The Last Bus to Woodstock. An Overview: Music, Art, Literary References, Locations etc.


Above is the original cover of the 1975 edition.

First transmitted in the UK on 22nd March 1988.

This episode is based on the very first Inspector Morse book published in 1975.

Colin Dexter can be found at 56m.40s sitting in the audience listening to the talk on the Earl of Rochester.


Directed by Peter Duffell. (His only Morse episode)

Written by Michael Wilcox (His only Morse episode).

Sadly, this was the last episode which featured Peter Woodthorpe as Max

Jag Rating (out of ten)


Eighteen year old Sylvia Kane is found dead in a pub car park by the boy she was meeting that night. She has not only been run over by a car but it also looks like she had been assaulted. As Max the pathologist remarks to Morse, “It’s a puzzle”.

She had been seen earlier in the rain soaked night in the company of someone else, gender unknown. Sylvia is offered a lift by a passing car but her companion decides to wait for the bus.

In Sylvia’s bag Morse finds an envelope addressed to a Miss Jennifer Coleby of Aldgate Assurance Company. The envelope contains only a letter which in itself has been devised by the writer as a puzzle.

Morse and Lewis are soon wrapped up in a story of sex, intrigue and possibly blackmail.


This is a great episode that is well acted, written and directed. The direction is simple and straightforward and is all the better for it. It’s surprising that this is the only episode that Peter Duffell directed. The wonderful Christopher Lee said of Peter Duffell, “Duffell (is) Britain’s most under-rated director”.

Not only do we get to see Morse smiling but in my opinion he says one of the best lines of all the Morse episodes, “Coded messages. Murder. Right up my street. Not a bad way to start the day.”

The episode’s main theme is sex in some of its many guises. There is infidelity, sexual assault, seduction, attempted seduction, promiscuity and flirtation. Morse talks of sex and asks, “Is sex more trouble than its worth? I keep wanting to find the answer.” It is no surprise that the works of the Earl of Rochester are mentioned during the episode. He lived a debauched lifestyle which consisted of sex and drink and ended in his death at only 33 from a venereal disease. Even Lewis is giving sex a bad name by relating to Morse how he feels about being “the public executioner in my house” as his wife will have warned his progeny, the result of sex, that their father will punish them for their bad behaviour. Sylvia Kane was the result of “Five minutes in a layby”.

There is very little in the way of love in this episode. The only real love that surfaces is Morse’s and Angie Hartman’s love of English Literature. Morse and Angie discuss lust and love. Angie relates that she believes that the difference is that lust kills. However, Morse replies that “love might kill. Maybe love is more dangerous.” Personally, I’m with Morse on that one.

It may be no co-incidence that Morse doesn’t lust after any of the female characters in this episode. The episode is possibly alluding to Morse’s apparent abstinence, forced or otherwise, from the world of sexual encounters. Is the episode writer trying to say that abstinence or celibacy is the safer lifestyle? The safer option? It’s not only Morse who is living the life of celibacy, but also Angie Hartmann. Is it a co-incidence that they are the two characters who find a connection through English Literature?

Like so many Morse episodes it works on different levels and that is why so many people enjoy the series.

For many British fans it is a matter of spot the Soap actor. There is Perry Fenwick who plays Jimmy in this episode. he has been a stalwart of Eastenders for many years playing the character of Billy Mitchell. Then there is Shirley Stelfox as Mrs Kane who has appeared in Emmerdale for many a year as Edna Birch. Then we have Ian Bleasdale who plays the time and motion expert in a hospital and ironically had a part in the long running Casualty as Josh Griffiths. Amanda Wenban who plays the typist at Aldgate Assurance Company where Sylvia Kane worked had a part in Emmerdale sometime ago.

One of my favourite characters from the episode is Ms Jarman played by the wonderful Fabia Drake. She has a great scene with Morse and Lewis.

Ms Jarman played a traveler three years earlier in the superb film Room With a View. There she played Miss Catherine Alan who travels around the world with her sister, Miss Theresa Alan played by Joan Henley.


