on Agatha Christie's short story of the same name.[1][2][3] The expanded plot is based on Christie's original short story with the original ending, which is different than that of previous stage, film and television versions, including Billy Wilder's 1957 film version.[4]



No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateUK viewers
1"Episode 1"Julian JarroldSarah Phelps26 December 2016 (2016-12-26)7.70
2"Episode 2"Julian JarroldSarah Phelps27 December 2016 (2016-12-27)6.99

Critical reception[edit]

Reviewing Part 1 in The Daily Telegraph, Gerard O'Donovan decided, "Much of its sophistication is down to [scriptwriter Sarah Phelps'] multi-layered reworking of Christie's hit 1950s stage drama, that ekes every possible drop of emotion and mystery from what is a very simple premise. Add to that supremely atmospheric set design, Jullian Jarrold's richly inventive direction, plus a terrific cast, and a slice of Yuletide TV heaven was born." He found Riseborough to be the "star of the show", praising "the extraordinary blend of damage and menace she managed to convey", and judged that the "concluding part promises to be one to savour".[5]

The following day, O'Donovan found that in Part 2, "The biggest coup of the BBC's festive adaptation was that not only did it revert to Christie's original twist, but added considerably to it, making for a far more emotionally ending […which…] transformed a tale of moral turpitude and greed into something of much greater depth and contemporary resonance." Again praising the "captivating" Riseborough, he found that "Toby Jones was also superb, all too credible as small-time solicitor John Mayhew", and added, "At every step, the acting […] and skilfully-evoked atmosphere added layer upon layer of complexity, moral ambiguity and humour to what was at heart a simple premise".[6]

Writing in the Radio Times, Ben Dowell acknowledged "an ingenious plot twist – known to many Christie aficionados – but here given a few smart thematic manipulations by scriptwriter Sarah Phelps", noting her "major achievement is to make the First World War the emotional lynchpin of the whole saga". Dowell concluded by saying, "In the end this was a story of many loves—of Emily French's love for Vole, of Mayhew's unrequited love for his wife, even Janet's love for Emily. Pole star of course was the passion between Vole and Romaine which burns far too brightly. This was really compelling stuff".[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Toby Jones, Andrea Riseborough and Kim Cattrall to star in The Witness For The Prosecution for BBC One". BBC. 12 August 2016. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  2. ^ "BBC One orders major adaptation of Agatha Christie's The Witness For The Prosecution - Media Centre". Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  3. ^ "BBC - BBC One - Media Centre". Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  4. ^ "BBC - An Interview with Sarah Phelps - Media Centre". Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  5. ^ O'Donovan, Gerard (26 December 2016). "The Witness For the Prosecution, part 1 review: a mysterious slice of Christmas TV heaven". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
  6. ^ O'Donovan, Gerard (27 December 2016). "The Witness For the Prosecution, part 2 review: a dark, perfectly contemporary morality tale". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
  7. ^ Dowell, Ben (27 December 2016). "The Witness for the Prosecution unmasks its secrets in a dark and painful concluding episode". Radio Times. London, UK. Archived from the original on 29 December 2016. Retrieved 30 December 2016.

External links[edit]