Professional and physical description of the detective

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Professional and physical description of the detective

Nevertheless, Alec Hardy is not exclusively defined by what is going on in his mind or the way he reacts in front of several situations. As suggested by this analysis, Alec Hardy is before anything else a detective from a 21st century TV show.

Alec Hardy as a professional detective

Alec can easily be compared to detectives in literature because of his background as a police worker. As we said in the beginning of our analysis, the different literary detectives that we chose are not properly working for the police in so far that they do not have a proper police training. “In this respect, they [Dupin and Holmes] are amateur detectives, in the true sense of the word ‘amateur’, practising their profession more as a hobby than as a means of making a living like the professional private eye or the police detective of the police procedural.”
In his precise definition of the amateur detective, John Scaggs points out the fact that in literature, detection is often exercised as a hobby. In Broadchurch, Alec Hardy is not an amateur detective. He is employed by the Broadchurch Police as a DI, that is to say, he is the one who will run the investigation. Detection is not a hobby for him, but a concrete job. He is employed and, to use the words of Scaggs, he is a “police detective of the police procedural”.
The fact that Alec is a real professional detective also justifies the mention of the Sandbrook case. In literature, we barely have references to other investigations the detective has dealt with, apart from the one he is presently dealing with in the novel or short story at stake88. The Sandbrook case appears as a good instance of a pre-diegetic investigation, as it occurred several months before the death of Danny Latimer. In the second season, the mention of Alec’s implication in the Sandbrook case is rather obvious. This second season is divided into two, one of the parts deals with the trial of Joe Miller, and the other one with the return to the past, that is to say to the reopening of the Sandbrook case. Therefore, it evolves around Alec’s progression in the investigation. But in the first season, there are many references made to Alec’s former case, and it is often linked with the preconceived ideas that people have about the detective not being adequate for the job in Broadchurch. For instance, Elaine Jenkinson, the Chief Superintendant of the Police Station, doubts that Alec is suitable for the Latimer’s case because of Sandbrook: “Elaine Jenkinson: Given the nature of this case, it probably makes sense to hand it on to another lead officer.
Alec Hardy: No.
Elaine: It’s nothing to do with your ability. We just don’t want Sandbrook to become a thing.
Alec: I was completely exonerated.
Elaine: Alec, you came down here to lie low.
Alec: I came down here to do whatever the job requires.
Elaine: But in terms of public perception, you may be vulnerable. I’m giving you the chance to step back. Nobody will blame you.”89
Even though people might think that the Sandbrook case was a low point in his career, Alec has decided to use this case as a driving force, a sort of motivation to solve the case he is working on in the first season. In the end, Alec will only explain the case he has worked on before Broadchurch in the seventh episode of the first season when he finally agrees to tell the journalists why this case was such a failure90, that is to say why he covered his wife and lost his job in Sandbrook. This centrality of one of the detective’s previous investigation is thus not something that we find in literature. Here in Broadchurch, this previous enquiry becomes one of the centres of attention in the second season. Alec Hardy is a professional, therefore, the investigations with which he was faced in the past are part of his curriculum vitae and they play a part in his being offered a job in another town and with another police team.

The detective’s physical appearance

As we saw earlier in this part, in literature, detectives are not precisely described, as the physical appearance of the detective is not of prime importance. However, even though physical description in literature is not always of first concern, it is still part of the portrait of the detective. In Broadchurch, as it is a TV product, there is no place for description as precisely as in literature. The viewer is only faced with the direct image of the detective and can only trust his own eyes. We can say that Alec Hardy appears as a rather ordinary Scottish man. He is average tall and has a classic morphology. His physical appearance does not make him noticeable. He has a stubble, which a lot of men actually have in the 21st century. As for his outfit, we can notice that he often wears the same kind of clothes, that is to say, a white shirt with a grey or navy blue tie, dark pants and a kind of black trench coat or suit jacket. The fact that he tends to wear the same kind of clothes everyday is something that Ellie makes fun of, when ironically asking to the detective: “Different suit?”99 Therefore, even though Alec says that he does not like the town, he still wants to be a part of the group as he does not stand out. He is not trying to emancipate himself by trying to look physically different or superior to other characters.

From book to screen

When talking about adaptation and especially regarding our subject, the shift can be made from a medium to another. Here, it would be from book to screen, a shift that is relevant as it is based on the evolution of time and ideas. But why and how has the television medium been able to replace literature thanks to this idea of adaptation?

