Danse Macabre: Jonathan Creek’s Spookiest Episode

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Jonathan Creek’s Danse Macabre episode elevates the series’ blend of magic and mystery with an added touch of spookiness, writes RACHAEL ELIZABETH

Danse Macabre: Jonathan Creek's Spookiest Episode 1
From left to right: Reverend Stephen Claithorne (Peter Davison), Lorna Claithorne (Pippa Haywood), Maddy Magellan (Caroline Quentin), Jonathan Creek (Alan Davies)

Take your mind back to 1998.

It’s October, it’s 9pm, and you hear the sound of a beautifully haunting violin emanating from your TV – it’s time for Jonathan Creek.

Jonathan Creek is a British TV mystery drama written by David Renwick that ran for five series, between 1997 to 2006, and also produced six 90-minute specials.

The show featured Alan Davies as Jonathan Creek, a somewhat reclusive genius, who conjures magic shows for a sleazy magician, Adam Klaus (Stuart Milligan) and Maddy Magellan (Caroline Quentin), a bold investigative journalist, and true crime author.

Jonathan Creek is a loveable maverick who everyone will surely find endearing. Maddy, almost the complete opposite in personality, is a hearty yet sassy character who brings a warm sense of comedy with her brash ways, and their on-screen chemistry is an extra slice of entertainment intertwined in an already fascinating world. 

Each episode takes you along for the ride with Jonathan and Maddy, as they decipher seemingly impossible mysteries that include, but are not limited to, murder, vanishing art, mistaken identities, witchcraft, and even aliens.

The Jonathan Creek series has many wonderful aspects, including brilliant writing from David Renwick, beautifully arranged murder mysteries, and the recurring and building romantic tension between the two main characters, Jonathan and Maddy.

So, if you are tired of your TV schedule being filled with painful reality TV shows, endless repeats, and scare-mongering news reports, settle down for a wonderfully gothic treat of murder and vanishing skeletons…

Danse Macabre: The Plot

Danse Macabre first aired on 24 January 1998 (series two, episode one), and introduces you to Maddy as she is rudely awakened by her own alarm recording of pots and pans being pounded, before her doorbell rings.

An agitated and tired Maddy answers the door to Reverend Stephen Claithorne (Peter Davidson), who asks for her help with a disturbing incident that occurred the night before.

During the flashback, we are introduced to horror writer Emma Lazarus (Meg Davies), who, due to a terrible migraine, is being escorted home from a Halloween party by her security guard Hal Drucker (Gavan O’Herlihy), her daughter Lorna Claithorne (Pippa Haywood), and her partner Tom Terici (Mark Caven).

On the journey home, they groan with contempt as they notice Lazarus’ stalker skulking around the bushes on the driveway. Once they arrive home, the trio decides to have their photo taken, courtesy of Drucker, in their fancy dress attire – two undead brides and a skeleton.

Later in Lazarus’s room, as she sits at her vanity mirror nursing her migraine, we see a skeleton standing in the doorway to her bedroom – as she turns, she spots the gun in his hand, and a shot is fired.

This prompts her daughter to run upstairs, but she is apprehended by the skeleton who knocks her unconscious as she fights to break free. Drucker is at the bottom of the stairs with a gun but has no option but to discard it as the skeleton threatens Claithorne, and demands the use of the car.

As the skeleton is leaving with Claithorne draped over its shoulder, we see Terici stumble into view wearing only a t-shirt and boxers complaining of a head injury, but before the skeleton can get to the car, Drucker grabs his gun and shoots out the tyres – this forces the skeleton to back into the garage, carrying a still unconscious Claithorne.

The garage door begins to close and remains so until the police arrive, but as they re-open the door, they find the skeleton gone, leaving only Claithorne lying on the concrete floor. 

Intrigued, Maddy discusses the case with Jonathan, who at first brushes the story off as a ridiculous Halloween prank; although Jonathan is waylaid due to sorting out one of Adam Klause’s relationship faux-pas, he at first seems disinterested until Maddy explains the case to him in more detail after she has investigated the garage in question. 

Jonathan Creek Logic

Every episode in Jonathan Creek presents itself with an impossible feat that stumps law enforcement, any witnesses, and let’s face it, most people.

But due to Jonathan’s career (creating magic tricks for huge stage shows), he can think differently to most; with a straight-cut logical mind, he is rarely stumped, and can solve even the most impossible mystery – where some may find themselves digging their heels into figuring out how someone can vanish through a solid stone wall, Jonathan works only with the facts.

“You see, this is where you and everyone else give up. You’re making the big mistake of sticking to what’s likely instead of what’s logical” – Jonathan Creek.

The end of the episode sees Jonathan and Maddy as they leave the church service for Emma Lazarus with the Reverand, Claithorne and Tercici.

They find a private spot away from the prying eyes and flashing cameras of the press, and this is when Jonathan and Maddy begin to unravel the mystery for the grieving family.

The way David Renwick wrote this episode (and many others) carries a wonderful ‘scooby-doo-esque’  ritual that sees the sleuths revealing how the murder was carried out with chilling detail. 

Danse Macarbe Verdict

After watching the series many times, both as an adult and as a child, Danse Macabre is one of the many episodes that has always stuck in my mind, and it is an episode that I have always enjoyed watching.

I would highly recommend the series, and this episode in particular, to anyone who feels intrigued by the world of Jonathan Creek – maybe you could try to solve the mystery of the vanishing skeleton, and the murdered queen of horror.

What did you think of this Jonathan Creek episode, Danse Macabre? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

2 COMMENTS

  1. Jonathan Creek is fantastic. One of those mystery shows you can watch again and again even when you know the outcome because the writing and acting is just that good. Danse Macabre is brilliant, but my absolute favourite episode is one of the 90 min specials, the first one to feature Julia Sawalha as Jonathan’s investigative buddy. I think it’s called the Laughing Man and it has Hieronymus Bosch, an oubliette and a creepy country house coming together in spooky perfection.

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