Fabia Drake is in the foreground.

So, this is the last episode of the second series and in my opinion the strongest of all four episodes. The next episode and the first from series three is ‘Ghost in the Machine’ a tale that is reminiscent of Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence. I’m looking forward to watching that episode again.


Not very much music in this episode. Only two pieces of classical and one guitar piece.


Morse and Lewis are on their way to the offices of St. Aldgates Assurance Company. The music playing in the car is part of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart‘s (1756-1791) opera ‘Cosi Fan Tutte’. The section we hear being played in the car is the overture.


The second and last piece of classical music heard in the episode is played during Max’s visit to the Crowther’s house. The music is again by Mozart and is Piano Sonata in C (K545). (The Köchel-Verzeichnis or Köchelverzeichnis is an inclusive, chronological catalogue of compositions by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, which was originally created by Ludwig von Köchel. It is abbreviated K. or KV).


While John Sanders is getting ready to go out and play snooker there is a slide guitar piece playing. Unfortunately I can’t identify it but I believe it is probably a piece written by Barrington Pheloung.

If you enjoy all the music from the Morse series I have collected all the pieces I have identified thus far and have created playlists on YouTube. On how to access these playlists please read the relevant post by clicking here.



Our first piece of art is in the Crowther’s dining room.


The above is a pastiche of a work by the English painter John William Godward, (1861-1922). The original by Godward is called ‘In the Prime of Summertime‘.



The next paintings are on the living room wall in Jennifer Colby’s house.


The painting on the left is ‘The Playground‘, by English painter Laurence Stephen Lowry (1887-1976).


The painting on the right is ‘Late white tulip, Golden garlic, Mountain garlic‘ by the German apothecary and botanist Basilius Besler, (1561–1629).



On the kitchen wall of Jennifer Colby’s house we have another L.S. Lowry.


This one is titled ‘Old Church and Steps’.



The next painting, or to be more accurate, line drawing is on Morse’s living room wall.


The one i’m referring to is on the right. It is a line drawing by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) titled ‘Picasso in Antibes’.


Would never have thought of Morse as a admirer of Picasso. As for the print of pyramids on the left, I have no idea.


Our last painting is on Jennifer Colby’s wall.


This is Pierre-Auguste Renoir‘s (1841-1919) ‘The Umbrellas’.


Literary References


The following quote is said by Peter Newlove in the pub.


“The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees Is left this vault to brag of.” Macbeth – Shakespeare.


Dr. Crowther talking to Max and quoting the following;


“After Death nothing is, and nothing, death, The utmost limit of a gasp of breath.” Seneca (Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist)


We are in Jennifer Colby’s house and Morse is talking to Angie Hartman;


“A gentle Knight was pricking on the plain.” – Edmund Spenser, From ‘The Faerie Queene’, 1590. For the full verse click here.


Morse to Lewis in the pub.


“As Trees are by their Bark embrac’d, Love to my Soul doth cling”. A Pastoral dialogue between Alexis and Strephon by John Wilmot the Earl of Rochester. The full verse can be found by clicking here.


Morse talking to Lewis in the hospital.


“All this to love and rapture’s due; Must we not pay a debt to pleasure too?” The Imperfect Enjoyment by the Earl of Rochester. The full verse by be found by clicking here.



Diana Payan as Vikki Phillips – Born in 1943 in South Africa


Ian Sears as John Sanders – Couldn’t find any biographical details.


Jill Baker as Jennifer Coleby. – Born 1952 –


Terrence Hardiman as Clive Palmer – Born April 6th 1937 –


Amanda Wenban as Typist Born. – May 24, 1955 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.


Jo Unwin as Receptionist.


Anthony Bate as Bernard Crowther – Born August 31, 1927 – Died June 19, 2012


Shirley Dixon as Margaret Crowther. – Born – No info found.


Peter Woodthorpe as Max. – Born September 25, 1931 – Died August 12, 2004


Fabia Drake as Mrs Jarman – Born January 20, 1904 – Died February 28, 1990


Ken Law as Shop Assistant in sports store. – No info found.


