The Man Who Leaped Through Time

"I want to go ahead of Father Time with a scythe of my own."
- H.G. Wells.

I only recently learned that the missing and presumed dead Jonathan Creek series has resurfaced to hopefully redeem itself, after an ungraceful plunge into mediocre in the abysmal The Judas Tree (2010), in an as-of-yet untitled Easter special – to be filmed in early 2013. The episode was originally planned as a Christmas special, but Alan Davies' touring commitment delayed the production a few months. 

Scooby Doo, Where Are You?

Personally, I'm as thrilled as an early 1900s shilling shocker! Jonathan Creek has always been a very hit-and-miss series and The Judas Tree represented an all-time low, illogical to the extreme and riddled with plot holes, but the show's creator, David Renwick, also penned a few solid contributions to the impossible crime genre (e.g. Jack-in-the-Box (1997) and Black Canary, 1998). And hey, if we can forgive John Dickson Carr for Patrick Butler for the Defense (1956), we can certainly forgive Renwick for The Judas Tree.

And as we eagerly await the first snippets of information on this new episode, I wanted to take a look at an older one from the second season, Time Waits for Norman (1998), which nobody seems to like except me.

To be fair, Time Waits for Norman is an unusual episode – even for Jonathan Creek! The impossibilities, up to this episode, involved tangible miracles like a body inside a sealed nuclear bunker or a murderer, dressed-up as a skeleton, vanishing from a closely guarded garage, but here it's a domestic phenomenon of a man who only does things by his watch.

Maddy's publisher, Antonia Stangerson, finds herself confronted with irrefutable proof that her husband, Norman, was in America and England around the same time! It begins when an employee of a burger joint returns the wallet of her husband, which he left behind, but that’s highly unlikely because: a) Norman is a vegetarian and b) he was in New York at the time the man says he was eating a hamburger in the city. The man's story is on the threshold of convincibility, but Norman's employer confirms that he attended an early morning meeting.

A most singular problem, if you have to believe the evidence. Norman had a mere seven hours to hop on a flight back to the UK, to apparently enjoy a burger at his leisure, and hurried back to Manhattan in time for an important meeting. Maddy becomes interested and automatically draws in Jonathan to pick Norman’s story apart. Clues vary from a photo of Norman, taken in the UK when he was suppose to be in a meeting, a cryptic note and a scald mark on Norman's foot corresponding with the story of him spilling coffee in the burger tent. 

It's all Shakespeare to them

I guess this makes it for some people a dull and unexciting story to watch, because it’s basically tearing an alibi asunder without a proper crime to go with. At least, not a legal one. The motivation behind it all was very well done, even better than the solution itself, but Renwick's biggest achievement with this episode was showing a modern crime story that integrated a completely impossible situation, crossing space and time, in a believable scenario – and understanding what makes Norman ticks is key to understanding what actually happened. It's also what made me enjoy this episode even more. Norman dreads the passing of time and as a bit of chronophobiac myself, I felt empathy for the poor sod and loved the idea that it was used as a basis for an impossible crime story.

In my opinion, Time Waits for Norman is a criminally underrated and overlooked episode from this series.


  1. I really did like this one, though I can see why other people don't rate it. There's something very Carr-esque about it, in that the important thing is not uncovering a murder or robbery, but proving that the laws of nature have not been torn asunder.

    1. I've always considered this episode Chestertonian because the motive is something of a paradox. Remember that one line from Norman, when he explained what crime he was guilty of?

      Of course, the investigation of a non-fatal impossible crime was something Carr experimented with later in his career - making this the best of two worlds for me. :)

  2. Honestly, this one underwhelmed me. I liked it fine, but your comments made me expect something brilliant that would blow my mind... and instead I guessed the solution the instant the problem was proposed. That was quite the let-down...

    1. Well, I guess the concept of controlling time does it for me, and you have to admit, the explanation for such a mind blowing event is surprisingly simple and workable – which is not something that can be said of some of Renwick's other, more conventional locked rooms.

      But as said in the review, I can also understand why this might turn others off or leave them underwhelmed.

  3. Great news about the new episode TC, really looking forward to it. I'm a bit sorry it won;t be a Christmas episode because that would almost guarantee larger audiences - and also because I think two of the previous yuletide specials in particular (BLACK CANARY and SATAN'S CHIMNEY) are among the very best. There are weaker episodes of course but I never met a JONATHAN CREEK episode I didn't like. I remember being initially underwhelmed by thr NORMAN episode, probably because of the sad ending and because the problem is less obviously spectacular (and there is not much of an actual 'crime'). But you are right, it is very well constructed episode deserving of plenty of praise - thanks, think I'll go watch it again tonight in fact!