The BBC has rewritten Poirot’s history, as the finale of its divisive adaptation revealed the detective was a priest.
The episode, aired last night, jettisoned another piece of the Agatha Christie cannon when it wrote out the character’s traditional former profession as a policeman.
The backstory of the BBC’s private detective, played by John Malkovich, instead revealed he trained as a priest only to relinquish his vows after deciding that incarcerating serial killers was his true calling.
It comes as the BBC’s version of the The ABC Murders has already angered some Poirot fans by dispensing with iconic elements of the character.
Malkovich’s iteration has ditched the detective’s trademark Belgian accent and replaced his upturned mustache with a goatee beard.
The three-part series was written by Sarah Phelps, who has previously adapted three other Agatha Christie books for the BBC.
Phelps earlier revealed that she had never read or watched a Poirot story before working on the screenplay and that she relied exclusively on 1936 the ABC Murders novels while constructing her character.
Many of Poirot’s most famous features originate from other Christie novels in which he appears. For instance his “upward-curled moustache” was first described in Murder on the Orient Express.
It was in The Mystery of the Baghdad Chest, a short story published in 1939, that Christie notes “the exact symmetry of his hair parting, the sheen of pomade on his hair, and the tortured splendour of his famous moustaches” and describes him as “an inveterate dandy”.
James Prichard, Christie’s great-grandson and custodian of her literary estate, defended Phelps last year saying: “We have this amalgamated view [of Poirot in previous screen incarnations] whereas she has pared it back to exactly the one described in The ABC Murders, and that is very different from probably anything that has gone before”.
Malkovich also warned viewers before the current series aired that it would be an “almost 180 degrees different from anything that had come before”.
Although the priest subplot is an addition rather than an embellishment of Christie’s 1936 original, some critics have argued it is not entirely out of keeping with the cannon.
Christie was a practising Anglican herself and though Poirot’s faith is barely touched on in the novels, previous incumbents of the role have played up his religious leanings. Such as in David Suchet’s 2010 Murder on the Orient Express Poirot, where is seen clutching a rosary beads as he agonises over a decision.