Midsomer Murders - Series 15, Episode 1 (The Dark Rider). A headless horseman pointing victims to their doom brings terror to Quitewell Hall, home of the aristocratic DeQuetteville family. But nothing will prevent its occupants from staging a money-making Civil War battle reenactment, much to the annoyance of their wealthy neighbours. Barnaby and Jones investigate the secrets of the ancestral family house while John's wife, Sarah, must bring some historical authenticity to the reenactment.
« Well, good luck with the local... locals. »
Since 1997 the rich and eccentric denizens of the fictional Midsomer County experiment in rotation the most horrid ways to be murdered without any complaint of the UN security council. But the formula of Midsomer Murders amazingly survived the departure of its original star (John Nettles as DCI Tom Barnaby). It even survived a so-called controversy after uninspired words of its longtime producer Brian True-May (1), now replaced for this fifteenth series which started yesterday night on ITV1.
« Witness said the horse rider had no head.
- Drunk or stoned?
- I was on duty, sir. »
Introduced during series 13 alongside his cousin Tom, and in charge of Midsomer's bodycount registry since the following series, DCI John Barnaby (played by the excellent Neil Dudgeon) is back with DS Ben Jones (Jason Hughes). A member of the DeQuetteville family falls from the roof of Quitewell Hall, which starts a string of dramatic events. Could the chief suspect be the headless ghost of Cavalier officer Geoffrey DeQuetteville on a grey horse? Written by Michael Aitkens, who handled the transition between the first DCI Barnaby and his successor, The Dark Rider opens series 15 with everything a Midsomer fan can desire: murder extravaganza, dark family secrets, a superb stately home (actually Knebworth House in Hertfordshire), and a good dose of tongue-in-cheek humour.
James Callis, of Battlestar Galactica fame, guest stars as twin brothers Toby and Julian DeQuetteville (!) Eleanor Bron plays Lady Isobel DeQuetteville, the local Violet Crawley (« Lady Isobel would you mind sitting down and shutting up, just for once? ») William Gaunt (No Place Like Home, The Champions) is Isobel's husband Sir Ludo DeQuetteville. Raquel Cassidy, Kerry Fox, Natalie Mendoza, and Paul Ritter are also amongst the cast. Fans of Torchwood will recognize Murray Melvin (Bilis Manger in the first series) as Bentham DeQuetteville, the unfortunate brother of Ludo, who has the equally unfortunate idea of fixing a banner in the middle of the night.
« We are in a much smaller community now. We're bound to overlap sometimes. Live with it and please don't involve the dog. »
The Civil War battle reenactment, filmed with four cameras, was made with the help of historical event organisers The Sealed Knot and 200 of their members used as extras. Sarah Barnaby (Fiona Dolman) is the commentator but gets angry when the event's historical accuracy turns into a scene of the 1967 Casino Royale. In the midst of the chaos, one of the characters is lured outside the hall and killed by a gargoyle which conveniently falls on the head of the victim. Directed by Alex Pillai, this series opener is produced for the first time by Jo Wright, former drama chief at the BBC, London Weekend Television and Talkback Thames. Her numerous credits include Lovejoy, 55 Degrees North, the Doctor Who 1996 TV movie, or Othello.
Midsomer Murders is made by Bentley Productions, part of the All3Media Group, for ITV1. 6.1 million viewers (average including HD & +1) watched The Dark Rider. Some Midsomer County residents will obviously live to die another day.
« That is a sense of community, Jones. One goes mad, they all go mad. It's a wonderful little world out here. »