Sunday, August 25, 2013

DVD Review: Midsomer Murders Set 22

Midsomer Murders: Set 22 DVD - 4 Discs/Blu Ray – 2 Discs (372 min)
Released by Acorn Media on August 6th, 2013. SRP $49.99 (DVD) $59.99 (Blu Ray)
Subtitles: English SDH 16:9 Stereo

After set 21 came out for Midsomer Murders earlier in the year, I was really looking forward to the next installment. If you remember correctly, Set 21 introduced us to the new DCI John Barnaby who took over from the retired Tom Barnaby. I felt that when Neil Dudgeon stepped into the shoes of Tom Barnaby, he had a strong start. This may be a criticism for some other TV series but things rarely change on Midsomer Murders even if that cast does change. In this case, I think this is a good thing.
This is a series where we dip into the lives of Barnaby and Jones. It is not one where we have too much drama between them. The focus of the series is squarely on the murders in Midsomer where Barnaby and Jones come in to investigate. I like that a lot. It keeps it simple. What keeps this series intriguing to me is how the next murder is going to take place, the beautiful English country locations of each episode and the light-heartedness of Barnaby and Jones. Perhaps it is a simple but it is a relaxing and beautiful series to watch.

By this stage on the series, Set 22 brings us to the second half of Series 14. Set 21 was only the first half of that series. I really enjoyed this set and to see these characters in new stories felt like seeing an old friend. For me, it was like a “season premiere”; I was really looking forward to receiving this.  Hearing the familiar haunting theme music again was great. Then, as usual, there are the amazing locations. Set 22 gives us the final four stories of Series 14 and once again I enjoyed it. In this set we got:
The Sleeper Under the Hill: One of the strengths of this series is that it is never straight forward. It focuses on some themes I personally have an interest in seeing in a series like Midsomer Murders. This includes the supernatural. This episode focuses on the Druids but it is never as simple as that. As with other episodes of the series, this episode tries to make us believe how some of these murders take place. One murder especially tries to get us to believe it takes place in full sight which is a little hard to believe. That was something that stood out a little sloppy to me in the plot. As a theme I point out in most every review of this series is that generally speaking, any crime committed in Midsomer Causton is not a blue but a white collar crime. It’s not just Druids but art is  involved as well.

The Night of the Stag: The next episode starts off with us seeing John Barnaby having a taste of how gruesome murders can be in Midsomer……literally. I have seen episodes like this in a lot of other series where one head-man can control his village. They seem to follow him without question but do they know exactly what is going on? What happens when he takes that role too far? Along with that there is a side story of a minister who is very pure and is disapproving of everything everyone else does in this village. The beginning of the episode is particularly strong. It starts off, with as you might guess, a murder. It happens at night with people trailing a man that we have no idea who he is or what his business is with these other people. It’s atmospheric as we can only see the guy, everyone else following him are just shadows with flashlights in big open fields. The imagery is frightening. The ending is also quite strong as it looks like Barnaby & Jones are in a no way out situation. This episode highlights how brave they are while trying to carry out their duty. It’s a very enjoyable episode.
A Sacred Trust: This is probably my favorite of the set. Once again it includes themes that I find fascinating. One of those themes is religion and anything to do with the mystery of nuns. Just by how they look is mysterious and this episode takes place with an order of nuns who never leave their convent. They have taken a vow to stay only within their community. There is only a few of them but one of them is murdered. Is the murderer one of the nuns or is it someone else? There are a couple of side themes going on with story. The land that the convent takes up will be reverted to the descendent of the owner of the land if the convent ever shuts down. Is this a reason why the nun was killed?

Just as a side note, an interesting series that also has a great nun story is from Armchair Thriller titled Quiet as a Nun which actually is a very spooky tale. It is also a sort of pilot for Jemima Shore Investigates that went on the air a few years later. If you have a chance to see that, check it out too.
A Rare Bird: This is the last episode on the set as well as the last episode for the 14th Series. I think an interesting trait for murder mysteries whether it be Columbo or Miss Marple is that the people who are the incidental characters are often odd and very interesting. Perhaps even fanatics in their interests. This episode delves into the world of bird watching. The group that we see are fanatical in their watching. I am not sure if this is the case with real bird watching groups but this group is really into it. This includes recording audio in the woods all night to try and pick up bird calls and also competitions to compile a list of as many rare birds seen as possible by the group. Little would anyone know that this would lead to cheating and murder.

