Acorn Media // 2011 // 372 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart // December 26th, 2012
"This is the new DCI Barnaby, cousin of the other DCI Barnaby." -- DI Ben Jones, who didn't get the DCI job, since he's not Inspector Barnaby.
When DVD viewers last left Britain's Midsomer County, Inspector Tom Barnaby was regenerating into Inspector John Barnaby. Actually, no. When John Nettles, who'd played Tom Barnaby for more than a decade, retired, so did his character. See above for all you really need to know about Neil Dudgeon's role as John Barnaby. If you need to know more, note that Dudgeon looks more like Nettles than Matt Smith resembles David Tennant -- and that he does not wear a fez.
Like The First Inspector Barnaby, The Second Inspector Barnaby is assisted by DI Ben Jones, who gets a lot of ribbing from the folks in Midsomer County for losing out on the DCI job.
Midsomer Murders: Set 21 features DCI John Barnaby's first four cases, with a death toll of sixteen (counting everything except The Walking Presumed Dead, which viewers will encounter this season). Interestingly, three out of the four cases include attempts on The Second Inspector Barnaby's life, so it's quite possible that Midsomer Murders could one day usher in Matt Smith as The Eleventh Inspector Barnaby.
Each of the four TV movies in Midsomer Murders: Set 21 is on its own disc:
* "Death in the Slow Lane" -- A girls' school where a race car driver's body
was found years ago hosts the Midsomer classic car show. Since it's Midsomer, an
impalement and possible drug dealing are part of the event, making it the
perfect welcome for The Second Inspector Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon, The Mrs.
Bradley Mysteries) and his dog, Sykes.
"It was either a really complex suicide -- "
"Or someone else put the car in gear."
* "Dark Secrets" -- A colleague's assessment (below) of the social worker
who was found floating in the river apparently is accurate, but was the killer
someone from the local artists' colony or from a manor house occupied by a
reclusive elderly couple? What do two lunar craters have to do with his death?
Meanwhile, Mrs. Sarah Barnaby (Fiona Dolman, Ways to Live Forever) starts
her job as head of the local school.
"Universally disliked. He won't be missed by anyone."
* "Echoes of the Dead" -- The Second Inspector Barnaby has discovered that
someone is reading up on those old murders to brush up on their technique.
Flowers and lipstick messages at the crime scenes, not to mention the high death
toll (five), suggest that there's a serial killer on the loose.
"Old murders can be fascinating. There's a lot to learn from them."
* "The Oblong Murders" -- The Second Inspector Barnaby is asked to help a
couple find their daughter, who disappeared from a religious cult. Jones gets
the "amazing opportunity" to go undercover, although he'd rather take a holiday.
Sykes also gets a taste of communal living, as he's sent to a dogsitter.
"I'm telling you in a friendly way that if you hear from Lucy, you will call me."
At the end of four Midsomer Murders movies, The Second Inspector Barnaby is somehow still alive. The first impression you get of DCI John Barnaby is that he might be a little bit strange. After all, he talks to his dog Sykes (and, once, to a corpse) as he formulates his ideas. John's also kind of quiet at first. However, he's sharp and observant. He's also firm when it comes to murder investigations, enough to hear that he's part of a "family of vultures."
His dog Sykes seems to be the antithesis of Tintin's dog Snowy, even looking like Snowy with spots. Sykes sniffs around, and you'll start to think he's going to find a body or a vital clue, but you will be disappointed. Sykes isn't in line to be The Third Inspector Barnaby, apparently.
So far, Fiona Dolman doesn't get much to do. Her predecessor, Jane Wymark's Joyce Barnaby, was always finding corpses, befriending those involved in cases, and occasionally solving cases before her husband. Since Sarah's not always happening on murders, that makes these episodes slightly more believable than many of The First Inspector Barnaby's cases. Dolman seems likable enough in the role, so she'll probably be finding bodies soon enough.
With John Nettles out, Jason Hughes (Killing Me Softly) as DCI Ben Jones gets a little more to do in the stories. At first, Jones and Barnaby don't get along so well, but that's starting to fade out of the storyline by The Oblong Murders. Jones gets to show his new boss the local customs, including asking gossips for information on old murder cases, since the files were destroyed years ago in a blaze. Naturally, John is less than impressed with this, since he came from Brighton, where he, like his cousin Tom, had an impressive success rate.
The show seems, if anything, to be getting slightly nastier, with a body count that feels a tad high even for the Causton CID and all those attempts on DCI John Barnaby's life. Rest assured that all sorts of depravity, including incest, can still be found as part of everyday life in the villages around Causton. Thus, John Barnaby's tenure gets off to a lively start, with four exciting and bloody mysteries; the show could drop back into routine, but the early signs are promising.
Presented in standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 2.0 Stereo audio, this recent production looks and sounds sharp, so viewers will have no problems with it. English SDH subtitles are included to help decipher and regional dialect concerns, and there are no extras.
Just know that Midsomer Murders is not family fare. In addition to incest, a running theme through the series, the cases here include nudity and sex noises.
While the attempts to blow up or chop up The Second Inspector Barnaby foretell a short tenure for him at Causton, Neil Dudgeon makes a likable successor to John Nettles, and it looks like he will be doing so as long as he can keep his character escaping those death traps.
Once Sarah Barnaby starts finding bodies everywhere she goes, viewers might even forget Dudgeon isn't The First Inspector Barnaby, although too much consistency might not be a good thing for Midsomer Murders. For now, though...
Review content copyright © 2012 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 372 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated