Over the last few months fans have fallen in love with Strike, the BBC adaptation of JK Rowling’s detective series (written under the penname Robert Galbraith) that stars Tom Burke and Holliday Grainger as a couple of private detectives dealing with unusual cases in the heart of London.
However, the concluding instalment of two-part mystery Career of Evil marks a turning point for the drama. Rowling has published three novels starring ex-army policeman Cormoran Strike, and all of them have now been adapted by the BBC.
While the author is currently at work on a fourth book and has plans for even more, it’s going to be a long wait before the series comes back.
“I don’t think it would [film] until the year after this year,” star Tom Burke recently told RadioTimes.com, while Grainger also confirmed that the BBC had no plans to make episodes that weren’t based on Rowling’s source material.
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“I think they’ve always been quite clear that they’d never want to write one without basing it on the book,” she said.
And this is all the more galling because, as many fans complained after the first episode, the BBC have sped through the source material so quickly. When the series began on BBC1 last August, Rowling’s first novel The Cuckoo’s Calling was adapted into three hour-long episodes, properly introducing us to the characters and their world without cutting too much important detail from the book (save a certain iconic boob grab).
However, since then the second and third novels (The Silkworm and Career of Evil, which aired last September and over the last couple of weeks respectively) have had to make do with a measly two-hour runtime, despite being of equal or greater length than The Silkworm on the page.
This has led to a lot of the story being cut for time, with the programme makers (rightly) prioritising the inter-personal drama between Robin and Strike. As a consequence, the actual investigations feel a bit anaemic and anti-climactic (something I previously discussed in my Career of Evil review).
Of course, this sort of cutting is usual for book-to-TV adaptations, but with just three novels published it seems a shame not to spread the story out a bit. Just think – if each book had been adapted for more episodes, and were aired further apart, we’d have much less of a wait for any new mysteries.
Instead, we are facing another series like the eternally put-off Sherlock, and in Rowling we’ve found one of the only writers busier than Steven Moffat was – he co-created and wrote Sherlock with Mark Gatiss while simultaneously running Doctor Who.
Of course the BBC couldn’t be sure whether Strike would be a success, and they wanted to make as much as possible in the most efficient manner. Despite their different air dates, all three stories were filmed in 2016. However, if they’d even just tested the waters with The Cuckoo’s Calling, we’d be in a better position than we are now.
Still, there may be hope for the future. According to Tom Burke, Strike’s production team have noted the hunger for more drawn-out mysteries, and whenever upcoming fourth novel Lethal White is adapted, it could be the longest TV outing yet.
“[The producers are] very happy with it but interestingly enough, the one thing they do feel in terms of – if we do more – is it maybe can be spaced out a bit more,” he said. “Maybe that’s where to go next in terms of the next book.”
“I don’t know anything about the next book,” he added, “but I think some people do and they feel like it could be a four part one.”
For many fans, though, this will be small comfort in the long years before we see another adventure for our brave detectives. Sadly, for the foreseeable future, the Soho investigation business is on Strike.
Strike: Career of Evil is available to watch on BBC iPlayer now