Holly Aird as Angie Hartman. – Born May 18, 1969 (age 45)


Perry Fenwick as Jimmy – Born  May 29, 1962 (age 52)


Shirley Stelfox as Mrs Kane – Born April 11, 1941 –  Died: December 7, 2015.


Vass Anderson as Mr Bentley – Born – No info


Paul Geoffrey as Peter Newlove – Born 1956


Ian Bleasdale as Time and Motion Expert – Born 1952


Kate Percival as Lab Assistant – Born – No info


P.J. Davidson as the Gamekeeper – No info


Ingrid Lacey as Mary Widdowson – Born November 6, 1958 (age 55)


Jenny Jay as Sylvia Kane – No info.

 PUB Locations

The Fox and Castle pub where Sylvia Kane is killed is actually in Windsor, Berkshire.


The Fox and Castle – Address: 21 Burfield Rd, Old Windsor, Windsor, Berks SL4 2RB

TIME – 54m 57s

PUB – Thanks to Neil McLean for identifying this pub. It is the The Crown at Bray, High St, Bray, Maidenhead SL6 2AH





The ironmongers featured in the episode is Gill & Co and unfortunately closed down in 2010. It claimed to be the oldest ironmongery in Britain, some 480 years old. It featured not only in this episode but also in the episode, ‘The Dead of the Jericho’. In that episode Lewis visits the ironmongers to ask about the keys that were made for Anne Stavely’s house.


 It was located on the High Street off Wheatsheaf Passage.





Author: Chris Sullivan

After having looked after my mum for some 11 years she is now unfortunately in a nursing home. I'm afraid her dementia worsened as did her physical capabilities. So, for the first time in 21 years I find myself no longer caring for anyone. Apart from my mum I was also a single parent to two children and also looked after my dad who had Alzheimers, (he died in 2005). So, I have decided to return to University to try and get another degree this time in English Literature. (My other degree I got some 30 years ago is one in Ecological Science). After a year at college I have passed all grades and now will start Edinburgh University in September 2019. A busy time ahead made even busier by my writing a book on the TV series, Lewis.

35 thoughts

  1. Wouldn’t you think someone in the world would have taken over Gill & Co?? I loved Fabia’s appearance. Just the kind of old lady I want to be – interested in the world and self-sufficient. She was great in Room with a View which I watched not too long ago. One of the actors in it was a very young Rupert Graves. This was a wonderful blog entry, and I so enjoyed it. I just finished watching Last Bus for (I think) the third time. I am happily old enough to have seen Morse when it was first on PBS (in the US) all those years ago. Then I watched all the shows on Netflix streaming, and then bought the DVDs and am going through them. As always, thank you for your good, good work.

    1. Hi Nan.Yes, it’s always a shame when a small business that has been around for so long goes out of business. ‘Room With a View’ is not only one of my favourite films but favourite novels. As always than you for your very kind comment Nan.

  2. > Like so many Morse episodes it works on different levels and that is why so many people enjoy the series.

    Indeed. It’s my favorite episode (so far) for that reason. I had to watch it three or four times to catch everything. In this case, there is the whodunit aspect (I liked that the final clue was a subtle detail on an X-ray), the different characters’ takes on love and lust, and the brilliant interweaving of the plot with the poetry. Even the title is a wonderful allusion to the Earl of Rochester, drawing the parallel between him and Crowther. I wondered why the letter was signed “E” but then saw that Rochester was often referred to as “E of R.”

    The series has the side benefit of getting me to read poetry that I was not familiar with.

    I ordered the book to see if there are more interesting details.

  3. I somehow couldn’t accept that a simple photograph would be next to that amazing line drawing. As you yourself have said, “That just doesn’t seem like Morse to me.” Thank you so much for this blog!
    If I’m not mistaken, that is a drawing of the pyramids by David Roberts from Napoleon‘s expedition to Egypt in 1798 to 1801.
    More info here:

  4. Much appreciate this review and you work and what I write here is just for interest. It was a good episode and Colin Dexter who wrote the book from which it is adapted must have been happy with the script as he appears in a cameo role but having read the actual book which Colin Dexter wrote I think this episode good as it is is a travesty. The original bpok and plot are so much better and the TV production is not a patch on the original plot.

