Ghost in the Machine. An Overview: Music, Art, Literary References, Locations etc.



First Transmitted in the UK on 4th January 1989

This episode is not based on any of Colin Dexter’s books but is based on an idea by Mr Dexter.

Colin Dexter can be seen early on, I think.


Directed by Herbert Wise  (born 31 August 1924). He directed two other Morse episodes; Twilight of the Gods and The Daughters of Cain

Written by Julian Mitchell (born 1 May 1935). He also wrote the screenplay for The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn, Service of all the Dead, The Wolvercote Tongue, Masonic Mysteries, Promised Land, Cherubim and Seraphim, Twilight of the Gods, The Daughter’s of Cain, Death is now my Neighbour.

Jag Rating (out of ten)


In this episode Morse attempts to fight his way through “aristocratic flummery”. Sir Julius Hanbury, who is a candidate for the position of master at Courtney College, goes missing, along with his collection of erotic paintings. Morse discovers Sir Julius’s dead body in the family chapel, and it looks like murder. Dr Grayling Russell, the new criminal pathologist believes he killed himself. Another death occurs but what is the connection between the two deaths?

The title of the episode Ghost in the Machine may refer to British philosopher Gilbert Ryle’s description of René Descartes’ mind-body dualism. The phrase, Ghost in the Machine, was introduced in Ryle’s book The Concept of Mind (1949)[1] to highlight the perceived absurdity of dualist systems like Descartes’ where mental activity carries on in parallel to physical action, but where their means of interaction are unknown or, at best, speculative.

Of course their was a Police album of the same name in 1981 so it’s possible that Julian Mitchell is a fan of that group. 😉

There is also the non-fiction book by Arthur Koestler titled, Ghost in the Machine.


I am going to start the review with a clip from the episode that never fails to make me smile:

Lewis does like to wind Morse up at times. Maria Callas singing in the musical Cats???!!!! I love Lewis’s wry smile as Morse face crumples at such a suggestion.

I do like this episode despite there being quite a few flaws. It does help that it stars the lovely Patricia Hodge whose cheekbones could cut glass. The flaws are I believe are as follows; firstly is the question of how the au pair Michelle managed to hear a conversation at the front of the house from the first floor of the building while the window was closed;

The second flaw is (major spoiler alert here, so don’t read on if you haven’t seen the episode) surely Lady Hanbury getting on to the train a stop earlier than her destination would have possibly resulted on her being seem by someone she knew. We know that Morse and Betty Parker were on the same train. A very risky plan.

The third flaw is the use of the overused murder ploy of cutting someone’s brake line. A very unreliable method surely.

So, I have got that off my chest and now on to why it is a good episode. Did I mention the lovely Patricia Hodge? Oh I have? Don’t be surprised if I mention her again.

The episode is littered with some great scenes. Apart from the Maria Callas sings from Cats scene there is the Morse’s first meeting with Dr. Russell when his chivalry cum old fashioned-ness cum non PC nature comes to the fore. I love how uncomfortable he gets when Dr. Russell is describing the damage done to the body. It is a mixture of being uncomfortable at the description of the ‘frenzied’ attack and also the fact that it is being related by a woman,

I loved Max as the pathologist but I believe Amanda Hillwood was an excellent substitute. It allowed the viewer to see Morse attempting to cope with a professional woman and one who is possibly on his intellectual level. In later episodes there was that frisson between them and though the plot device, ‘will they or won’t they, is hackneyed, it was welcome in the series. However, it was good that they never did get together as it would have been a difficult story-line to continue and would probably have been distracting. I did find it strange that they decided to have Dr. Russell named after the Grayling fish and not the Grayling butterfly.

grayling (1)

Grayling Butterfly (Hipparchia semele)

As well as many great scenes in the episode there are many amusing ones. The scene below is not only amusing but it gives the viewer a glimpse of the hierarchical system that has developed between Morse and Lewis. It also shows that Lewis, unlike in earlier episodes, is no longer in such awe of Morse that he can’t speak his mind.

The writer, Julian Mitchell, has given Lewis many great lines in this episode. When Morse and Lewis arrive at Hanbury House, Morse tells Lewis, “People like them, they think people like us are only here to keep the servants in order.” Lewis replies, “Does that mean we have to arrest the butler?” Continuing on the butler theme. When Lady Hanbury is relating to Morse all the staff who work at Hanbury House, Lewis interjects with a smile saying, “What? No butler.”

