A slightly late review of the Father Brown Christmas special, which aired this week on BBC1.
The episode opens with a visit from Canon Fox with a message from Brown’s boss, Bishop Reynard. The Duke of Frome has announced he will be attending the Christmas mass at St Mary’s, and the Bishop can’t have Brown embarrassing the Diocese again. Last year’s Nativity procession had Mary arriving on the back of the goat and featured no less than five kings and the Lone Ranger. This year Brown has to find wholesome-looking children and, if at all, possible snow.
So Brown’s housekeeper Mrs McCarthy spends much of the episode trying to source various animals for the manger scene, hampered by the arrival of an ill-mannered tramp called Michael, who turns up sleeping off the booze in the confessional.
The Duke of Frome is staying with Lady Felicia (minus chauffeur Sid – yet another Brown cast-member disappearance). We meet his wife and infant son, his ne’er-do-well cousin Basil, and his domestic staff – a ferocious Nanny who rules the roost, a smart young valet (‘trouble in trousers, that one’) and an innocent maid.
The action kicks off at the Yuletide Ball, when the baby goes missing. Half the county is in attendance, but the police soon narrow the suspects down to the Duke’s household. Cousin Basil has been borrowing against his expectations (don’t they always?) and has been bumped off the succession list by the baby. Meanwhile, the valet has been meeting a mysterious woman in the grounds and is squarely in Inspector Mallory’s sights.
A proper Christmassy episode ending with a Nativity procession at St Mary’s. Michael the tramp provides an appropriately Biblical hint which leads Brown to the solution, although you may well guess yourself.