Yet, there is more to this than bird watching. What does a pregnant Russian ex-ballerina have to do with all of this? This is a nice way to end this series. It’s a good story and since I don’t know anything about bird watching, I would have no idea if it is all accurate or not. This episode features James Dreyfus which I did not recognize. He has been in a lot of series such as Gimme, Gimme, Gimme and My Hero but I remember him best as Christopher in Absolutely Fabulous and as Goody in The Thin Blue Line.

Midsomer Murders In Conversation: this is a really nice behind the scenes feature focusing on Neil joining the cast of Midsomer Murders. We get a lot of background on his career and life plus we hear from Jason Hughes talking about all sorts of things from the theme music to favorite murders. Not only that but we hear from Jim Parker who created the amazing theme tune but from other people who wouldn’t normally be interviewed like the caterer or a driver. To me it shows how much all the people who work on Midsomer Murders mean to the success of the production. It’s a nice meaty extra for the set coming in at 35 minutes.

This is a recent ITV production. It looks great. I opted not to review the Blu Ray set and only the DVD as I am sure the quality is great in HD, this is a series I just like to watch again and again. I don’t necessarily need to see it in HD but just to watch it and enjoy it. If Acorn Media every decides to re-release the entire series again but on Blu Ray from the beginning, then that is something I may consider taking a look at but for now the DVD is fine. That being said, probably one of the things I am missing out on is those gorgeous country sides in HD but it still looks quite good on standard definition DVD.

It is interesting because Acorn Media has three separate strands of Midsomer Murder packaging going. One is the mega sets that repackage about 15 stories or so into one set. The newest one is the re-packaging the series in smaller single sets by series such as this. This set here is the original set of DVD releases. We are now on Set 22. This is basically the same as the other sets. Each episode is on its own DVD (which I appreciate) and is housed in its own slim line DVD case. That’s four cases in the set. The cover is the same as the others with Barnaby and Jones in the foreground and the English Countryside in the background. The style of these covers have been around for years but I still love them.
The only thing I am not too excited about is that the recent Acorn Media DVD releases do not have full color DVD labels but it’s just silver with black printing. I suppose it’s a cost cutting thing and to be honest doesn’t affect my enjoyment of the set at all. I am just being picky for no good reason.

Disc Breakdown:
Disc 1: The Sleeper Under the Hill; Midsomer Murders in Conversation
Disc 2: The Night of the Stag
Disc 3: A Sacred Trust
Disc 4: A Rare Bird

After all of these years for Midsomer Murders, I don’t feel the quality has dipped at all. In fact with a new Barnaby on the scene, I say keep it coming! I love this series and I look forward to another 14 series!
This week: Who will win the Blu Ray give-a-way for Spearhead from Space plus a review of the new Blu Ray release for Prime Suspect from Acorn Media. Here’s a preview: it is gorgeous looking!

Have a great week!
Do you have feedback, article requests or want to talk about a program but do not want to leave a public comment? Feel free to drop me an e-mail at

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Blu Ray Review: Spearhead from Space

Doctor Who: Spearhead From Space Blu Ray  (Main Feature: 97 min)
Released by BBC Home Entertainment on August 13, 2013. SRP $29.98 (Blu Ray)
Subtitles: English SDH 4:3/16:9 Mono/Stereo  HD: 1080p

