Inspector Lewis: Dark Matter on Masterpiece Mystery PBS – A Recap & Review

Image from Inspector Lewis: Dark Matter © 2010 MASTERPIECE

Stars, planets and murder are investigated in Dark Matter, a new Inspector Lewis episode on Masterpiece Mystery tonight. This is the third installment of Series III and much lighter in tone than last week’s The Dead of Winter.

When a body is found at the university observatory, DI Robbie Lewis (Kevin Whatley) and DS James Hathaway’s (Laurence Fox) inquiry has the prime suspects all pointing the finger at each other. Could it be the revengeful wife, the astrophysics professor with a past, or a doctor supposedly having an affair with the victim? Robert Hardy (Sir John Middleton in Sense and Sensibility) and Sophie Ward guest star in this new episode where the mysterious elements of the dark matter of the universe have also permeated into a group of academics, staff and students. Here is the PBS synopisis:

Oxford professor and amateur stargazer Andrew Crompton emerges from a church confessional, cryptically exclaiming that on Friday at 3:15, he’ll have an “excess of joy.” Later, Crompton is found dead at the foot of the stairs in the Oxford observatory. The investigation draws Detective Inspector Lewis (Kevin Whately) and Detective Sergeant Hathaway (Laurence Fox) into the ethereal writings of a 17th-century astronomer and a modern-day circle of scientists and musicians, and their unexpected connections to the deceased. The cosmos aside, there’s a dark deception at the center of the case, one that Lewis and Hathaway won’t be able to fully comprehend until Friday at 3:15.

A small notebook filled with scientific notes found at the scene of the crime is the only lead that Lewis and Hathaway have to uncover the mysterious death of part-time astronomer Andrew Compton (Christopher Bowen). He was found at the bottom of the stairs, but did he fall or was he pushed? This wife Isobel Crompton (Sophie Ward) is the first to be interviewed, but she knows of no one that would want to harm him, nor does she recognize the writing in the notebook. She directs them to Lady Gwen Raeburn (Diana Quick – Clarissa 1991) a personal friend and senior lecturer in astrophysics who immediately recognizes the handwriting of her student Jez Haydock (Andrew Hawyley – Wuthering Heights 2009). Professor Raeburn coolly offers to return the notebook, but it is evidence in the case. Lewis soon discovers that among the astronomy notes is a bit of prose. “A splendid sight again shall greet our distant children’s eyes.” Is this a clue to why Lady Raeburn wanted the notebook back? Or was there something else inside that would incriminate either her, or her student?

A break in the case has a Catholic priest father Francis (Jonathan Cullen) coming forth as a witness. Andrew Crompton had been at his church for confession two hours before he died. Unfortunately, he is “not at liberty to reveal what the penitent may confess” under the sanctity of the confessional. Since Hathaway was studying for the priesthood before he became a detective he understands the rules, but fears his inspector will not. Through clever questioning Hathaway does discover that he spoke outside the confessional when Father Francis reveals that on Crompton’s hasty departure he exclaimed “On Friday at 3:15 I will have an excess of joy.” More enigmatic riddles for Lewis and Hathaway to sort out.

Meanwhile an orchestra of students, faculty and local musicians conducted by Gwen Raeburn’s husband composer Sir Arnold Raeburn (Robert Hardy) has invited his former protégée Malcolm Finniston (Anthony Calf, Colonel Fitzwilliam – Pride and Prejudice 1995) to guest conduct Gutav Holts The Planets for an upcoming gala charity concert. Among the members is police pathologist Dr. Laura Hobson (Clare Holman) on clarinet and Jez Haydock’s girlfriend Kate Cameron (Ruby Thomas) on bassoon. Rehearsals are going well until the news of Crompton’s death deeply affects the cellist Lady Raeburn. Lewis and Hathaway suspect that her tears are for more than a friend and asks Laura to spy on her and other orchestra members. Hobson fires back with one of the funniest lines in the show. “What do you take me for? Undercover clarinet?” Laura does notice some friction between Malcolm, Gwen and her husband and manages to copy a text off of his cellphone “Revenge is sweet.” Is there some history there that may reveal the motive for murder?

