Thursday, 3 February 2011


DCI Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) reluctantly accompanies his wife Joyce (Jane Wymark) on a spa weekend to upmarket Swavely Manor. But as he attempts to de-stress with New Age therapies, Joyce finds the dead body of one of the clients while trying to relax in the floatation chamber.
Launched in March 1997 with the one-off episode The Killings At Badger's Drift, Midsomer Murders is based on the book series by Caroline Graham and initially transposed for television by screenwriter and novelist extraordinary Anthony Horowitz. This global hit series sold in over 230 countries is produced by Bentley Productions (an All3Media company) for ITV, and stars John Nettles as Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby.

In 2009 Nettles announced that he would give up his role at the end of the 13th series after more than 80 episodes, 14 years, and more than 250 suspicious deaths by the most diverse methods, conventional or not (1) - now the Midsomer County authorities must probably kidnap people to maintain their population number. Written by Andrew Payne and directed by Renny Rye, Fit for Murder is John Nettles's final episode.

« What was that about?
- I do not know but I'm feeling calmer already. » ("Long-suffering wife" and her hubby)

Joyce Barnaby drags Tom to the picturesque Swavely Manor luxury spa ("Your tranquility is ours") to get him in shape for his police medical. But the supposedly de-stressing weekend starts with a sheep "infestation" and a feud between neighbours, prelude to poor Joyce finding a dead body while trying relaxation in a floatation chamber. DS Ben Jones (Jason Hughes) happily plays the SIO (Senior Investigating Officer) on the case, as his boss is off duty. Anyway DCI Barnaby seems elsewhere, preoccupied by a painful memory triggered by his incoming birthday.

Elsewhere than in the Barnabyverse and with such a cast (Geraldine James, Lesley Manville, Shaun Dingwall, etc), Fit for Murder could be a pleasant whodunnit - just imagine DI Robbie Lewis in Shrublands. But it's Midsomer Murders so you can't stay out of the pantomime crime zone for too long and the murderer almost surrenders to our tired sleuth. Because we all know the case is just an appetizer before Tom gives the phone to "the other Inspector Barnaby": the excellent Neil Dudgeon, who appears as the recently transferred DCI John Barnaby (2).

Producer Brian True-May has revealed that two separate endings were filmed : one for the first UK transmission yesterday with Tom Barnaby announcing his retirement, and one for repeats (when episodes are shown in different orders) and for international use, with a birthday party (3). The vicar at Badger’s Drift has been found hanging from a bell rope (wonder how they still had a vicar) but now Tom will have his cake and eat it because he bloody deserves it.

Maybe Tom Barnaby and his wife will retire in Jersey.

(2) Astutely introduced last year in The Sword of Guillaume (

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