Though there is much in the way of references (music, an attendance of the opera by Morse and Lady Hanbury etc), to Puccini’s Tosca, there is really not much that binds the opera to the episode. The only elements of the opera that surface in the episode are the use of a balcony and the mock execution of Sir Julius which is rather tenuous. The opera begins in a church and it is there that Tosca’s jealousy becomes inflamed to the point where she vows vengeance. There is a significant scene in the episode that relates to a church but in no way relates to the opera. Though there is in the episode a need for vengeance by Lady Hanbury played by the lovely and high cheeked boned Patricia Hodge. (See, I told you I would mention her again).

Ghost in the Machine is the Downton Abbey episode of Morse. However, those ‘upstairs’ are not as friendly as the Crawley family at Downton. The episode is in a small way an indictment of the class system and how very little appears to have changed over the years. In this episode the gardener is posh and an ex Harrovian, (Pupil of Harrow School. Fees as of 2013, Harrow School charges £33,285)

Of course the most glaring allusion of this episode is to the D.H.Lawrence novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover. In that novel the Lady of the house, Constance is married to Clifford Chatterley. Clifford is paralyzed from the waist down but apart from his disinterest in physical matters he has become emotionally distant from Constance. This is mirrored in Lord Hanbury’s attitude to Lady Hanbury. Though in the novel Mellors is a gamekeeper with whom Constance has a passionate affair it is no great leap to see John MacKendrick, the gardener, as the Mellor’s figure. Lawrence’s novel is also about the British class system which quite clearly Ghost in the Machine also alludes to.

As always, a good solid cast ably headed by the lovely Patricia Hodge. 😉 The little girl who played Georgina wasn’t very good but she was very young so can be forgiven. I wonder what became of her? With a surname like Dench I did wonder if she was any relation to the wonderful Judi Dench but after sometime scanning the internet it appears she is no relation whatsoever.

The Latin phrase that Morse says at the end of the episode is, “Et Ego in Arcadia vixi”. Which roughly translated means, devil or evil being even in the most idyllic places.



The first piece of music is played when Morse is returning, by train, from Covent Garden in London. It is from Giacomo Puccini‘s (1858-1924) opera ‘Tosca‘.

This is the final tragic scene when Cavaradossi is killed by firing squad watched on by Tosca.


The next piece is again from Tosca and is heard while Morse and Lewis are driving to Hanbury House. And no it’s not from Cats.😉

The singer is as mentioned in the episode, Maria Callas but I’m not sure form which section of the opera it is from. I think it is the same as above but i’m afraid my knowledge of opera is very limited. However, below is Maria Callas singing an aria from Tosca.


The next piece of music is by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). The music is Quartet No. 14 in G Major for Strings. K.387:III. Andante cantabile.

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.

Literary References


I came across only one literary reference while watching the episode. It occurs while Morse and Lewis are standing on the steps of Hanbury House.

Morse – “You live in a place like this you think the rules don’t apply. Delusions of grandeur. Et ego in Arcadia vixi.”

Lewis – “Oh yes. What does that mean in English.”

Morse – “It means, more or less. there was a serpent even in the garden of Eden.”

‘Et ego in Arcardia vixi’ translates as ‘Even in Acardia I am there’. Acardians were Greeks who lived in the country away from any cities. Their lives were viewed as virtuous, moral and they lived an ideal life. But even they died. I think Morse is alluding to the principle that even in a seemingly perfect setting looms evil, death or a devil.


There was a lot of art in this episode and I have done my best to identify as many as possible. The episode was filmed at Wrotham Park, Barnet Hertfordshire. Many films and TV shows have been filmed at the same location: Gosford ParkJeeves and WoosterSense and SensibilityBridget Jones’s Diary etc etc.


The next group of paintings are all contained within the same scene. Lord Hanbury has received a call from the blackmailer and after putting down the telephone receiver he surveys the paintings in his room. The first painting we see is above where he is sitting;


The painting is titled ‘Pandora‘ by the English painter Ernest Normand (1859 – 1923)

Next we have a group of paintings from the same scene as the camera pans around Lord Hanbury’s study.


The painting marked number one is ‘In the Tepidarium‘ by the Dutch painter Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912). ( A Tepidarium is a warm room in an ancient Roman bath).

The painting marked number 2 is by the English artist William Etty, (1787-1849). The painting is called ‘Venus and Cupid‘.

Number 3 is by the French artist Henri Gervex (1852-1929). The painting is called ‘Rolla‘.

This second group of paintings are again on Lord Hanbury’s study wall. They are shown a few seconds after the above paintings are shown.