    The book is a real thriller and it is a murder not an accident. The book, the first in the series indicates that Morse love women and is in search of love. It has one or two very touching scenes that explain why in future episodes Morse cannot trust his choice when it come to women. Once bitten.

    The book is entirely different from the the video from the first scene. In the original the time was about 7 pm and when the two girls hitch a lift to Woodstock both girls get in the car, not one. The lady bystander gets in the bus alone. Later the witness does not come foreward with the car having a braoken rear light.

    And so the differences go on and on. Margaret Crowther lives on in the video because of her husband’s career commits suicide in the book, no destroying the car and tyres rolled down hill which is ridiculous and the end is very different for Morse does catch the murderer to his dismay.

    Why to TV producers feel they have to change the plot? They all do all the time and it is infuriating and when one finds out as I did, I feel I have been cheated. Many viewers never find out. I think in this episode the script writers lost the plot. The end is lame and disappointing. I suppose the TV producers think you will never find out but we do eventually.

    The audiobook is up on YouTube read by Colin Whately who knew both versions. I wonder if the original surprised him. Compared to the book I rate this -1 Jag!

  5. Firstly, thanks for this wonderful site. There’s a part in Last Bus to Woodstock that I’ve never understood. Sylvia has some money for Sue Widdowson from Crowther in an envelope addressed to Colby. Are we to assume that he gives the money to Sylvia when he’s picked her up that night? How did he know she’d be at the bus stop? He just happened to have it in the envelope?

    1. Hi Alison, and welcome to my website. Sylvia took the envelope while at work knowing or assuming it was money in the envelope. It was pure coincidence that Crowther was passing that bus stop at that particular time.

  6. Chris – I too would like to start by acknowledging all the work you’ve done on this site. Brilliant! I look forward to exploring it further and, as my wife and I work our way through the Morse catalog (for me, it’s the 2nd time), it will be fun to follow each episode with a check-in here. The fact that you are still actively maintaining the site, viewers and you are still commenting, increases the value immensely.

    We stumbled in tonight because much like @Alison Pidgeon we were confused by the ending – way too many questions left un-answered. And the double coincidences at the bus stop seemed a just way too convenient means to get out of the episode. So as a whodunnit – completely unsatisfying. Seeing this was the first Colin Dexter book in the series made me want to find a copy and see if the original was clearer about what happened. The comment of @Janette Miller above suggests such a reading is a double-edged sword.

    On the other hand, there is much to be said for this episode. Above all else, the scene with Fabia Drake is simply delicious. We re-wound that 3 times to enjoy the way she plays with those words, the ease at which she inhabits that character right down to the little “throw away phrases” that make this person so real. The expression on Morse’s face is one not often seen in the series – his eyes are sparkling and he looks ready to break into a huge smile – seemingly enjoying Ms Drake’s performance as much as us.

    The other part we enjoyed is the play between all the sexual themes, which you have broken down nicely. After the first season this was more the Morse I remember.

    And finally, we will now be on the lookout for the author’s cameo in each episode! Where’s Alfred Hitchcock? hah.

    Thanks again! We are glad we found you.

    1. Hi Zander and welcome to my website. Thank you for your kind words. It’s always a joy to know people are enjoying my website. Fabia Drake is wonderful. I hope you find many other posts of interest.

    1. Hi Nora and welcome to my blog. Crowther addressed the money to Jennifer because Mary Widdowson, his mistress, refused to take the money on a previous occasion.

  7. Angie Hartman enters Worcester College and is then seen in the front Quad. It’s in the library of this college that Colin Dexter get his first speaking park in ‘Deadly Slumber’….. “Mr Brewster”. At least two of my Inspector Morse books give the location at Christ Church College Library!

