Driven to Distraction. An Overview: Music, Art, Literary References, Locations etc.


As an added help for readers I have added links to many names of actors and TV series mentioned in the post. Just click on the underlined text and a new window will open for the link.

First transmitted in the UK on the 17th January 1990.

This episode is not based on any of Colin Dexter’s books.

This is episode 3 in series 4. Chronologically this is episode 14.

Colin Dexter appears in the laundromat scene at: 23m 26s


Directed by Sandy Johnson: This was the only episode Sandy Johnson directed. he did direct other crime dramas such as,  A Touch of Frost, The Ruth Rendell Mysteries and Jonathan Creek.

Written by Anthony Minghella: He also wrote the episodes; ‘The Dead of Jericho’ and ‘Deceived by Flight’.

EPISODE JAG RATING, (out of ten)



Nurse Jackie Thorn is stabbed, bound and killed in her flat after being followed home by a man whose face we never see. A link between Jackie Thorn’s death and the murder of a Maureen Thompson, a month earlier, is found in the way they were killed and bound.

Jackie’s boyfriend, Tim Ablett, tells the police that Jackie had only found out a few days prior to her death that she was pregnant. However, Morse and Lewis believe the baby may not be Tim Abletts as she lied to him about her plans for the weekend.

A only connection between the two murdered women is where they bought their cars, Boynton’s Showroom. Morse becomes convinced that Boynton is the murderer but can he prove it before another murder is committed.

REVIEW. (warning this review may contain some spoilers)

This is a very good episode but is let down by some anomalies as well as, in my opinion, a poor ending. More on this later.

After fourteen episodes, Lewis appears to be losing his patience with Morse. The episode is filled with many scenes of Lewis being angry with Morse and certainly in some of those scenes Lewis is justified in his anger. He certainly is justified in being angry at Morse for having visited Philippa Lau (played by Carolyn Choa), a survivor of an attack by the killer, without thinking how this would affect her. As Lewis says, “You just trample around, don’t you. You’re supposed to be so clever, Sometimes I just think you’re a bloody fool.” We don’t see Lewis being this angry again until the episode, ‘A Walk through the Woods’ (Episode 29 and the first ‘special’). Lewis also has one of the best lines of the episode. He tells Sergeant Maitland, “There’s no procedure. It’s crime solved like a crossword puzzle and i’m sick of it”.

I have to admit that it took me a while to realise who the killer was. For most of the episode I believed the killer to be Martin Cass (played by Malcolm Raeburn) the salesman at Boynton’s showroom. This was down to clever writing and directing as the camera did linger uncomfortably on Martin Kass a few times making this viewer wonder why. He also had a connection to the two murdered women and he made a play for Jackie Thorn when she was buying her car. “Legs up to her knickers” is how Martin Cass described his memory of her.

What makes this episode above average are the two actors, David Ryall (who plays Derek Whittaker) and Patrick Malahide (who plays Jeremy Boynton). These are two actors who deserve more kudos than they receive. (Sadly, David Ryall died at the end of last year). I have been a fan of Patrick Malahide since his days in Minder as ‘Charlie’ Chisholm.  Patrick Malahide also appeared in the pilot episode of Endeavour as Richard Lovell. Of course Patrick Malahide will be well known to fans of TV crime as he played the title caharacter in ‘The Alleyn Mysteries‘. David Ryall turned up an episode of Lewis, ‘Life born of Fire’ as Mr Cooper. I loved David Ryall in one of my all time favourite films, ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’. Here is a link to David’s obituray in the British newspaper, The Telegraph.

There are some lovely scenes in this episode and one of my favourites is this one involving Morse and Sergeant Maitland (played by Mary Jo Randle). The reward at the end of the scene is John Thaw’s wonderful smile.

What is also interesting about this scene is the story Morse tells about his friend. This was based on a true story. While Kenny McBain the series producer,who brought Morse to our TV screens, was very ill (he eventually died of his illness) Anthony Minghella would drive Kenny’s car each day to keep the battery charged.

 So, to what I believe is wrong with the episode. Firstly, we are shown that their is a trail of food from Jackie Thorn’s front door to where she is lying dead. However, we are shown Jackie Thorn get out of her car and entering the building where she lives before the killer gets out of her car. Surely, Jackie would have been in her kitchen before the killer even reached her front door. There is no way, and certainly there is none shown, as to why she would have taken so long to get into her flat. Secondly, why was Jeremy Boynton not charged with obstruction or threatening behaviour toward Angie Howe?

One could also ask why didn’t Boynton realise that Morse’s jag outside his showroom belonged to a policeman. He had watched the jag go into the driveway where Jackie Thorn lived and died. Surely, with his great love of Jags he would have remembered seeing it being driven by Morse into the driveway?

Onto my problem with the ending. I personally believe the episode’s denouement feels hurried and quite ridiculous and bears no real relation to the rest of the episode. The killer’s death is also Agatha Christie like in its method. Also, the reasoning behind the killer murdering the women is absurd and again bears no relation to the rest of the episode. The motive for the killings has to be at least hinted at during the episode but never is. What’s worse is that we are never given any more insight to the killer’s motives.

But, not discounting my reservations mentioned in the above paragraph I still do like the episode and it’s nice to see lewis standing up to Morse. This shows how strong their relationship has become that Lewis can openly criticize Morse and feel comfortable doing so. Also, Morse, rather than getting angry with Lewis becomes concerned about him. It’s also interesting that there is a hint that Lewis may be looking to move to pastures new. Was this written into the episode to put the viewer on edge as to the possibility of the series coming to an end? Or, i’m just reading to much into the whole thing? Probably.


