"Inspector Morse" The Wench Is Dead (TV Episode 1998) Poster

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Even without Lewis, it is a very solid episode!
TheLittleSongbird7 July 2009
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.
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Solid episode
andy-78227 October 2012
This is a good, solid storyline. Morse is in hospital, reviewing a historical case while convalescing. In that respect it is very like the book Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey where her inspector (Inspector Grant) while in hospital, after falling through a roof, reviews the princes in the Tower deaths, allegedly killed on the orders of Richard III. Obviously this case is different, being one from 150 years earlier and from Morse's Oxford but the similarities are great. The story is told as Morse in hospital and flashbacks to the original trial. Wonderful story all the same and some excellent performances especially from the supporting cast who often get overlooked by critics praising the leading actors.
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Morse Solves 150-Year-Old Murder.
Robert J. Maxwell7 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
In a more than usually entertaining tale, Morse collapses at a reception after being introduced to Lisa Eichorn, a visiting scholar from American. In the hospital they discover he suffers from a peptic ulcer brought on by too much drink. I didn't care for that etiology. His drinking hardly exceeds my own, but let it go.

At any rate, Eichorn is an historian who has written a book on "The Canal Murder" of 1859, in which a woman was apparently raped, then thrown overboard and drowned in one of the many canals that served as transportation routes during the Victorian era. She visits Morse in the hospital and brings him a copy. When he reads it, he develops his own model of the crime and it contradicts hers. On his release he sets about trying to discover what actually happened. All the evidence supports his interpretation but the past is a blank wall and Morse is stymied.

There are multiple flashbacks to the Dickensian circumstances surrounding travel by barge, the cheapest way to go. The scenes must have added to the budget but it's hard to see how the episode could have been filmed without them. What a life they led. The often-referred-to "mist" was actually industrial smoke. The work week was seven days long, which prevented workers from attending church, which further devalued their status. A boy born in Coventry could expect to live less than 60 years. Some of this information more or less seeps out around the edges of the canal scenes but this isn't about the mudlarks of "Our Mutual Friend". Anyone interested in true crimes of this period should probably check out the superior "The Life And Crimes Of William Palmer," available on DVD.

Sergeant Lewis is away taking a course in Inspectorhood or something and his replacement, Kershaw, is something of a cutie pie. He's a graduate of Oxford and, like Morse, isn't afraid to show off. There's a nifty scene when he and Morse's girl friend, Judy Loe, are wheeling Morse out of the hospital. Morse comes up with a lengthy quote about how necessary it is for some people to learn social skills in the hospital. He asks Loe if she knows the quote. "I have no idea." Morse smiles with satisfaction. But then Kershaw announces that the quote is from Elizabeth Barret Browning and Morse's features assume their usual expressionless contours. Kershaw is okay but I do hope they bring Lewis back. Lewis has a neater face, and his defiant innocence is appealing. We have enough wise guys walking around.

Another grace note. Eichorn is bidding Morse good-bye at the railway station as Loe is approaching. Eichorn gives Morse a little smack on the cheek and steps aboard the train. Morse and Loe watch the cars depart and Morse, a little self conscious, mutters, "She's leaving, um, for America." "Good," says Loe with a sweet smile.

I'm beginning to like Morse's old Jaguar, a muted scarlet with a black top.
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