  8. Another good episode (slightly) spoiled by a poor perfomance from the young suspect. In this case, it’s Ian Sears as John Sanders. The other example is Spencer Leigh as Ned in The Dead of Jericho. The producers seemed to have problems getting good young male actors for those kind of parts

  9. Hi Chris, I have a question about this episode. It is one of my favorites. I just rewatched it and I am still not sure who made the sexual advances between Sylvia and Bernard Crowther in the car at the parking lot. I tend to think he did but then Sylvia had a rather promiscuous reputation. But then why did he pick her up to begin with? And he does talk about lust in his lecture. He does tell a different story to his wife but he would, wouldn’t he. What is your opinion?

    1. According to Crowther testimony, Sylvia initiated and got angry when he couldn’t or wouldn’t respond. Totally lame.

  10. I also love Morse’s line, “that cunning old buzzard” about Mrs. Jarman when he knows she gave the description of the car. He so has a way with words! 🙂

  11. Regarding EmilyM’s comment above, which says, “Good question”, I assume you are referring to Kathleen’s question. Funnily enough, Kathleen posted the same question on another page of this website, which is where, I attempted to answer it. This other page, was Chris’s series of Endeavour connections, particularly in relation to, the Endeavour pilot episode. Here is the link to that:

    Alternatively, I could just copy and paste my answer from that page, onto this one, and here it is:

    In attempting to answer the most recent comment posted above by Kathleen, Sylvia Kaye and her unknown friend were attempting to catch a bus. However, Sylvia became impatient due to the lateness of the bus, she therefore decided to hitchhike a lift from a passing car, and she also persuaded her reluctant friend to come with her. Lo and behold, but who should come passing, driving his wife’s car, if memory serves me right, but Bernard Crowther. He offers a lift to the hitchhiker Sylvia, who happily accepts this invitation, but her friend, recognizing the vehicle, declines, and hurries back to catch the bus. I do not believe that Crowther even noticed the second lady. The key to the mystery of the episode resolves of course, around finding out who was Sylvia’s friend? As we know, it turns out to be the nurse, Mary Widdowson, and she was having an affair with the aforementioned married Professor Bernard Crowther.

    In the novel of the same name as this episode, Sylvia is described as a promiscuous young woman, so I am pretty sure she was the one making the sexual advances, and unfortunately for Crowther, he gave in to temptation, the feeling of lust you could say, while stationed in the car park of the pub with Sylvia. As DS Lewis would put it, they had some form of “rumpy pumpy”, before Bernard realized he was getting out of his depth, with a much younger woman he hardly knew, and he brought their sexual shenanigans to a close. They have some sort of tiff or physical argument, where they perhaps exchanged blows, which led to Sylvia angrily leaving the car, sporting some injuries, including scratch marks. I’m sure Kathleen, you know what happened next, that then led to the death of Sylvia Kaye. All I will say is, that the combination of a jealous Mary Widdowson and Bernard Crowther rapidly reversing his car to try to get out of the car park as quickly as he could, caused the untimely demise of Sylvia.

  12. I watched this again last night. It’s always been one of my favourite episodes. I noticed a couple of things. First, in the Fox and Hounds at the beginning, Newlove orders two drinks. When Morse is addressing the pub, he can be seen with a young girl, who I’m guessing is another of his students he is pursuing. Also, when Max visits the Crowthers, Bernard does indeed quote Seneca, but it is Rochester’s translation of him, another nice tie in.

  13. I first saw this episode, before I had read the novel it was based on. My thoughts were, it is a very decent and satisfying episode. I then read the book for the first time last year, and realised that the episode could have been ever better, if it had been a slightly more accurate portrayal of the novel.

    I understand, it is never easy for a novel to be transformed into a television drama, cuts have to be made, the plot or story has to be simplified, and so on. However, I would have liked, two central parts of the novel, to have been maintained.

    Sylvia Kaye in the novel, was murdered by an individual, through the use of a tyre spanner. In the episode, Sylvia’s death is very much an accident, a combination of a fight, leaving Sylvia on the concrete ground of a car park, and then a car accidentally reversing over her. Therefore firstly, this brutal murder should have been depicted in the episode. It made the novel all the more gripping, as by all accounts, a dangerous killer was on the loose.