Number four is ‘The Cave of the Storm Nymphs‘ by the English artist Sir Edward Poynter, (1836-1919)

Number five is by Lord Frederick Leighton, (1830-1896)

The above painting is called, ‘Venus Disrobing for the Bath‘.

The next three are still within the same scene in Lord Hanbury’s study.


Painting number 6 is ‘Before a mirror‘ by English painter Robert Barrett Browning(1849-1912).


Number 7 is still unidentified.

Number 8 is unidentified. I thought this was an easy identification as the scene; roman bath, nude female bathing, would certainly be a work of Jean-Léon Gérôme. But, it isn’t. I also tried many of his contemporaries but without any luck.


Morse asks Lady Hanbury where she was on the night of the so called burglary.


Number one is a Giovanni Antonio Galli titled ‘The Incredulity of Saint Thomas‘. Very little is known of this artist. He was probably born in the 16th century and died in the 17th century. He was a follower of the more famous Caravaggio and was colloquially known as Spaderino (Little Sword).

Giovanni Antonio Galli,s ‘The Incredulity of Saint Thomas

I’ve still to identify number 2.


While Morse waits for Lady Hanbury to produce her train ticket, he studies the Gainsborough.


Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788). The painting is titled ‘Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan‘.



Michael Godley as Sir Julius Hanbury (Born Unknown)


Patricia Hodge as Lady Prudence Hanbury (Born – September 29, 1946 –    )


Lill Roughley as Betty Parker (Born Unknown)


Irina Brook as Michelle Réage (Born – 1963 )


Patsy Byrne as Mrs Maltby (Born – July 13, 1933 – Died – June 17, 2014)


Amanda Hillwood as Dr. Grayling Russell. (Born – 11th August 1962 – )


Clifford Rose as Dr. Charles Hudson (Born – October 24, 1929 – )


Bernard Lloyd as Professor Edward Ullman (Born – January 30, 1934 – )


Michael Thomas as John McKendrick (Born – April 11, 1952??? – )


Eunice Roberts as Policewoman (Born – Unknown )


Michael Bertenshaw as Detective ? (Born – June 15, 1945 – )


Rainbow Dench as Georgina Hanbury  (Born – Unknown )


Robert Oates as Ted Parker (Born – Unknown )


Fellows’ Garden, Exeter College, Oxford, stood in for Courtney College Garden


The gardens of Hanbury House were filmed at Stowe Landscape Gardens, Stowe School, Buckingham.

Oriel College, Oriel Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire was the stand in for Courtney College


Hanbury House was actually Wrotham Park, Barnet, Hertfordshire


A huge thank you to Tina Whiteside for identifying the pub where the Parker’s work. Morse and Lewis had a drink before Morse complained of the beer being sour. Of course the ‘sour’ comment was aimed at Mrs Parker.


The pub is the Rose and Crown, Harefield Rd, Rickmansworth WD3 1PP.


So, we come to the end of this post. The next post will be based on the Series 3, episode 2, The Last Enemy. Here is a little preview.

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. UPDATE: My mum died from Covid-19 on the 6th May 2020. 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. I am now in second year having passed all the requirements in first year.

47 thoughts

  1. I took the phrase “Ghost in the Machine” to refer as well to the deleted letters recovered by DS Lewis from the victim’s computer.

  2. Re: Dr Russell’s first name: a fish (Grayling) and a ship (Endeavour) are nautical creatures 😉 (I wonder how she would have reacted had Morse revealed his own first name to her instead of Adele: would she have gloated or been really pleased?).

  3. Another brilliant line in this episode from Morse to Lewis ” roughly in case I’ve got this wrong – “people like this see people like us as being there to keep the servants in order”

    Actually being a Northerner and the relish of the delivery from John Thaw never fails to make me laugh – partly because it’s timeless and probably true.

  4. Re read the entire piece and see you’d got that brilliant line in… ooops still it doesnt hurt to remind oneself of it.

  5. I watched this episode this evening, really enjoying it, and one of the strangest things to me is the vehemence with which both Lady Hanbury and the master of the college react to Sir Julius’s utterly disgraceful interest in these remarkably tame Victorian nudes. They both just spit blood over his collecting them. It’s certainly interesting in the light of Lady Hanbury’s incredible hypocrisy. She sees nothing wrong with sleeping with a servant, but seems to have been condemning her husband for keeping these harmless paintings even before she found out he’d picked up the neat hobby of recreating them in photos.