As soon as the word Blu Ray was added to our vernacular, Doctor Who fans immediately wondered how the series would fit into this new format. I have always let Doctor Who lead me into adventures into new home video formats to watch my favorite series. As soon as stories started to come out on VHS, I was collecting like crazy. Unlike the program on PBS, once the VHS line started to really get going these were in episodic format. To me that was the only way to watch it. DVD came out with the first Doctor Who story in that format, The Five Doctors. I bought my first DVD player when it was released in the UK in 2000. Jump forward to 2009, Doctor Who moved away from being made in SD and finally entered the HD arena. The first Blu Ray release for the series was Planet of the Dead. I kitted out my whole home entertainment center to be able to watch the story in HD. I even got into laserdisc! We knew eventually something was going to come out on Blu Ray from the Classic Series, right?
Now, having the classic series on Blu Ray is not as simple as it may appear. As is painfully obvious, the series was made in SD which means Standard Definition. There are a couple of ways to allow these Classic Series stories to appear on Blu Ray: Up Convert the SD video to HD with varied results or put the stories on Blu Ray as SD files but given more capacity to have less artifacts introduced in the compression of the episodes. I have people tell me that this option is not possible as it is not allowed in the official specs of Blu Ray. I do not know where they get that information from and if someone could point me in the direction of those specs, I would be very appreciative. With all of that said, there was one story which was always viable to be put out onto Blu Ray. That is the introductory story of the Jon Pertwee era, Spearhead from Space.

Due to a strike at the BBC, brought on by the Association of Broadcast Staff, Doctor Who was to be made entirely on location and entirely on 16mm film. If you have ever sat through every episode of Doctor Who from the very first episode to Spearhead from Space, you will be able to appreciate what a shock it was in terms of production values. Because Spearhead from Space was shot on film, this has given this story a lot of latitude to be scanned at many different resolutions as technology continues to improve. Though the argument has become how much can be gained out of a 16mm film recording.
I am sure just about anyone buying this release or even reading this article probably has a good idea why this story is special beyond its technical merits. This was the first story to feature a brand new Doctor played by Jon Pertwee, it is the first time a season of Doctor Who is not made to be shown virtually over the entire year but most importantly it is the first story made in color. Color was very new for the BBC. BBC2 was the first channel in Europe to begin regular color broadcasts. This was in 1967. By the end of production of Season 6 of Doctor Who, the production team knew that the series was going to return in color and was hoping that would be one of the selling points to keep Patrick Troughton in the series. That and of course the vast reduction in the amount of episodes made a year.

If you are a keen science fiction fan, you may recognize the opening to Spearhead from Space is similar to the opening of Quatermass II. The story begins with meteors landing on Earth but with a distinct purpose. They are intelligently controlled. Just as another round of meteorites are landing, the Doctor’s TARDIS lands revealing the new incarnation of the Doctor still wearing his predecessor’s clothing. This story is roughly linked to the previous story The War Games in the sense of the whole reason why the Doctor’s appearance change and why he has been exiled to Earth. Thankfully it is loose and only serves the purpose of continuity.
Right from the start the story serves almost as a pilot for things to come. At least for this season, gone are the alien planets. Since the Doctor can’t leave Earth, the monsters and threats need to come to Earth. Former Script Editor Terrance Dicks mentions elsewhere that writer Malcolm Hulke explains that this new format change allows for about 3 story options. I disagree but I am biased as I love this format. We get re-introduced to the UNIT organization which we last seen in The Invasion. UNIT is really impressive in Season 7. It feels like a big organization with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart commanding a lot of people. There is a great scene where he is driven up to the hospital and driver opens the door for him. It shows he was one important dude! In later stories, as early on as Terror of the Autons even, it feels like there are only four people who work for him and they all travel together in a hatchback or something.

We also meet Liz Shaw. Zoe had been considered an almost equal to Troughton’s Doctor just because she was a genius level girl who was very logical but Liz Shaw really was an adult woman. She had an air of sophistication and glamour that had really never been seen on Doctor Who before this story. This story in particular she has also has a sort of severe look to her. Her hair is up and Liz herself is kind of uptight as she is “commandeered” to join UNIT.
This story introduces one of the neatest Doctor Who villains of all-time. The Autons. Even the name is a cool 1970s terms. They were regarded high enough to be the villains of the re-launch of the series in 2005. One of the reasons why I liked them so much is that they could run after you. Most of the previous monsters in the series kind of stop and roared then lumbered after a character. Often the character would have to slow down to allow the monster to catch up. In this, the Autons would run after you. Look at the escape of Ransome in Episode Three of this story. It actually is scary. The Auton is running after him. It is very effective.