Head porters have a nose for unfortunate secrets” Hathaway tells his boss and Chief Superintendent Innocent (Rebecca Front) when they discuss Roger Temple (Warren Clarke – Bleak House 2005) the head porter of Gresham College. A fount of information on everyone who walks through his gate, he freely offers information on all the suspects in the murder investigation. He and his wife Babs (Annabelle Apsionhave) have worked as staff for the college for years, and his “dear old dad” Ted Temple (Bernard Lloyd) now stricken with Alzheimer’s was head porter before him. Roger thinks his father’s doctor Ella Ransome (Deborah Cornelius) was having an affair with Andrew Crompton. Forgetful Ted who no one takes seriously thinks his son’s wife Babs was the one having an affair with Crompton. It will take the brutal murder in broad daylight of one of the principal suspects to shake the community and change the course of the investigation before Lewis and Hathaway can reveal blackmail and adultery behind the dark matter.

Screenwriter Stephen Chruchett, who also wrote the last Inspector Morse episode Remorseful Day in 2000, had me guessing to the very last. Bravo! What a challenging script. It seemed like every character was either related by blood or lust. It took a second viewing before I could absorb all the subtle hints and clues that made this mystery so satisfying. The multi-layered connections and stargazing theme were fascinating. Sadly, even after Googling dark matter I don’t know what it is. I think that is the point. No one does. It’s just some mysteries nonentity that is only a theory. Its importance in relation to the plot? Maybe the screenwriter only knows, cuz I sure didn’t get it!

The casting was excellent. I have enjoyed Sophie Ward (Isabel Crompton) since my introduction to her in Young Sherlock Holmes in 1985. As she has matured she looks so much like her father actor Simon Ward. Robert Hardy (Sir Arnold Raeburn) is just a national treasure. He can do no wrong by me. One of the pleasures of watching British productions is the face hunt of familiar characters. Warren Clarke (Roger Temple) had me totally stumped. Had to know, so I IMDb’d him. Ha! He was Corporal “Sophie” Dixon in Jewel in the Crown 1984. Hard to forget his attempted seduction of Sergeant Guy Perron (Charles Dance). Did anyone else catch the resemblance of Andrew Hawyley (Jez Haydock) to a young Paul McCartney? They even gave him a Beatle haircut and a Liverpoolean accent! Even though the script was packed with characters heavy on backstory, director Billie Eltingham’s kept the pace rolling, occasionally allowing us to breath with a few comical moments. I especially appreciated Lewis and Hathaway’s banter as they arrive for the concert.

JH: Who’s your date for tonight sir?

RL: My date? Chief Super. You?

JH: No takers.

RL: We know how to live, don’t we?

Next week is Your Sudden Death Question guest staring Edmund Bertram (Nicholas Farrell) and Laurence Fox’s baby brother Jack, the newest Fox family dynasty member to grace the screen! Watch Dark Matter online on the new Masterpiece PBS web site until October 12th, 2010.

Image courtesy © 2010 MASTERPIECE

47 thoughts on “Inspector Lewis: Dark Matter on Masterpiece Mystery PBS – A Recap & Review

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  1. This septuagenarian does not suffer with “dear old dad’s” dementia but desperately appreciates your ‘Cliffe notes”

    Loved the cream on the nose as well.

    Who was the clarinetist unknown to Hathaway?

    Austenprose is on my Google RSS. FYI, I am the 168th current member thereon.


    1. Hi Pietr, thanks for visiting today. Not sure who you are referring to? “Who was the clarinetist unknown to Hathaway?” Dr. Laura Hobson was the clarinetist in the orchestra, but he knows her. They work together.

      Thanks for including my blog on your RSS feed. Nice to have a fan.

      Cheers, Laurel Ann


  2. The clarinetist Pietr asks about was Acker Bilk, who had quite a career in the UK and, in the early 1960s, even a hit record in the US (Stranger on the Shore). He played popular rather than classical music, and the idea here was to contrast Hathaway’s high-culture with Lewis’ low, something I think this series is on the edge of overdoing…

    Laurel Ann is quite right about so-called ‘dark matter,’ which, like ‘dark energy,’ is a fiddle the boffins have come up with to make their equations jive with what they see through their telescopes…


  3. Edward,

    Thank you so very much! Of course I have heard Acker’s Stranger on the Shore but had never heard of him. Hathaway and I both have until now missed a great artist who took the clarinet beyond Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman.

    Morse would have known and I am sure drank many a Scotch listening to him. Of course he was alone and depressed. Perhaps he introduced the young Lewis to him.