    And then of course Lady Hanbury’s fury at the au pair. Her bedbuddy’s just fine, but the au pair is a slut, and a whore. Never mind the manslaughter and all the additional crimes, I hope Lady Hanbury went to prison for years for being such a hypocrite.

    1. An observation on the name of Dr Russell…after grayling the fish because it is known as ‘the lady of the stream’ and is generally regarded as the most beautiful of our native fish having an iridescent silver body reminiscent of mother of pearl with fins shot with pink and purple. Sadly photography fails to capture the stunning beauty of the fish which appears a rather uniform gun metal grey on film. You need to catch one to appreciate it

      By comparison the butterfly is rather sombre in my opinion

      1. But don’t you think butterflies are more beautiful than fish? Probably just me. I’m neither a fisherman or ichthyologist.

  6. The American DVD of ‘Ghost in the Machine’ claims Colin Dexter is drinking a pint in the Parker’s pub, however I couldn’t spot him.

  7. The interaction that stood out to me was when Morse corrected Lewis for saying “was” instead of “were”, and then Lewis corrected Morse for using “may” instead of “might”. I hate that everyone says “may” now when they mean “might”. It causes a lot of confusion, but I thought I was the only one in the world who was aware of the difference.

    1. Morse would have never made such a mistake, this was put in for humorous effect. Kind of obvious but not realistic at all

  8. Recently watched this again, and I still don’t really get why Meadows was killed. Unless I’ve missed something, he wasn’t in a position to expose them, and without that murder the police would only have been able to bring the lesser charge of manslaughter against Lady H and minor charges against McKendrick.

    1. Hi Mabel. The killing of Meadows does appear to be ‘overkill’; forgive the pun. Meadows was of course blackmailing Sir Julius Hanbury because he was taking erotic photographs of Michelle Réage. I believe he was killed to stop the chance of not only the blackmail becoming public knowledge but the reason surrounding the blackmail. To Lady Hanbury this would have been mortifying and intolerable. It may also have been a warning to Michelle Réage to keep quiet about not only her erotic photography but she may have been aware of Lady Hanbury and John McKendrick’s affair.

      1. Exactly. Lady Hanbury spoke of the pictures ending up in The Sun, and the boys learning who their father really was.

  9. I wonder if the phrase “Et Ego in Arcadia vixi” might be an allusion to Brideshead Revisited, which has a section with the title “Et in Arcadia Ego” and concerns a dysfunctional family living in a grand house

    1. Hi Andy. I think you are probably correct. Coincidentally enough I recently re-watched the 1970s drama series based on the Evelyn Waugh novel.

    2. I had this same thought. The manor house itself, even, is very reminiscent of Castle Howard (Brideshead, in the series), right down to the Chapel/private Church. Morse’s perspective on class is a slightly more jaded and world-weary one than Charles Ryder, which is a good thing, since the titled family here leave dire consequences in their wake, whereas the Marchmains of Brideshead commited crimes mostly against themselves. Evelyn Waugh was an artist as well as an author. Anyone know if there could be a more significant connection to this potential allusion?

  10. I also though Sir Julius’s photographic hobby would hardly have been a subject for blackmail, any more than if he’d attended a life drawing class at the local art school.

  11. Love your posts. Actually the excerpt in the car is from the very aria that you included below your comment: Vissi d’arte (I’ve lived for art) from the 2nd act.

    1. Hello Kenneth and thank you for the lovely comment. In regard to the aria, that can only be called serendipitous.

  12. This is a magnificent examination of this episode. Just to clarify: “Rainbow Dench” is actually Finty Wiliams, Dame Judi Dench’s daughter. She is a little rough around the edges here as an actor but blossoms, as we know, in later voice work, theater, film and in television. I was thrown, too, by the psuedonym and had to do some digging to discover her identity. Those eyes, though! No doubt about her parentage, when we really take a close look. I think this was her very first actual role in anything ~ hence her lack of polish.

    1. Hi Adam and welcome to my website. In regard to Rainbow Dench or Flinty Williams being Judi Dench’s daughter, it can’t be I’m afraid. Flinty was born in 1972 and the Morse episode, Ghost in the Machine was filmed in 1988. That would make Flinty 16 when the episode was filmed. Sorry Adam.

  13. “Rainbow Dench” is aka Finty Williams and is indeed Dame Judi Dench’s daughter. As we know, her acting chops became much more refined over time. This was, I believe, her very first official role in anything, so it stands to reason that her performance was a bit less than captivating here. Just wanted to clarify… it took me a bit of research to figure out Rainbow’s true identity.