The thing I love about this story is that it looks like it is from 1970 but in a cool way. I know the pedantics of the world will tell me that it was filmed in 1969. I know. The story just looks cool. I love the way the Autons look, I love how UNIT headquarters is spacious, and I love the music by Dudley Simpson. This story also includes one of my favorite sequences in Doctor Who. It seems like such a small thing but I love the tracking shot in Episode One as the Brigadier and Captain Munro (with Liz Shaw following behind) are walking down the long corridor on their way to see Dr. Henderson. It is a marvelous shot and I love the overall scope to it. The hallway is busy but the two men just stride down the corridor while everything is going on around them!
Of course this is the first story to feature Jon Pertwee as the Doctor. It’s funny because it is well known that he was asking people how to play it and he was told to play it as Jon Pertwee. Jon’s response was who the hell is he? I think what is funny about that is that is he actually plays the role very light-hearted in this story. This is probably more so than any other story. Perhaps even light-hearted isn’t the right word but I think he had the absolute perfect balance between comedy and drama in this story. Pertwee is a favorite of mine but in some stories he can be too harsh. I think he is really too harsh on Jo in The Dæmons as one example. This story was a wonderful start to Jon’s career as Doctor Who.

Caroline John joins in as Liz Shaw. Once again, she was a very sophisticated character that was a bit prickly in Spearhead but does warm up a little. Also there is Nicholas Courtney putting in a grand performance as the Brigadier.
This story brought us some other great actors. Leading this was Hugh Burden. He is great in a series from around the same time called The Mind of JG Reeder. Burden plays Channing and is suitably creepy. In fact, I am glad the Hugh Burden never came back in Doctor Who because he was perfect in this role and any return might have ruined that. John Woodnutt making the first of three appearances in Doctor Who. He plays Channing’s unwilling henchman Hibbert. Hibbert didn’t know what he got himself into when Channing entered his life. Neil Wilson who played Sam Seeley made a very early appearance in television in the 1953 serial The Quatermass Experiment. Hamilton Dyce puts in a great performance as Major Scobie. I have seen Dyce in a number of things before including The Avengers. Finally, we get an appearance from one of my favorite character actors, Talfryn Thomas. He appears later in The Green Death but also (amongst many other roles) has an amazing turn in Series 1 of Survivors playing the part of Tom Price. If you have never seen that series before, look for it. Especially Series 1 is magnificent. His role is pivotal.

This story was directed by Derek Martinus. This was the final time he directed for Doctor Who. I’ve always enjoyed the way he directed stories. I wish he would have done more of them. Robert Holmes wrote the story and for me this was the first proper Robert Holmes story. I enjoyed The Krotons and I like most of The Space Pirates but Spearhead from Space is the start of a string of stories that really molded a lot of what many of us hold dear of Doctor Who today.
So the serious question, what about the picture quality? As we all know, this is the first and really only classic series story that can be seen in proper HD. The only other contender is the TV Movie but that would require tracking down all the 35mm film elements (if they even exist) and recreate all the effects. Spearhead from Space looks gorgeous.  That is all that needs to be said. It is what I hoped for out of this Blu Ray. I have watched it many times now and I am so happy with the results. As for people’s argument that 16mm film will not benefit from an HD transfer, that is rubbish! It is full of amazing detail. That being said, there is a lot of grain to the picture. It seems like a lot to me but that is a minor quibble. I love the detail in the picture and there is a lot I see that I have not noticed before I watched this Blu Ray. For example, the Autons in the shops before breaking out, take a look and you will see that none of the masks have mesh over their eyes. In fact you see human eyes. Now, this next example may not be obvious only in HD but I had not noticed it before. When the Doctor and Liz are at Madame Tussauds to examine Major Scobie, one of the “wax figure” is definitely blinking and moving behind them. In fact, she is horrible. Yet, Hamilton Dyce does a pretty decent job keeping himself still.

