Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tchaikovsky, P.I.

Meet Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, St Petersburg's hippest private detective!

One of the most popular TV shows of the 80s (the 1880s, that is), Tchaikovsky, P.I. followed the escapades of lovable tough-guy Pyotr Tchaikovsky as he solved crime and composed beautiful melodies on the mean streets of St Petersburg. Millions of fans tuned in every week to watch Tchaikovsky clatter across the cobblestones in his red carriage, duke it out with the bad guys, and always get home in time to write a timeless classic. Women adored him; men were bemused but secretly wondered what would happen if, you know, maybe they'd been having a few beers, and one thing led to another and... ahem. Although occasionally accused of sacrificing formal structure at the expense of dramatic sweep, Tchaikovsky, P.I. quickly established itself as one of the greats, as evidenced by its perennially high Sibelius ratings (this was before the Nielsen ratings).

Season One Episode Guide:

1. "Pilot"
In the feature-length first episode, we meet Tchaikovsky, honorably discharged from the St Petersburg Detectives' Conservatory after being wounded in a cello incident. He is hired by the mysterious Madame von Meck, whom he is never to meet, receiving all his instructions by telegram. Tchaikovsky's lively banter with the telegram delivery boy was to become a much-loved feature in every episode. Madame von Meck's first case for Tchaikovsky involves an international ring of music smugglers attempting to illegally bring Lisztian dotted rhythms into Russia.

2. "The Slavonic Falcon"
Tchaikovsky is hired to track down a priceless bronze statue in the shape of some sort of bird of prey (possibly a buzzard). Regarded by many fans as the best episode of the lot, although some are unconvinced by the surprise ending, in which the statue flies off and does the Kessel Run in twelve parsecs.

3. "The Sam of Spades"
Madame von Meck is on the run from a deadly gang of bridge players, convinced that she knows the secret of a perfect hand. Urged on by her increasingly desperate telegrams, Tchaikovsky and the delivery boy race across the bridge clubs of Tsarist Russia to find the criminals. But with only the ace left to play, will it be a bridge club too far?

4. "The Big Sleeping Beauty"
Certainly the most complicated of all the plots, this episode sees Tchaikovsky tangling with a potato baron and his two wilful daughters, one of whom is narcoleptic. Tchaikovsky is drawn into a web of intrigue as the family attempts to cover up the narcoleptic one's possible involvement or lack of involvement in one, two, or less murders on any of three separate occasions.

5. "Murder on the 1812"
Tchaikovsky is traveling on the Trans-Siberian Railway, on his way to Vladivostok to receive his Detective Of The Year award (the 'Dickie'), when he discovers that there is a murderer aboard. Armed only with the French and Russian national anthems, oh yes, and a cannon, Tchaikovsky must find the killer before he strikes again. Of course he doesn't find him until he has struck several more times, which helps reduce the suspect list considerably. It's a long journey.

6. "Farewell, Mazeppa"
On the way back from Vladivostok, the train is hijacked by Cossacks who plan to drive it straight into the Winter Palace and bring down the Tsar. Tchaikovsky patiently explains the concept of railway tracks to them while simultaneously composing an opera. Eventually, the Cossacks give up and the opera is a success.

7. "Nut Cracker"
Tchaikovsky teams up with hard-drinking, heavy-gambling criminal psychologist Modest Mussorgsky to solve the murders of several fairies. The chief suspect is Volgograd FC supporter Albie Borodin, eager to avenge his side's 10-0 thrashing at the hands of Sugar Plum Rovers. Tensions mount as Mussorgsky analyses Tchaikovsky's deepest secrets and Tchaikovsky accuses Mussorgsky of being unable to finish anything except a litre of gin.

8. "Veronica Lake"
Prince Siegfried returns from the Crimean War (he went the long way) and discovers to his horror that his girlfriend has been frequenting Bruckner concerts. The next day, she is found transmogrified into a swan, and Siegfried becomes the chief suspect. He enlists Tchaikovsky to catch the real killer, and for a time Tchaikovsky finds true love, although he feels terribly guilty afterwards.

9. "Manfred, She Wrote"
Popular novelist Jessica Fletcher is in St Petersburg to publicize her new book, 'A Day In The Life Of An Interfering Old Bat'. Inevitably, several people are killed. Jessica's nervous publishers hire Tchaikovsky to make sure her next signing doesn't end in a bloodbath. This episode is especially memorable for Tchaikovsky's re-orchestration of the theme to 'Mame'.

10. "That Talentless Bastard"
Tchaikovsky crosses musical swords with Johannes Brahms when Clara Schumann asks him to investigate the death of her husband Robert several decades earlier. Was Brahms working for a sinister organisation that deliberately gave talented composers syphilis? Or was Schumann's near-fatal plunge into the Rhine actually a murder attempt by Brahms? By the end, Tchaikovsky has lost all interest and is writing a new symphony.

11. "Eugene One-litre-of-gin"
This episode sees the return of Mussorgsky, who is now being pursued by a psychotic student named Tatanya. Mussorgsky seeks the help of his old sparring partner for what he hopes will be a quick resolution. But when Mussorgsky's friend Lensky is found dead, the two composers realise that Tatanya is playing a far more dangerous game. As you might expect, it all culminates in a witches' sabbath.

12. "Pathetique Suspect"
All of St Petersburg is in the grip of a cholera epidemic. A fatal series of coincidences throws suspicion on Tchaikovsky. Special Prosecutor Ilyena Mironov contemplates sleeping with him but settles for browbeating a confession out of him instead. Tchaikovsky's prospects look grim until Ilyena drinks from the wrong glass of water.


RonanM said...

Wonderful idea - which is easy to have - remarkably cleverly worked out, which is the real trick!

Nereffid said...

Thank you. I actually wrote it many years ago but came across it recently and it had held up well. I changed almost none of it, except the addition of the name Ilyena Mironov, which by happy coincidence is Dame Helen's original moniker.