How is Ben Miller returning to Death in Paradise?

Reports of DI Richard Poole's death may have been greatly exaggerated – read our theories on how he can be returning to Saint Marie.

Ben Miller in Death in Paradise

BBC One’s sun-soaked whodunnit series Death in Paradise promised “surprises” as it prepared to mark its 10th anniversary year and they weren’t kidding – following hot on the heels of news that Sara Martins would be returning to the Death in Paradise cast as DS Camille Bordey came the bombshell that Ben Miller, the show’s original leading man, would be back for an appearance as DI Richard Poole.

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Miller’s promised return has sent fans into speculation overdrive – unlike Martins’ character, who departed to take on an undercover job in Paris, DI Poole left the show by way of an ice pick to the heart, marking him as (so far) the only one of Death in Paradise’s four lead detectives to have been bumped off.

So how exactly is Poole able to make his big comeback? Is he really dead, or was there more to his original exit than met the eye? Read on for our best theories.

Poole faked his death

Richard Poole (Ben Miller) Death in Paradise death
BBC

Is Poole still alive? Anything’s possible, but we’re going to file this one under “Unlikely” – in the show’s third series opener ‘Death of a Detective’, Poole’s replacement DI Humphrey Goodman (Kris Marshall) uncovered the truth behind his predecessor’s murder, discovering that Helen Reid (Helen Baxendale) had killed Poole after he’d discovered she’d committed identity fraud and assumed the persona of her more successful sister, who’d died in a car accident some years prior.

That the whole thing was staged and that Helen wasn’t really a bloodthirsty identity thief seems like a stretch – surely if Poole was going to fake his death for whatever reason (an undercover operation?), he’d spare his friends and colleagues the pain of believing he’d been silenced in such a gruesome fashion (again, an ice pick, to the heart.)

The other slightly less outrageous option is that Poole survived Helen’s attack, but decided to pretend to be dead for several years in the aftermath. This, though, would’ve required him to fool his colleagues – who inspected his apparently dead body – or for them to be having been on the whole thing. Both options feel deeply improbable given their reactions as seen in the episode.

No, we suspect that Poole is, in fact, dead, with his appearance in series 10 playing out by some other means…

Poole appears in a flashback

Though the teaser (above) revealing that Poole would once again be stepping onto the shores of Saint Marie seems to show him appearing in 2020 – with his old partner Bordey featuring alongside more recent cast additions DI Neville Parker (Ralf Little) and DS Florence Cassell (Joséphine Jobert) – it’s possible that this is just a scene-setter and not to be taken literally. (It’s not “Death in Paradise canon”, if you will.)

In which case, it’s entirely possible that Poole remains six feet under but will feature by way of a flashback, possibly as Bordey reminisces about their time together – after all, with Sara Martins back filming, it’d be relatively easy to shoot a new scene that takes place at some points during the first, second or third series of the show.

Poole’s home movies

Another possibility is that, rather than appearing in flashback, Poole could appear by way of video footage – maybe he left a video diary, some record of a case (previously unseen on TV) that he never managed to solve?

Perhaps Bordey’s return to Saint Marie is motivated by her discovering some vital new clue that she brings to latest lead copper Neville, with Ralf Little’s character reviewing Poole’s old recordings in an attempt to crack the case?

As well as not undoing Poole’s death, this might also be a fun way to have Neville interact (sort of) with the original Death in Paradise detective without throwing up too many continuity problems. (We’ll be honest, we quite like this theory…)

Ben Miller isn’t playing Poole

Look, you might think this one’s a long shot, but notably the tweet from the official Death in Paradise Twitter account doesn’t actually state that DI Poole is returning, only that Ben Miller will be making “a special appearance”.

“No, we’re not going to tell you anything more than that – you’re just going to have to wait and see,” a follow-up tweet reads. Intriguing…

Did Richard have a twin brother he never mentioned, or never knew about? Maybe Miller’s playing a sibling who arrives on Saint Marie to pay his respects, along with Bordey? It’s probably less feasible than the flashback / video diary ideas, but we’d still buy it over Poole being alive this whole time. Unless…

Poole never died at all

Ben Miller returns to Death in Paradise series 10

The other route sometimes taken by TV shows when resurrecting a popular character – from Dallas to Roseanne – is to simply ignore past events and pretend they were never killed off in the first place.

The brutal manner in which loveable DI Poole was dispatched has always divided Death in Paradise fans – it was an unusually dark choice for what is, despite all the other murders(!), generally quite a light-hearted series – so maybe the creative team have taken the decision to undo his murder and to strike the events of ‘Death of a Detective’ from the show’s history?

Maybe Poole will reappear unscathed and inform us all that, actually, in this new version of history he departed Saint Marie safe and well, simply returning to England in search of cooler climes? Maybe with a knowing nod to viewers referencing his original erased exit (“Honestly, it was tough leaving Saint Marie – like an ice pick to the heart!”)?

Yeah, maybe not…

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Death in Paradise will return to BBC One in early 2021 – see what else is on with our TV Guide