Midsomer Murders: Village Case Files
Recurring character(s): Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby (John Nettles), Detective Sergeant Ben Jones (Jason Hughes), Joyce Barnaby (Jane Wymark), Cully Barnaby (Laura Howard), Dr. Bullard (Barry Jackson)
Original air date(s): October 2004, January through April 2005, October 2005, February and March, 2006, September 2006
DVD Date: 11/02/2010
Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 1590 minutes
Note(s): Episodes in this series are based on characters created by Caroline Graham.
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Review: I would be repeating myself (or rapidly running out of synonyms) if I tried to critique each of the 16 episodes in Midsomer Murders: Village Case Files (originally released by the studio as Sets 9 through 12). The scripts are typically well plotted, John Nettles is uniformly superb as Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Barnaby of the (fictional) Causton CID, and the production always has a great look to it. The comfortable familiarity with what to expect in each episode -- coupled with the unexpected surprise here and there -- is what makes this series so successful and popular. So I'll restrict my comments to broad observations about the episodes at this point in the series timeline.
This set opens with the eight episodes (numbers 36 to 43) from 2004/2005 featuring Detective Sergeant Dan Scott (John Hopkins), who first appeared in episode 30 ("Bad Tidings"). DS Scott is depicted as a cocky profession from the city, but I confess I never bought it; I didn't like him (as a character) in the first episodes in which he appeared and still don't like him here. I know these are actors playing roles written for them, but I don't understand the relationship the screenwriters (producers?) chose to develop between Barnaby and Scott. When Scott first arrives in Midsomer (in the episodes that precede this set), he doesn't want the job he's been given, and Barnaby doesn't seem to want him around. Surprisingly, from a character development standpoint, this is still true seven episodes later. In the first episode of this set ("Things That Go Bump in the Night"), for example, Scott is still debating whether or not he wants to stay in Midsomer. Barnaby has grown to tolerate his presence in the eight episodes of this set, but never quite warms up to him. Possibly the original intent on the part of the screenwriters was to develop some conflict between them that could be leveraged for some other purpose, but it never quite comes off, Barnaby being largely dismissive of Scott for the most part. I was just as happy to see the last of him in "Midsomer Rhapsody".
When Ben Jones (Jason Hughes) appears in the first of his eight episodes (numbers 44 to 51, 2005/2006) in this set ("The House in the Woods"), he's an eager patrol officer (constable) who happens to be in the right place at the right time when two bodies are found outside the episode's titular structure. (Of no surprise to Barnaby, DS Scott has apparently not shown up for work and is not mentioned again.) Barnaby immediately promotes Jones to Acting Detective Constable, and the two form an easy, if not always mutually respectful, relationship from the start. At the end of the episode, Barnaby promises to put Jones up for a permanent position in CID, a position he holds to this day, some forty episodes later. I like Hughes's portrayal of DS Jones; he can be a bit goofy at times, but I think that provides a nice contrast to the usually buttoned-down Barnaby. (Though I still kind of miss Daniel Casey as Detective Sergeant Gavin Troy, Barnaby's first partner.)
In my previous reviews of Midsomer Murders sets, I've mentioned Barnaby's family: Joyce, his wife, and Cully, his daughter. I suppose it's important to show that Barnaby has a life outside of the CID, but it often feels like Joyce's and Cully's appearances in the show are gratuitous at best. Occasionally they have a part to play in the mystery plot, but rarely are they integral. More often they make a random appearance, then disappear. I'm torn as to whether their inclusion helps or hurts the series.
Overall, any fan of the series who doesn't already own the individual sets that comprise Midsomer Murders: Village Case Files will definitely want to include this set in their collection. There are no poorly developed episodes, and more than a few that rank among the best.
Here's a list of the episodes included in this set (with a brief synopsis from the studio):
"Things That Go Bump in the Night": A series of grisly murders rocks the village of Fletcher’s Cross, and local spiritualists fall under suspicion.
"Dead in the Water": Barnaby and Scott immerse themselves in the luxurious world of rowing after a murder mars the annual Midsomer Regatta.
"Orchis Fatalis": In the orchid-mad village of Midsomer Malham, Barnaby and Scott must discover who would kill to own an extremely rare specimen.
"Bantling Boy": Why did the owner of Bantling Hall bequeath his champion thoroughbred to four Midsomer villagers? The only person who knows doesn’t live to tell the tale.
"Second Sight": A mysterious death brings the detectives to Midsomer Mere, where villagers claim psychic powers.
"Hidden Depths": Barnaby and Scott face a bizarre crime scene when a local oenophile gets killed by a combination of catapult, croquet, and Chateau Lafite.
"Sauce for the Goose": After a visitor dies while touring Plummer’s relish factory, Barnaby and Scott investigate the local food wars.
"Midsomer Rhapsody": Barnaby links a long-deceased local composer with odd events that crescendo to a murderous conclusion.
"The House in the Woods": According to local legend, Winyard is haunted—and it lives up to its reputation when a young couple dies on the property in a grisly fashion.
"Dead Letters": As Midsomer Barton celebrates Oak Apple Week, the mother of a former festival queen drowns herself. But is it really suicide?
"Vixen’s Run": At a family gathering, thrice-married baronet Freddy Butler keels over dead, leaving an estate worth killing for.
"Down Among the Dead Men": The shotgun slaying of accountant Martin Barrett leads Barnaby and Jones on a trail of blackmail.
"Four Funerals and a Wedding": Every year, the Skimmington Fayre rekindles an age-old battle of the sexes in Broughton. But this year, the bodies really start to accumulate.
"Country Matters": With the town of Elverton in an uproar over a new supermarket, a mysterious man turns up murdered on the store’s proposed site.
"Death in Chorus": Approaching a big choral competition, the Midsomer Worthy amateur choir loses its tenor to murder.
"Last Year’s Model": As Annie Woodrow goes on trial for murdering her best friend, DCI Barnaby begins to have second thoughts about her guilt.
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