    For years Morse and Lewis had a cultural split and now it is echoed with Hathaway. I do not feel it is overdone but essential. The dichotomy exists between the town and gown. How can it be otherwise in Oxford. Without it Liverpool could be the site.

    Of course Lewis loves both Morse and Hathaway.


  4. Finally got to watch this episode online, but couldn’t tell why Hathaway in particular was so upset at the end. Seems like something got clipped. Both Lewis and Hathaway were running forward, then a cut to outside…then Hathaway all upset.???



      Hathaway interceded in Babs killing herself with the rifle. She did injure herself, but Dr. Hobson mentions that she will live. We do not know the extent of her injuries, but they must have been pretty severe for Hathaway to be so upset. He seems to be in shock. That’s my best guess.


      1. SPOILERS

        Laurel Ann, I agree with what you say. I just wonder why Hathaway is so much more upset than Lewis who also intercedes when Babs raises the gun. Maybe Hathaway is the more sensitive of the two. I know I would have traumatized…but again, Lewis seems so calm.


        1. SPOILERS

          It occurred to me this morning that if Babs succeeded in shooting herself, there should have been blood splattered on Lewis and Hathaway, but there wasn’t. I hope the CDs will have the full, un-cut episodes. Maybe there’s a scene we missed.


          1. Very good point about the blood spatter. Missy, I have seen the full cut UK edition and I don’t think there was anything cut from this scene for the PBS version. It is just very quickly edited and if anyone had blood on their clothes it would have been Hathaway since we hear him yell NO and assume he rushes toward her, and later Lewis confirms that he saved her. No blood on either of their clothes in the final scene in the street. This might have been an oversight and would have tied up the questions more neatly.


        2. “I just wonder why Hathaway is so much more upset …”

          The very first scene in this episode is of Hathaway giving testimony in court about his discovery of the body of a young murdered girl. We’re led to understand he’s been shaken to the core by this gruesome discovery, as even the most experienced and hardened “coppers” can be when confronted with the very worst of human nature. Now he’s been close to death again, and although this time he saved a life, it has reopened that previous wound.


  5. This episode was filled to the brim with excellent moments both comedic and dramatic. Many viewings will be necessary to take them all in.

    (For the record, my favourite moment was Lewis telling his partner: “You’re not so green as you’re cabbage-looking!” and Hathaway’s bemused “What?”)

    Poor Hathaway’s soul seems in turmoil lately, and I hope the writers will be kind enough to give him some kind of peace.


    1. Thanks for confirming the cabbage-looking line. I missed that. I couldn’t understand Whatley’s accent and hadn’t had a chance to turn on the hearing impaired subtitles. Don’t think the writers will give Hathaway peace or a girlfriend. That would make him so much less interesting.

      I loved the scene when Lewis and Hathaway ask Dr. Hobson to spy on the orchestra members. Hathaway places his arm high on the door frame and it looks so thuggish, like they were putting the squeeze on her so-to-speak! Of course she is their co-worker and he is just pushing her buttons in a friendly way. Nice touch.


  6. Is the death penalty still practiced in Britain? What will happen to Mrs. Temple? Will she be sentenced to life in
    prison? What will happen to Mr. Temple? He is afterall, a blackmailer.



  7. I absolutely loved this episode, thanks for your great & thoughtful review! Some thoughts of mine will be up later today…this series just gets better & better with each installment!


  8. I thought that the character and plot development in ‘Dark Matter’ was as good as ‘Dead of Winter’, but the conclusion of ‘Dark Matter’ is much cleaner. One interesting theme that has arisen in both is the role of religion, particularly Roman Catholicism. In both episodes, the priests are portrayed as reasonably decent, but Church members are depicted as fallen, hypocritical, etc.


    1. The Roman Catholicism theme has runs through the entire series, especially since Hathaway was studying to be a priest and left. It seems that every church we are shown and every reference is to Catholicisms and not the Anglican faith, Church of England, which is the national religion. Really interesting choice by the producers. It pulls in the long standing religious debate throughout English history over the corruption of Rome. Since murder mysteries are often steeped in the struggle of personal corruption and temptation, it seems quite fitting that it should be a strong theme in this series.


