As we head into series nine of Death in Paradise, it’s time to say goodbye to one Detective Inspector and hello to another.
Here are all your questions answered about the imminent switchover…
When did Ardal O’Hanlon leave Death in Paradise?
Although Ardal O’Hanlon announced ahead of series nine that he would be leaving Death in Paradise, he stuck around for the first half of the new series to continue playing DI Jack Mooney.
However, at the end of episode four (airing on Thursday 30th January 2020), Jack left Saint Marie to move back to London with his daughter, Siobhan.
What was DI Jack Mooney’s exit storyline?
We already knew that – unlike the unfortunate DI Richard Poole (Ben Miller) – Jack wouldn’t be killed off, but would follow in the footsteps of Kris Marshall’s DI Humphrey Goodman and leave Saint Marie alive. O’Hanlon told RadioTimes.com: “You want drama, but you don’t want that much drama.”
And for a while, it looked like Jack might be off to travel the world with love interest Anna (Nina Wadia), a newly-divorced woman who fell for the Detective Inspector and invited him to join her. Jack was certainly attracted to Anna and tempted by the offer.
But in episode four, Jack made a different decision: to him, going off travelling would be “running away” again. Having lost his beloved wife Kathleen shortly before accepting the job in Saint Marie, he embraced the chance to make a new life on the island – but at the end of the day he felt he must return home to London.
His daughter Siobhan (Grace Stone) was about to move back into the family home and Jack decided to join her.
When is Ralf Little joining Death in Paradise?
Ralf Little joins the show as DI Neville Parker part-way through series nine of Death in Paradise. “The end of Ardal’s last episode leads you to the next one,” executive producer Tim Key told us ahead of the series launch – and true to his word, we got our first glimpse of Neville in the closing moments of episode four.
Another thing: unlike the handover between DI Humphrey Goodman (Kris Marshall) and DI Jack Mooney (Ardal O’Hanlon) in series six, this transition does not involve a crossover period.
Key explained: “That was what worked best for the story. We did that with Ardal, and Ardal and Kris worked together, and it was great, we were really happy with those episodes. But it felt right that Ardal’s character’s exit story is its own thing, and it’s just trying to go, ‘OK, what is the most energetic, dynamic way we can tell these stories?’ And Ardal had an arc, and it worked like that, and then you could sort of hit the ground running with [Ralf].”
Who is Ralf Little’s character, DI Neville Parker?
The Death in Paradise team are being deliberately coy about revealing too many details about DI Neville Parker. They will say that he arrives from Manchester, and that he doesn’t turn up until Jack has left; and that he’s sent to sort out paperwork for a death which isn’t quite what it seems.
Tim Key explained: “He’s investigating what they think is a suicide, and he just has to sign some paperwork and fly home, but it doesn’t quite work out like that. Not so simple. He works in Manchester, and they need a detective from Manchester to authorise – because they are currently without a detective out there, and I think [Commissioner] Selwyn is very keen for him to sign some papers and get out, basically. And it doesn’t quite go that way.”
As for his personality, Key told us: “I think with Ardal’s character, you had somebody who liked being there, and Neville’s character does not like being there. He wants to be able to like being there, but kind of can’t. So it gives him a tension and a challenge right from the beginning that’s different to what we’ve just had with Ardal.”
He added: “He would like to want to be there… It’s hard to say without giving it away. I’ll just say, the island doesn’t particularly suit him. And he wishes it would.”
“It was a really amazing experience and a really amazing chapter, but I really did feel like a sense of completion, in terms of doing everything possible with the character,” he said.
“And given the formulaic nature of the show, Death in Paradise and everything else, there’s only so many places you can go, do you know what I mean? In terms of character. So I just felt that we had really left nothing behind and left no stone unturned, and it was a great experience, and it was just time to move on.”
How many Detective Inspectors have there been now?
Ralf Little will be the fourth Detective Inspector to star in Death in Paradise, unless you count the one who got murdered in series one episode one (DI Charlie Hulme, played by Hugo Speer) and kicked the whole thing off.
Since then we’ve had Ben Miller as DI Richard Poole (RIP; death by ice-pick), Kris Marshall as DI Humphrey Goodman (exited to live with Martha in England) and Ardal O’Hanlon as DI Jack Mooney (TBC).
In recent years, we’ve also said goodbye to Officer Dwayne Myers (Danny John-Jules) and DS Florence Cassell (Joséphine Jobert), who’ve been replaced by Officer Ruby Patterson (Shyko Amos) and DS Madeleine Dumas (Aude Legastelois).
Reflecting on why Death in Paradise remains popular despite an ever-changing cast, Tim Key said: “The show knows what it is, and it delivers what the audience want. And we try really hard to keep it fresh as well – and I think when an actor leaves and somebody new comes in, it’s an opportunity for us to reset it a little bit and have a little bit of fun and do something a bit different and energise it, and give our cast a new set of challenges and give the characters a new set of challenges.
“So I think that we know our show very well and the audience know what they want to get from it, and we make sure that they get it. But then you think okay, if Ardal’s leaving what’s the energy we would like now from the new detective?”
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So far, every new DI has been a man from the British Isles. But would the show’s producers ever consider promoting from within the police team? Or will they keep bringing in new stars from outside the Caribbean?
“We’ve talked about all sorts of different ways of evolving the show,” Key said, “and I think that at the moment the feeling is that the fundamental premise of the show is that that lead character needs to be somebody who is struggling in some way with themselves, and the island is the thing that ultimately is their salvation. And the fish-out-of-water-ness of the whole thing is very important to the show.
“But there are obviously lots of different ways of telling a fish out of water story, and I think that right now, the way we’ve gone felt like the right thing to do – but I think the show can run and run.
“I think there’s all sorts of ways that we could approach things in the future, that are exciting and different, and the audience love those characters – so it’s about challenging those characters – but I think, it’s when you take the show apart and go, what is its DNA? I think if you had a DI who’s just very confident and comfortable there, it just wouldn’t be the same show, you need them to be properly uncomfortable in some way.
“And in Ardal’s case it was more to do with where his personal life was at, and in Ralf’s character’s case it’s not so much to do with his personal life, it’s a sort of bigger thing that makes it not quite work for him. But I mean yeah, we love our characters and I just love to reward the viewers and test and challenge our characters in all sorts of different ways and see them in a new environment.”
Skyko Amos added: “Ruby Patterson for DI! …watch this space.”
“I wouldn’t rule anything out,” Key said.
Death in Paradise airs on Thursdays from 9th January on BBC One