    Magnificent examination of this episode, btw! After finishing the most recent season of Endeavour, I am back to revisting all of Inspector Morse and just finished watching this one. Your attention to detail and rapturous appreciation for the “Morse Universe”, as you call it, is something I take immense pleasure in. Thank you for all that you do.

  14. In the above photographs, you state “Hanbury House was actually Wrotham Park, Barnet, Hertfordshire” and then publish a photograph of the north front of Stowe School! (I wonder if you are getting confused because of the use of the Gothic Temple in the Stowe Landscaped Gardens as one of the filming locations?)

  15. “ I came across only one literary reference while watching the episode. It occurs while Morse and Lewis are standing on the steps of Hanbury House.”

    Don’t recall the exact like that contained “a clean well-lighted place,” but, when I heard it, Ernest Hemingway’s short story came to mind.

    1. Morse makes this comment upon entering the studio in the attic. The opening dialogue in the Hemingway story may mirror Morse’s point of view on the Aristocracy.

      “Last week he tried to commit suicide,” one waiter said.


      “He was in despair.”

      “What about?”


      “How do you know it was nothing?”

      “He has plenty of money.”

  16. I’ve always been confused about something in this episode. When Morse is interviewing Lady Hanbury about the opera she supposedly attended, he surprises her by asking, “Is that where you got the idea?” She asks, “What idea?” He continues, “Suicide — Tosca throwing herself off of the castle walls in Rome, McKendrick throwing your husband off the roof here.” She responds, “Possibly. Hadn’t thought.” After that he continues to humor her story about the train ticket. Am I wrong in thinking that his question sounds a lot like accusing her of murder, and her response was implicitly admitting it? I’ve listened to it repeatedly to make sure I heard it all correctly. Was there some claim made earlier by Lady Hanbury that Lord Hanbury had committed suicide by pill or some such, and then upon discovering him the family threw him off the roof to get him to the mausoleum? I can’t figure it as anything other than Morse practically telling Lady Hanbury ‘I don’t believe a word of your made-up nonsense.’ and her, surprisingly, making no protestation whatsoever.

  17. I just watched this episode again. I found a literary reference I hadn’t noticed before and I don’t think Chris mentioned. When Morse enters the attic, he says, “A clean well lighted place.” That is the title of a short story by Hemingway.

  18. Chris, I saw an interview with Patricia Hodge about this episode (kind of a semi-documentary after John Thaw had died) and from what she was saying she and John Thaw did not get along on set. If I remember correctly she stated that while waiting between scenes she stayed in her trailer and he in his and did not want to meet until the scene they were filming together. Had you heard this? I thought it odd since in that same TV interview every other actor that was interviewed spoke so highly of him.

    1. Possibly Robert or it is a matter of an upper class lady looking for a bit of rough. But, yes, Kendrick being a Harrovian probably helped justify the affair in her mind.

  19. Thanks. Great job.

    You missed one literary allusion. When Morse and Lewis were in the photography room, Morse described it as a “clean, well-lighted place.” Classic Hemingway

    1. Thank you Kevin. That particular reference was mentioned in a more recent update to the post. I need to tidy up my website as I have discovered duplication posts etc.

  20. Hi Adrian. I just wondered, if you have found the time, to observe my comments on “The Settling of the Sun”, and “Last Bus to Woodstock”.

  21. Chris,
    Earlier you were concerned about how Lady H. manufactured her alibi by risking to get on the train at an earlier station. I don’t think this is a big deal, the stations tend to be full of people. Using a second class ticked and not checking the actual Tosca line-up (no Placido Domingo) were much bigger gaffes.

  22. By the way, I should say, thanks Adrian, for previously joining me in discussion about the Morse series. Hopefully, at some point, you will be able to read my comments, on the episodes I mentioned in my last comment, above.

  23. Thanks for the amazing research, Chris. I would suggest just one correction here. “et ego in Arcadia vixi” is usually translated along the lines of “I too once lived in Arcady”. The speaker is generally harking back to a simpler time in one’s youth.

    It pops up occasionally in the Bertie Wooster stories. Eg in The Code of the Woosters, when Roderick Spode confesses to having once stolen a policeman’s helmet, Bertie is pleasantly surprised and comments:
    “I was astounded. Nothing in my relations with this man had given me the idea that he too had, so to speak, once lived in Arcady. It just showed, as I often say, there there is good in the worst of us.”

Leave a Reply