Notice the human eyes in the mask
The one let down with the quality of the disc is that it was last released relatively recently in 2012. When originally released on DVD in 2001 the restoration was good for its time but the DVD release in 2012 was virtually a revelation from what we had ever seen before. Don’t get me wrong, this restoration and HD quality is far better than what is seen on the 2012 DVD release but it would have been great to see the jump in quality from the 2001 release and then to the Blu Ray without this other release in the middle. That would have been eye popping. This restoration went back to the original negatives which yielded great results. It also has the TARDIS sound effect returned to how it was on transmission which made me very happy! I really did not like the “fix” that was on the 2012 DVD release. To me, that is worth the price of a new release alone!

For some reason which I find somewhat baffling, none of the extras that are on the DVD release have been ported over to the Blu Ray. I don’t think any reason had been given and it may have been a budgetary one. I think it is too bad but there are some other extras which are quite good.
There are two documentaries on this release. A Dandy and a Clown and Carry On: The Life of Caroline John.  These documentaries are superb. It feels like Chris Chapman who produced the documentaries decided that the level of these productions needed to be raised since it was going on a Blu Ray. The content is touching and informative and the production values are elegant and very high. The documentaries that are on the DVD range are very good yet with some creative decisions that left me a bit baffled. These two documentaries on the Blu Ray are truly a step up which I think is high praise since the rest of the range is so good. I also learned a bunch of new things about Jon Pertwee and Caroline John as you will too.

Title Sequence Material: This was made for me. It is 22 minutes long of material used to make up the Jon Pertwee title sequence. Yes I watched it all and loved it!
Restoration Comparisons:  It does what it says on the tin. It compares the different versions of this story and see how much nicer things look now. I am so glad this is on the disc.

Packaging: I am sure fans of the US DVDs are happy that this release keeps the same cover format as the DVD release just in a Blu Ray size. I can appreciate that yet I have never been happy with the pic they use of Pertwee on the spine. We are looking up his nose and if you watch the documentary A Dandy and a Clown we know he hates shots like that! The cover is by Lee Binding and it is given an effect to look like a painting. This is fine and almost is pulled off but Pertwee has gone a bit Marty Feldman on us.
Something else of note is that the menu for this Blu Ray is very simple but really nice. I like it because it is so simple. I also like that what I think are Gallifreyan symbols around the picture of the menu are the same one on the Regenerations box set and possibly seen elsewhere.

We’ve come a long way with Spearhead from Space. Here is a selection of stills taking us from the original VHS, the original 2001 DVD release the 2012 DVD release and finally the Blu Ray. Very cool and these stills are courtesy of Robert Franks:

Something tells me this probably won’t be the last classic series Blu Ray release but this will be the most authentic. This has been mastered from the best materials available and the results are a triumph. The documentaries are great and this is a great tribute to not only Doctor Who but to Jon Pertwee himself. This is a must buy release or if you don’t have HD or Blu Ray than perhaps it’s about time to make that switch!

Milestone: I have written and article or review of every story of Season 7. This is the article for Blu ray.
Doctor Who and the Silurians
The Ambassadors of Death

Competition: Do you want a chance to win a copy of this Blu Ray? I have 3(of the 4 pictured) to give away. Send me an e-mail at and tell me what your favorite moment in Spearhead from Space is and I will pick winners from that! This contest is open to residents of the US & Canada only. I will pick a winner on August 26th. Please put SPEARHEAD in the subject line. If you like the chance to win DVDs and Blu Rays from this site, please let me know by "liking" my page on Facebook. From the Archive: British Television Blog Facebook Page

This Blu Ray give-a-way is courtesy of BBC Home Entertainment.
Next Review: Massive backlog. Midsomer Murders Set22, Smiley’s People Blu Ray, Doctor Who: The Green Death, The Thick of It Complete Series, and Prime Suspect Blu Ray all coming your way!

Have a great week!
Do you have feedback, article requests or want to talk about a program but do not want to leave a public comment? Feel free to drop me an e-mail at

I am on Twitter: @FromtheArchive

Also please subscribe to my From the Archive: British Television Blog Facebook Page for updates about new articles.