    Secondly, Morse has a relationship with the nurse, Sue Widdowson in the novel, who becomes Mary Widdowson in the episode. However, Morse does not have any sort of affair with Mary, in the episode. This relationship Morse had, was a key part of the book, making it an engrossing read, particularly when the reader discovers the full implications, of who was behind the murder. It was thus disappointing, that this was not illustrated in any way, during the episode.

    To conclude my thoughts, I still believe, “Last Bus to Woodstock”, to be a fairly good episode, but compared to the novel, it has been toned down far too much for my liking, and is not quite as gripping. The novel’s more sordid elements are quietly airbrushed, such as Sanders’ addiction to porn. Perhaps that is understandable, as TV producers in the 1980s, would have thought it, too seedy for prime-time viewing. Nevertheless, the two main cuts from the novel, I have discussed previously, make the episode much less riveting viewing, than it could have been. According to David Bishop in his book, “The Complete Inspector Morse”, the story lacks urgency, probably because the only killing, is more accident than murder. Overall, Bishop believes the episode, was a solid and workmanlike tale, with some winning moments, such as the delightful scene, where elderly witness Miss. Jarmon, scolds Morse, for interrupting her.

  14. This is the second time I watched this episode, I didn’t like it the first time and I liked it even less the second time,

  15. Thanks Adrian, for kindly contributing to the discussion about “The Settling of the Sun”, and “Last Bus to Woodstock”. It is always interesting to hear your views on the various different, Inspector Morse episodes. Thank you also, for telling me, that you are watching the Morse series for a second time. I believe, I have seen most of the Morse episodes twice, but not all of them, and when you watch an episode again, you sometimes realise that you missed something important, the first time around. That’s all from me, for today. Thank you, and goodbye for now.

    1. One thing that makes me wonder – why are all these young attractive women interested in the much older, balding and generally boring Crowther?

      Why would a girl engage in “rumpy pumpy” in the car park with such a man when waiting inside is a young lad she’d twist around her finger. It’s not “promiscuous”, it’s positively nymphomanic like!

      Similarly, she and Crowther stopped for a drink on the way. I mean, was that usual with hitchhikers? If she’s impatient to get the ride vs the bus then adding half an hour for a stop seems very weird. Fair enough if the driver is Brad Pitt, but Crowther? He must have some amazing chat!

      Same with the academics and students. I know it happened(s), but in Morse generally it’s rampant. Although so are murders to be fair.

      1. Ant, you make really good points and I wondered about that myself. Why would she even want to “mess around” with someone like Crowther. Maybe she thought he had money?

  16. I’m afraid this is a characteristic which returns in other novels as well. The way Dexter describes women and also how younger girls/women are attracted to older men. I’m sure it happens, but he wrote about it quite often.
    He published his first novel 45 years ago and the attitude in society was different. But when you read this today it feels very outdated and leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.

  17. Mary Widdowson “followed” Crowther’s car in a bus. That’s so unlikely. OK, Crowther stopped once or twice before the Fox and Castle, but still … And Mary knew Crowther’s favourite pubs, so in the pouring rain she went round them till she found the car parked at the Fox and Castle. She recognised Crowther’s voice, not the car, when he stopped for Sylvia. But why did she hit Sylvia in the car park? She didn’t know (and neither do we) exactly what happened in the car, but she didn’t have any reason the thump her friend, as far as I can see. And, unless Mary is an amateur boxer in her spare time, how likely is it that a fairly lightweight woman could knock another woman over with a slap? And why did Crowther and his wife get rid of one wheel from the car? Obviously in case it retained evidence of running over Sylvia. But Crowther only remembered a slight bump as he left the car park. Could he be sure which wheel it was that ran over Sylvia? I suppose he must have done. But that whole disposal of the wheel event seemed unnecessary to me, as the car was never examined by forensics.

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