BBC1 Strike: The Silkworm Episode 1


  1. Just some thoughts about the latest BBC adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s “The Silkworm”.

    This outing was something of a pleasant change of pace from the Beeb’s first attempt in the series. I felt that TV version of “The Cuckoo’s Calling” was a bit too all over the place, with a heavy reliance on action and spectacle that the story just didn’t need to rely on in order to do its work.

    “Silkworm”, in contrast, stays fairly faithful to its source material. There are a few scenes that were cut for reasons of both time and budget. For instance, the launch party held at Roper-Chard where Strike meets Jerry Waldgrave, Daniel Chard, and Michael Fancourt for the first time as suspects. In the TV show, Strike has to get the Quine manuscript through much more affordable, budgetary means. Still, this second series, if nothing else, is to be congratulated for staying closer to the original novel.

    One scene that I didn’t understand at first was the depiction of Bombyx Mori. At first I was confused, and then I remembered, “Oh yeah, ALL THAT! I wondered if they would try to go there”. I think my reaction, if anything, was a sign of just how much I was willing to write off the BBC on this particular plot element. I seemed to have subconsciously decided that Auntie Beeb just wouldn’t have the guts to try and tackle that part of Rowling’s book. In a sense though, my initial skepticism still remains valid, as what is on screen is nothing compared to the manuscript in the original book. As it was, I was just left wondering why Vincent Price, Sir Christopher Lee, or Peter Cushing were nowhere in sight.

    There is one sequence that does stand out for me in this episode. It is notable because it isn’t exactly the same as the novel, and yet it is sort of a call out to one scene in the book. In this TV sequence, Robin and Strike find themselves confronted with a traffic back-up, and Robin has Strike help her for a brief moment of off-roading through England’s lovely countryside. This scene has similarities in the novel where Robin and Strike are on their way to an interview with Daniel Chard, and Robin’s driving skills help them avoid becoming a part of an already bad vehicular accident.

    I bring these scenes up, because as I watched, I recall thinking that this was almost like Ron’s flying Ford Anglia from “Chamber of Secrets”. The Strike car can’t fly, or course. However, it is put to creative use in order to help the heroes reach their destination. The reason for mentioning this is because if, as has been theorized on this site, that the author is using Strike as a commentary on Potter, then Ms. Rowling’s choice to create a sequence involving Robin as a driver who can handle dangerous roads might, at least potentially, be her way of alluding to a similar sequence in the second Potter novel. This, if nothing else, would be a thematic clue.

    On the whole, though. I’d have to call this adaptation sub-par. The reason comes down to pacing, corner cutting where more should have been left in, and an inability to trust the audience to rely on the quality of the writing to carry the day. The first two Denmark books are well-written, carefully paced thrillers, in which the information is doled out to the reader in an easy to follow manner. All of this is utilized in the construction of plots with a gradual build of suspense that never lets up, and encourages the reader to keep turning the pages. The TV show comes off more as a second-hand cliff notes of the source material. If asked, I’d say stick with the novels.

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