The appeal of adaptation

In her book A Theory of Adaptation, Linda Hutcheon gives us an overview of what adaptation is all about. We are going to base our analysis and our understanding of adaptation mainly on what she has written about this subject. As we mentioned at the very beginning of this part, an adaptation is generally defined as being a process that transfigures a text into another medium. To complete this definition, Hutcheon adds that: “The adapted text […] is not something to be reproduced but rather something to be interpreted and recreated, often in a new medium.”104 Indeed, the aim of adaptation is not to reproduce precisely a text already existing, but rather to be inspired by an already-existing work and to give it a new interpretation. As far as our literary corpus is concerned, the three detectives that we have chosen to talk about have been the subject of several adaptations. For instance, Sherlock Holmes is the main focus of the BBC series Sherlock105, Father Brown was also the eponymous character of the new TV series Father Brown106 and Hercule Poirot was the hero of the series Agatha Christie’s Poirot107, a show that has been aired for around twenty-five years. These are only a few instances, but these three literary characters were also adapted in other media, as films or plays. In Sherlock Holmes, un nouveau limier pour le XXIe siècle, Hélène Machinal justifies the recent adaptation of the canon as a way to both strengthen the mythical dimension of the detective figure and make a contribution to the revival of the canon108. These are indeed the two main aims of adaptation as a whole, and not only in the case of Sherlock. Adaptations are made for the audience not to forget about a character or a story.
Therefore, we can say that adaptations are something that people like to watch, in the case of a book made into a screen production. Linda Hutcheon justifies this interest for adaptations: “Part of this pleasure [the appeal of adaptation], I want to argue, comes simply from repetition with variation, from the comfort of ritual combined with the piquancy of surprise. Recognition and remembrance are part of the pleasure (and risk) of experiencing an adaptation; so too is change.”109
As stated by the author, the success of adaptations is linked to the comfort desired by the audience. They already know the main part of the story they are to watch. There is also a kind of game that takes place between the viewer who knows he is watching an adaptation and who is familiar with the adapted source. However, another key aspect mentioned by Hutcheon that makes adaptation attractive is what she calls “the piquancy of surprise”, that is to say the attraction to novelty. A work can be adapted several times without ever being the same. There are changes that appear from one adaptation to another, even though the adapted work remains the same. Directors, in the case of movies or TV series, have their own liberties to create something close to the original text, but also innovative. Here, the evolution of society plays a key role, as the context in which one adaptation is created matters, as it can be an inspiration for the adapter.
“The context of creation and reception are material, public, and economic as much as they are cultural, personal and aesthetic. This explains why, even in today’s globalized world, major shifts in story’s context – that is, for example, in a national setting or time period – can change radically how the transposed story is interpreted, ideologically and literally.”
An adaptation can therefore tell the same narrative as a written text, for instance, but the story might be placed in another context. Here again, the instance of Sherlock is relevant, as the 19th century canon has been transposed into the 21st century London, and all the changes that it involves.
“Le siècle change donc et nous voilà au XXIe, mais est-ce là la véritable nouveauté qu’introduit la série ? Certes, le fiacre est remplacé par des taxis, les fumeries d’opium par des squats de sans-abris, le télégramme par des textos, mais le 221B Baker Street, Mme Hudson, Sherlock ou Watson changent-ils réellement ?”
The question asked by Hélène Machinal illustrates what has been said before. The essence of the adapted text remains, even though the context is different. Also, as mentioned by Hutcheon, “the audience too interprets in a context”112. Therefore, the context in which an adaptation is created is as important as the context in which it is received.


Table of contents :

I – The archetypical detective in literature and Alec Hardy
1 – Definition of the archetypical detective
a – History of detective stories in literature
b – Establishing the corpus and the archetype
c – Common points and disparities
2 – Mental portrait of the detective in Broadchurch
a – Alec Hardy as an egocentric character
b – A not-so-nice detective
c – Desire for solitude
d – Before Broadchurch
3 – Professional and physical description of the detective
a – Alec Hardy as a professional detective
b – The detective’s physical appearance
II – Adaptation: the evolution of detective stories
1 – From book to screen
a – The appeal of adaptation
b – Screen over books
c – TV shows
2 – Detective shows and their narrative architecture
a – Popularity of detective shows
b – What to find in a detective show
c – Modern variations brought to detective shows
3 – Broadchurch as a different detective show
a – Broadchurch is not a “série nodale”
b – Lack of spectacular elements
c – A different narrative
d – Importance of the personal background of the detectives
III – Construction of the story in Broadchurch
1 – Narration techniques in Broadchurch
a – Filming technique and the editing
b – Themes, symbols and references in Broadchurch
c – Comic touches in a tragic plot
2 – The investigations
a – The victims
b – The murderers
c – What happens after the investigation?
3 – The community
a – Importance of the community and secondary characters
b – Parenthood as a main theme
c – The media, a third narrative arc
Table of Appendixes
Appendix 1: Alec Hardy’s loneliness through editing
Appendix 2.1: Comparison of the number of episodes aired on the three main channels in France per day*
Appendix 2.2: Comparison of the original country of shows aired on the three main channels in France per week*
Appendix 3: Olly Stevens and the social media


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