Wednesday, December 3, 2008


There's an episode of 'Burke's Law' from its second season entitled "Who Killed SuperSleuth?" in which L.A. Police Chief Gaynor was killed in a classic locked room scenario. It happened during a banquet celebrating the greatest detectives of the world, and since no one else had access to the hotel floor where the banquet was held, then one of those detectives must have "dunnit".

Except for the lone female detective, Hungarian Commissar Ilona Buda, each of the other four attendees could be seen as a spoof of characters from classic detective fiction. (I suppose they needed a sexy female detective - after all, this was 'Burke's Law'! But to be true to the spirit of the enterprise, there should have been a detective based on Miss Marple. Perhaps Elsa Lanchester could have appeared yet again on the show in the role, anticipating her turn as Miss Marbles in Neil Simon's "Murder By Death".)
There was the private investigator Caligula Foxe (Thomas Gomez), a gourmand of epic proportions who raised daffodils. But unlike his inspiration, Nero Wolfe, Foxe didn't have a legman like Archie Goodwin to do the actual work for him, so he had to leave his townhouse in order to work his cases. Even though Rex Stout's creation also existed in Toobworld (and in fact sired a son at some point who bore the same name and followed his father in the same line of work), Caligula Foxe doesn't have to be seen as just a pastiche. He could have just happened to share similar characteristics with the two gentlemen named Nero Wolfe.

Then there was Inspector House of Scotland Yard (Carl Reiner). He definitely patterned his appearance on Sherlock Holmes and tried to analyze small clues to learn about the people he came in contact with. However, I think the effort either drove him mad, or he had Providence on his side when solving his cases, because he was terrible at making such deductions based on observation. And yet if he was considered one of the greatest detectives in the world, he must have still been able to solve his cases. I'm thinking he had to be the Scotland Yard version of Maxwell Smart of CONTROL!

Also in attendance at that banquet was Mr. Toto of Japan (J. Carroll Naish). Although we're led to believe he was based on the character of Mr. Moto, that was only based on similar glasses, the slight distortion in the name, and the fact that a Caucasian actor was playing the role (like Peter Lorre as Mr. Moto, Boris Karloff as Mr. Wong, and several actors who portrayed Charlie Chan over the years). I don't think there has to be any connection or even acknowledgement of Mr. Moto in regards to Mr. Toto.

Finally, there was the Inspector from the French Surete, Bascule Doirot (Ed Begley), whose name I've also seen in print as Pascule Doireaux (which I actually prefer, but most sources list it as the former). I believe that from birth, Bascule Doirot's life had been patterned after that of the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.

Based on information gleaned from the many stories about Hercule Poirot written by Agatha Christie, the Belgian was born in the 1870s and was active in the police force in that country by 1893. (Since many of these stories - especially "Peril At End House" - were adapted for the TV series in which David Suchet played Poirot, then we can take these facts as applying to Toobworld as well.) Bascule Doirot was born in 1901, based on the Toobworld premise that most TV characters are the same age as the actors who played them. So by then, Poirot must have already made a name for himself as a police detective in Belgium. Doirot's parents, noting the similarity in their last names, gave their son a similar first name in tribute - from Hercule to Bascule (or Pascule).

The case that gave Poirot his international fame, "The Mysterious Affair At Styles", occurred in 1916 when Poirot was billeted in England with other Belgian refugees. By this time, Doirot would have been in his teens; he probably read of Poirot's solution to the murder and found a hero in the man after whom he was named. And so Bascule Doirot patterned his life after that of Hercule Poirot. He became a detective in the Surete, grew his fancy mustaches, and often referred to his "little grey cells".

Unlike Poirot, whose mustaches were quite prominent in their own regard, Doirot grew his to cartoonish proportions. I think this may be due to his being also influenced by Salvador Dali, the artist.

So there you have it; of those four detectives who attended the banquet, I think only two of them were directly influenced by their literary forebears. Also, Mr. Moto has never been portrayed in Toobworld, save by characters wishing to emulate Moto, as fans of the movies (in episodes of 'Remington Steele' and 'Matt Houston'.


Toby O'B

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