Monday, August 5, 2013

DVD Review: Midsomer Murders Series 1

Midsomer Murders: Series 1 DVD 3-Discs (529 minutes)
Released by Acorn Media on July 30, 2013. SRP $59.99 (DVD)
Subtitles: English SDH Letterbox

One thing I am really happy about is that Acorn Media has re-released the first 5 Series of Midsomer Murders. Since I started to review this series, I have become enamored with it. I originally started much later on the series. I found it to be pretty incredible when I started to watch it but I was curious to see how the series started. I wanted to know more. This was my chance to do so.
This re-release of Series One may be one of the first times that the episodes had been released in UK broadcast order. I am not quite sure how they had been released before but I am a big fan of things being released the way they are intended to be seen. This is how it always should be in my opinion.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the beginning.  I wasn’t sure if this was a proper first episode (like a beginning to a story line) or if we were dipping into their lives. As it happens, we enter the lives of Barnaby and Troy as they begin to investigate….murder.
Just as I would have expected, there is no “beginning” story line to Barnaby; there is no introduction. We get “introduced” to Tom Barnaby the way we would see him n any episode of Midsomer Murders. I appreciated that. Tom Barnaby is such an underplayed character that I feel if any big deal was made of his introduction would have undermined the character. We get introduced to his wife and his daughter Cally. These are the same characters we see in the final Tom Barnaby episode, meaning that these actors nailed these characters right from the start. We also get introduced to Troy. Troy is Barnaby’s Detective Sergeant and although he is the original of Barnaby’s partners, he is new to me.

Right from the start, Barnaby is fairly rude to Troy. It is clear Barnaby loves to give his partner a hard time. Troy is like Jones (from when I started to watch the series) in a lot of ways because he is a nice guy but likes to use his “muscle” when he can to achieve results. For some reason, Troy also appears to be unable to drive very well. One of the ongoing gags of this series is that while Troy is driving, he almost nearly runs into or cuts off somebody much to Barnaby’s annoyance.
Series 1 consists of 5 stories. All of which achieve that level of darkness and quirkiness that sets Midsomer Murders apart all the while being set in gorgeous English villages and countryside. The crimes are never mundane. They center around something unique like art or the theatre. I think that’s what I like about it, they are not gritty crimes. There are other TV series around that do that very well and I do enjoy it but I also love watching people of high standing in Midsomer commit these crimes. I think that is what is some of the appeal to this series. The breakdown of the stories is as follows:

The Killings at Badger’s Drift: The first episode starts out with the murder of the elderly. The tone of the crimes and the reasons for them are very dark. I think of the quirkiness and humor of the series but in reality Midsomer Murders are very dark. A special guest in the first episode is Jessica Hynes but she goes by Jessica Stevenson in the credits of this episode. Speaking of names, neither Jane Wymark nor Laura Howard is listed in the opening credits as they are in later series.  I really enjoyed this first episode mainly as I said above, after watching only the later series after nearly a year this shows that the same quality has always been in this series. This is really enjoyable.
Written in Blood: This is a unique story about Barnaby and Troy investigating the murder of a writer after what is essentially a book club meeting.  The episode starts off with some amazing shots of a farm land in Ireland. This is what I love about this series is that so much of it is shot on location and is just beautiful. In this episode even more so than the first is remembering how wonderful and important the incidental music is to the entire production. Jim Parker does an amazing job with the music. It is haunting and dare I say it, quirky. I apologize as I have already used that word multiple times in this review but I feel it sticks.

In this episode we have David Troughton, Una Stubbs and Joanna David who was also in Lillie. There is a fun side plot that involves Cully leaving town and forcing Tom and Joyce to take care of her cat named Killmouseki. Cute! Once again to prove my point, murder in this series doesn’t come from everyday criminals but people who are thought to be more refined. There is snobbery amongst writers and it eventually turns deadly. I did find that the ending wasn’t great as it got a little convoluted but I will let you decide.
Death of a Hollow Man: This is a episode that actually is written by the woman who the series is based from Caroline Graham.  Once again we find the Barnabys taking part in the community. This is something I have noticed about Tom & Joyce. They always took part in the Midsomer community. This is more so than I have seen of John Barnaby in the episodes I have seen of him so far.