  9. If anyone is curious about the last lines when Lewis and Hathaway are walking down the street and talking about music…Lewis is referring to famous Wagner conductor Hans Knappertsbusch. Hathaway says “Bless you.” He is making a joke of his name sounding like a sneeze! Lewis’ reference to Wagner is a gentle nod to his former boss Morse’s passion for Wagner.


  10. I think there are a couple of reasons for Hathaway’s reaction. Remember his comment in ‘The Great and the Good’ “We Catholics tend to be fairly medieval toward self-slaughter” And he would have had to come fairly close to getting shot himself. Also one of the sub-texts of the story was the sanctity of life; take Jess’s reaction to Kate’s abortion add that to Hathaway’s pained comment in ‘The Great and the Good’. “If I’ve been responsible for a man’s death”. To which Lewis replies “You need to grow a thicker skin”
    I love the way the various writers in this series seem to be able to build on personality traits scattered throughout other episodes.
    And I love this site.


    1. Interesting connection to Hathway’s previous comment. I remember the scene because it gave us the first real clue that he was Catholic. He knew he was training to be a priest, but priest does not necessarily mean Catholic. I missed that Paulette. Thanks for your complement on my blog.


    1. There is very little blood on victims or crime scenes in this series. It’s like they decided not to go the gory route. It’s kind of a paradox in a murder mystery show!


    1. I have read that it is a British make, a Vauxhall Vectra. They are commonly used for police cars in the UK. Quite an attractive car for a government issue vehicle. Here’s a link to a picture.×600/wallpaper_05.htm
      This information is from the PBS Lewis discussion board.

      Honestly, I am not that knowledgeable on UK cars. Hope this is helpful.


  11. Laurel Ann,
    Thank you very much for your wonderful reviews and recaps of Inspector Lewis. I found them a very interesting read even though I’d never seen any of the series…until now. “Dark Matter” with its combination of a intrigue-sounding murder and Holst’s “The Planets” (one of my favorite compositions of classical music) finally lured me into checking out the Inspector, and I was not disappointed. A very good episode which kept me guessing until the end, with a wonderful cast — loved Robert “Sir John” Hardy and Sophie Ward. And I heart the duo Lewis and Hathaway make. Now I must make time to watch the previous episodes. Thank you, Laurel, for introducing me to a new mystery series. :)

    Rosa C.


  12. We got back from vacation only to learn that our VCR tape ran out during the last 10 minutes of this episode. Could someone let me know the who and why at the end, please?


  13. OK then, here is the requested warning:


    The killer turns out to be the wife of the college’s head porter. She’d been carrying on an affair with Compton, the astronomer and Master of Greshman College, for many years. She didn’t mean to push him to his fatal fall, but did certainly intend to shoot the woman doctor she feared would reveal the affair. No one noticed because she then hid the rifle (taken from the college’s shooting club) in her cart of brooms, mops, and the like, and so became invisible to all these fine folk who never notice the ‘menials’ going about their appointed rounds. When Lewis and Hathaway put it all together, they track her down to the basement room of the shooting club, where she holds them off at rifle-point while admitting all. Then she goes to shoot herself, but Hathaway (off-camera) manages to deflect the shot; in the next scene we overhear that “she’ll survive”. The head porter, who didn’t know about the affair, is revealed as a blackmailer of two college tutors who had an affair under the nose if the woman’s husband, and so will likely be going to prison as well as his wife.



  14. To Laurel Ann – You talk about the corruption of Rome and the corruption of the Catholic Church. What about the corruption within the Church of England? Didn’t Henry VIII part from Rome to get divorced? To kill his wifes? Don’t make the Catholic Church the only religion with sinners…PLEASE!!!!


    1. Oh Paulette, I know. I would love to have written about the new season. I still adore this series. I have a book launching next month and my time is so limited that I could not write about Hathaway & Lewis this year.

      If you sincerely need your discussion fix, and who doesn’t, I know that Ruth at Book Talk & More loves the series and has written about the episodes this year. She is an Inspector Lewis aficionado, and will be glad of your company!

      Gosh how I love this series.

      Cheers, LA


  15. My husband and I were both Morse fans so we picked up the first three seasons of Inspector Lewis (all we could get) and love this show. We always liked Lewis, but we think the character of Hathaway is very entertaining and adds so much to the show. I hate to say it (or even think it), but we both prefer this series over Morse (but only a little because we adored John Thaw).


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