Inspector Morse (1987–2000)
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The Wench Is Dead 

While Morse is in hospital for a bleeding ulcer, he takes an interest in an 1859 murder and becomes convinced its resolution was a miscarriage of justice.



(novel), (screenplay)

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Dr. Millicent 'Millie' Van Buren
Louisa Lawrenson ...
Nurse Hall
David Keyes ...
Walter Towns (as David Keys)
Paul Mari ...
Rory Jack Oldfield
Alan Mason ...
Mr. Greenaway
Aline Mowat ...
Sister Nessie MacLean
Sara Carver ...
Nurse Fiona
Philip Quast ...
Mr. Benfield
Karen Staples ...
Matthew Finney ...
PC Adrian Kershaw
Jonathan Copestake ...
Philip Tomes
Andrew Grubb ...
Ward (as Andy Grubb)


Morse is taken seriously ill at a museum reception and is hospitalized. While there, he takes an interest in a 140 year-old case known as the Oxford Canal Murders. The case involved the murder and rape of young woman traveling by canal boat from Coventry to London. The case resulted in two men being hanged and Morse believes there was a miscarriage of justice. With Lewis away at the Inspectors course Supt. Strange, who has counseled Morse to take early retirement, assigns fast-track university graduate PC Adrian Kershaw to do some leg work for him. Morse determines that a fraud took place and that the victim may have been someone else altogether. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Mystery





Release Date:

11 November 1998 (UK)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


(dvd release)


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Did You Know?


The title is from Christopher Marlowe's play, "The Jew of Malta," probably written in 1590. "Thou hast committed/ Fornication: but that was in another country,/ And besides, the wench is dead." See more »


In the scene with Dr. Hobson, Morse states that "...she drown in the Oxford canal in 1959." The year should have been 1859. See more »


Dr. Millicent 'Millie' Van Buren: The institute of criminology has some really great archives here.
Chief Inspector Morse: That's because Oxford has many scholars and not enough policemen.
See more »


Clarinet Concerto in A Major
Composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1791)
Morse has it playing in his house
See more »

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User Reviews

Even without Lewis, it is a very solid episode!
7 July 2009 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

The Wench is Dead is very well done, but fans of the show will notice that Lewis is missing. (he is on an inspector's course) Matthew Finney does give a very appealing performance as Kershaw, but he doesn't quite have the earnestness that Whately brought to Lewis. Though the episode is fully redeemed by a brilliant performance from John Thaw,(Morse spends most of the episode in hospital) lovely camera-work and a well written script. The episode is probably the most faithful of all the episodes to the book, all with the exception of the omission of Lewis, about Morse trying to solve a 150 year old murder case from his hospital bed. The Victorian scenes were certainly beautifully shot, and well realised. Overall, a solid episode even with the absence of Lewis. 9/10 Bethany Cox.

19 of 27 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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