As mentioned other places and I will, I’m sure mention it again, I really like how these plots take place around modes of art but this also features something else I find as an interesting topic, religious artifacts like statues. One is stolen at the beginning of the episode. Someone is also murdered at the beginning of the episode too and I was hugely mistaken because it looked like Sir Derek Jacobi. Wow! They got Sir Derek Jacobi to be in an episode of Midsomer Murders. No, it was a woman and I need glasses!
As we have established, Sir Derek Jacobi is not in this but Bernard Hepton playing a great role of the great director Harold Winstanley who is more of a prima donna and a bully than a director.  Although I felt the episode sometimes was a little long-winded and oddly paced, the plot seemed to take forever to get going, I thought the ending was a nice surprise and very graphic. Not visually graphic but mentally so. Not done in a way to show they could do gore but done to victims in a sad way. This episode is one of the highlights of the set.

Faithful Unto Death: I love these titles. I can really see this title plastered onto a book cover. Once again as Tom & Joyce Barnaby take part in the splendor of a local fete, a problem breaks out. Some residents of Morton Fendle are going to lose money in the local mill that they have invested in for some time. Suddenly the wife of the mill owner Alan Hollingsworth is kidnapped. There isn’t murder to start with but it comes. There are some great twists in this episode. In fact, it may be one of my favourite episodes of this set.
To start with you get the voice of the book from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Peter Jones plus Tessa Peake-Jones who played Raquel in Only Fools and Horses.

Death in Disguise: This is the first of the commune episodes. They always seem a little out of touch to me. Like all of the people are off-versions of hippies. There are a couple of nice comedy moments with Barnaby. In the beginning of the episode he is in the kitchen cleaning a fish when May Cuttle comes to the house to tell him about a murder. She is always bothering him so he hides in the living room taking the fish with him. Then when he was talking to Ian Craigie, Tom mentions his wife had therapy sessions with Ian. Twelve sessions at 20 quid a pop. He mentions this a couple of times almost under his breathe which is even funnier! It’s a fun final episode to a wonderful first series!

This set has some of the usual types of Acorn Media extras such as Production Notes and Midsomer Map. It does say on the packaging “Now with SDH subtitles” so apparently it wasn’t there before? As I mentioned elsewhere I like extras but for a series like Midsomer Murders, I am happy with just having the episodes to watch.
Quality and Packaging:

Although I haven’t seen it, I would assume that the picture quality is the same as it has been since its first release on DVD. Each episode has an A&E ident at the end of it which I appreciate. Now, I am not trying to say the quality is bad. It is perfectly acceptable. I am just saying that I am pretty sure this is the same quality as it always has been.
As for the packaging. All 5 episodes are on 3 discs so it is compacted together. It is housed in a single sized Amary DVD case that can hold 3 discs. Seeing that they have re-released in this wave the first 5 episodes, it would be easy to assume that the others will be coming out this way. I love the cover for this. There is a design on the cover. The inset is the Midsomer Murders logo and on top of the design is a silhouette of a country village but on the bottom side is a noose, an axe and other sharp objects. Very clever and striking. I like the look of it.

Disc Breakdown:
Disc 1: The Killings at Badger’s Drift, Written in Blood
Disc 2: Death of a Hollow Man, Faithful Unto Death
Disc 3: Death in Disguise

I love this series. I was hoping to be allowed to review Series 2-5 too since they have also been released but was not given the opportunity but I was greedy. There was no need for me to review them other than to watch the episodes I have not seen. I plan on buying the other sets as I enjoy this series too much not too. If you haven’t seen it, this Series 1 set is the perfect excuse to give it a try.
Next review: So many reviews, so little time! I am suspending regular articles on British television until I get caught up with my reviews which includes: Midsomer Murders Set 22 and Smiley’s People Blu Ray. Plus some Doctor Who titles: The Green Death, the animated episodes to The Ice Warriors and Spearhead from Space on Blu Ray. Incidentally, I have 3 copies of that I will be giving away soon!

Have a great week!

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