On June 4, 2020, the long awaited Alex Rider television series finally arrived on Amazon Prime. An adaptation of Anthony Horowitz’s second novel Point Blanc, the show stars Otto Farrant, Stephen Dillane, Vicky McClure and Brenock O’Connor, among others.
Rather than completely follow the 2001 novel, screenwriter Guy Burt took some appropriate artistic license. This would help make the television series more suitable for 2020.
However, this is a usual process for book-to-screen adaptations. Not all of what has been written on the page can be translated into a script.
Aside from introducing Tom Harris earlier than in the novels as well as altering Smithers’ introduction to Alex, the main changes involve Ian Rider’s death, as well as the other students and staff at Point Blanc Academy.
First of all, the series introduces a new character in Martin Wilby (Once Upon A Time’s Liam Garrigan), a colleague of Ian’s in The Department. However, Wilby is secretly a double agent for SCORPIA and ultimately conspires in his so-called friend’s murder.
This was an interesting, creative way to showcase such an important moment for the series. It immediately gave the show a much more grounded, gritty, realistic tone compared to the over-the-top effort from 2006’s Stormbreaker film, starring Alex Pettyfer and Bill Nighy.
At Point Blanc, the three adults: Dr. Hugo Grief, Eva Stellenbosch and Dr. Baxter, while all in the book, are slightly different. In the original novel, Grief and Stellanbosch are South African, with the latter also being a bodybuilder.
In the television series, although still having South Africa in their backgrounds, the characters now hail from Turkey and Eastern Europe, respectively. Baxter is slightly promoted, now an actual presence in the students’ lives, rather than doing his surgical procedures in solitude.
Additionally, in the novel Point Blanc, the other six students at the Academy when Alex Rider arrives are all male. In the television series, there are only six teenagers at the Academy, including Alex. Furthermore, there is an even divide of gender, three male and three female.
As the only person aware of his mission, Alex is very isolated in the character. He befriends one other student, James Sprintz but otherwise is the definitive lead and spends much of his “page time” alone, investigating.
Alex in the television series also befriends a student named James, though their backgrounds are completely different. A new character named Kyra, who was created for the show, becomes the secondary protagonist at Point Blanc, a female presence in the spy portion. She’s played by Scottish actress Marli Siu, who does a good job of playing a counterpoint to Alex.
As well as James and Kyra, the other students bear no resemblance to their counterparts in the novel. Two of them, Arrash and Sasha, have already been replaced by copies before Alex’s arrival. As the camera does not have to focus solely on Alex in the way that the novel does, this duo and their later ‘siblings’ are seen actively assisting Grief and Stellenbosch.
Meanwhile, Alex and Tom are each given their own love interests at school: Ayisha and Steph. The former replaces Alex’s girlfriend from the books, Sabina Pleasure, who may either be introduced in a later season or was omitted due to her suggestive name. Steph, on the other hand, helps flesh out Tom, by seeing him in scenes with someone outside of Alex and Jack (Ronke Adekoluejo).
The addition and alterations of characters may have thrown off avid readers of the books initially. That being said, each of the characters had a purpose in the story and none of them felt like excess. Overall, the series was well-executed.
Alex Rider is streaming on Amazon Prime. It stars Otto Farrant, Stephen Dillane, Vicky McClure, Brenock O’Connor, Ronke Adekoluejo, Haluk Bilginer, Ana Ularu and Marli Siu.
Follow writer Conor O’Brien on Twitter – @CourageousConor