Crypto in Paradise

When something seeps into popular culture, its a good indicator of gradual acceptance and adoption. This week’s episode of Death in Paradise (season 13 episode 4) managed to skilfully weave some solid crypto knowledge into its plot without making it the villain of the piece. I enjoyed every minute of it, and the writers had done their homework. It was refreshing that crypto was an accepted element of the storyline, and the neat explanations delivered along the way used simple analogies for mining, crypto assets and private keys.

Mining cryptocurrency

As soon as puzzled detectives noticed that the murder scene, an electricity substation, was just two minutes away from the computer repair shop, my antennae started to twitch. “They’re mining crypto,” I announced to the rest of the sofa. Very few cryptocurrencies use energy to secure their blockchain these days, Bitcoin being the original and substantial exception to the rule. When Bitcoin was created, the developers behind it couldn’t find another way to get a completely distributed network of unknown users to cryptographically secure each block and agree on its addition to the chain. Since then, different methods have been developed that use a fraction of the energy of mining, or Proof of Work. The fictional cryptocurrency in Death in Paradise operated like Bitcoin, with the mine running its computers round the clock to calculate an algorithm to secure the next block in the chain. Each time this mine was the first to calculate the algorithm, it would be rewarded with some coins – a treasure trove that could lead to murder!

Keeping keys secure

Crypto assets are held in a wallet, and these wallets have keys. The first key is a public key, the address to which crypto assets can be sent. This is like your street address. Everyone knows what it is, and they can post letters into your mailbox. The second key is the private key. This is used to control the assets – the key to the mailbox. When you set up a crypto wallet you will be given a mnemonic phrase, 12 or 24 random words which, when entered in order, will regenerate the key. The private key and key phrase are your only access to the crypto assets you hold. One of the ways of keeping this secure is in a cold wallet – a USB key that can be held in a safe place offline and only used when you need to do things with your assets. To actually use it, there will very likely also be a password to unlock the USB. No spoilers… but this was beautifully done.

Side note – if your crypto is held on a custodial exchange you will only have a public key, which is why it is important to be very confident in the legitimacy of the custodian of your private key.

Learning from stories

There is plenty of research that shows we absorb facts from stories as background general knowledge. Watching this episode of Death in Paradise will have helped the audience understand crypto a little better, putting some flesh on the bones of an abstract concept and reinforcing the very important message that keys have to be kept safe. As the value of crypto rises in advance of the Bitcoin halving, it’s a timely piece of storytelling.

If you’re attending SXSW 2024 in Austin, look out for From the Fireside to the Future: Stories in a changing world with Kate Baucherel, John du pre Gauntt and Natalie Monbiot.



  1. Genevieve Leveille on March 7, 2024 at 12:37 pm

    Thanks, Kate for such a quick and fast cultural reference on how Crypto is seeping into our collective consciousness and it is no longer a small group of us in the know.

    I am unsure if you got to see John Oliver’s episode of Last Week Tonight where he covers a bit more of the space but this time in terms of the scam, ie: Pig Butchering. I am waiting for that to hit the plotlines.

    Maybe you will write the script 🙂

  2. Heather Swope on March 4, 2024 at 4:25 pm

    Nice to see that some shows are getting the crypto part of their stories right.

  3. Helen Disney on February 29, 2024 at 11:31 am

    It is interesting how bitcoin and cryptocurrency feature so much more prominently in popular culture these days – everything from quite a long time ago hearing bitcoin mentioned on The Good Wife and in The Simpsons to most recently, crypto trading getting some airtime in Beef. Usually it is mentioned in a negative light but definitely rising up in awareness in pop culture.