[Spoiler-Free] Gregory Lancaster, 75, a wealthy landowner of Little Malton, dies at home from pneumonia. But when the undertakers arrive at Malton Hall his body has disappeared.
The bottom line: It's in the tree, it's (not) coming!
Midsomer Murders is now so boring that someone steals dead bodies for one hour before something remotely interesting happens: a chainsaw stained with blood falling off a tree. The 18th series of the venerable ITV detective drama started this wednesday with the aptly titled Habeas Corpus, written by Rachel Cupperman & Sally Griffiths and directed by Alex Pillai.
DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) and DS Charlie Nelson (Gwilym Lee) work with a new forensic pathologist, Dr Kam Karimore (Manjinder Virk). Fans certainly appreciated the charming explanation given to the departure of Kate Wilding, played by Tamzin Malleson, including a photographic cameo of a former regular. The body of the Lancaster's nanny is stolen from the graveyard near the local church. Even Pink Ted, baby Betty Barnaby's favourite toy, goes missing!
Habeas Corpus goes a little more sinister in its second half but cannot match Cupperman and Griffiths's Death and the Divas (the 2013 Hammer episode) or even their Murder by Magic for Series 17. The guest cast is excellent: Helen Baxendale, Navin Chowdry, Emma Cunniffe, Alastair Mackenzie, Ciaran McMenamin, Clive Merrison and Diana Quick. Note the presence of Sarah Middleton, very good as the young undertaker assistant who seems right out of a Tim Burton movie. Fiona Dolman plays Sarah Barnaby.
This series has an extended run of 6 episodes (against 4 for the previous one). Let's hope the rest is better than this lacklustre premiere. Midsomer Murders is produced by Bentley Productions Ltd, an All3Media company, for ITV. Phil Hunter is the producer. Jo Wright exec produces. Music composed by Jim Parker.