A mixture of jazz and classical in this episode. The singer of the jazz pieces is Marion Montgomery but unfortunately I can find no videos of her anywhere singing the songs included in this episode.

Marion Montgomery was an American singer who died in 2002. Here is a link to her obituary,

At the beginning, in first victim’s car (though technically she is the third victim) we hear Cole Porter’s ‘You Do Something to Me’ sung by Marian Montgomery. Below is a video of the wonderful Ella Fitzgerald singing her version of the song.


Jazz music again but this time in the killer’s car. It is again Marian Montgomery singing ‘Why Don’t You Behave’. Here below is Ella Fitzgerald’s version of the song.


The next piece is being played in Boynton’s car when he arrives at Jackie Thorn’s flat but finds the police swarming and journalists swarming all over the area. The music is the same as the piece heard in Jackie Thorn’s car at the beginning, Cole Porter’s ‘You Do Something to Me’.


The killer is watching his next victim from his car while listening to the same piece of music at one minute 49 seconds, ‘Why Don’t You Behave’.


The classical music being played while Morse sits in his car contemplating the case is Johann Sebastian Bach’s, (1685 – 1750), Six Suites for Violin and Cello. Suite No. 3. Below is a video of the brilliant Yo Yo Ma playing the piece on the cello. If you want to feel heavenly then click on the video.

Thanks to Tom in the comments section who pointed out that where Maitland shooshes Morse, is the Prelude from Suite No. 1.


The killer is following his next victim, Pamela Steadman, in his car. The music is the same as above, ‘Why Don’t You Behave’.


While the SOCO (Scene of Crime Officers) take Boynton’s car apart the team push in a cassette in the car and what plays is of course, ‘You Do Something to Me’.


While Morse and Sergeant Maitland work on the computers the music of Mozart. The piece being played is the Horn Concerto No 4.


The Killer is again watching his next victim, Pamela Steadman, while playing ‘Why Don’t You Behave’.



Jeremy Boynton visits Angie Howe in the bookshop where he works. Boynton says that he will read Candida while he waits for Angie to finish for the day.

Candida is a play by George Bernard Shaw set in October of 1894 the same year it was written.


Morse, Lewis and Maitland are following a car to try and get an idea of how the killer thinks. As they watch the car they are following enter police offices Morse says, “Curioser and Curioser said Alice”.

This is of course from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. The quote is from chapter 2, The Pool of Tears and is said after Alice ate the cake that had the words ‘Eat me’ on it. The full quote is;

`Curiouser and curiouser!’ cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English); `now I’m opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet!’ (for when she looked down at her feet, they seemed to be almost out of sight, they were getting so far off).


There is no art to speak of in this episode. Unless you consider Morse’s jag as art. 😉

Interesting Facts

Carolyn Chao who played the surviving victim, Phillipa Lau, is the wife of Anthony Minghella.

Minghella and Chao

She is primarily a dancer and choreographer. She also appeared in the Anthony Minghella directed film ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply‘.

 Three actors who appear in this episode would eventually turn up in episodes of Lewis and Endeavour. Apart from Patrick Malahide and David Ryall who were mentioned above, Richard Huw who plays Detective Constable Reardon, appeared in the Lewis episode, ‘Entry Wounds’ as a solicitor. Anne Parker kindly pointed out that Mary Jo Randle also appeared in a Lewis episode, ‘Falling Darkness’.


Jackie and Angie’s flats were filmed at Castlebar in London.


Below is how it looks now. Unfortunately trees have grown to such a point that the above view is no longer possible, (see pic directly below. A bit further up the road the flats distinctive building can be seen through vegetation, (see pic below)

DrivenMorseCastlebar Hill.      DrivenMorseCastlebar Hill2.

The pub where Strange and Morse drink was filmed in the Duke of Kent pub, again in London,


Below is Boynton’s garage and below that is how it looks today.


Watling Street, Radlett, Hertfordshire. The garage has now gone and is a block of flats.


Thanks to Matt who supplied the following information. The laundromat where we see Colin sitting reading a newspaper and Tim Ablett is seen inadvertently dying all his clothes pink is 5 Salisbury Square, Old Hatfield in Hertfordshire. Unfortunately I can’t find any photos of the area and Google street view doesn’t show Salisbury Square in any detail.

Thanks again to Matt who supplied the location for the scene that follows the laundromat scene. The ‘unknown’ driver is following the woman in the blue VW car.



Julia Lane as Jackie Thorn. No info other than what’s on IMDB (Internet Movie Database.


Tariq Yunus as George. Born: October 16, 1946 – Died: August 26, 1994


Tessa Wojtczak as Angie Howe. Born in 1958


Richard Huw as Detective Constable Reardon. No info other than what’s on IMDB


Al Ashton as a detective. Born: June 26, 1957 – Died: April 27, 2007.


David Lonsdale as a detective. Born: May 21, 1963.


Patrick Malahide as Jeremy Boynton. Born: March 24, 1945.


Christopher Fulford as Tim Ablett. Born: 1955.


Malcolm Raeburn as Martin Kass. No Info apart from what’s on IMDB


David Ryall as Derek Whittaker. Born: January 5, 1935 – Died: December 25, 2014.


James Grout as Chief Superintendent Strange. Born: October 22, 1927 – Died: June 24, 2012. James Grout’s obituary


Carolyn Choa as Phillipa Lau.  (No info)


Cheryl Maiker as Pamela Steadman. Born December 2, 1963.

Author: Chris Sullivan

Up until a few years ago I was my mum's full time carer. She died in, 2020, of Covid. At the moment I am attempting to write a novel.

43 thoughts

  1. I also recently rewatched this episode and agree pretty much with your review. But in mentioning actors who had been in Lewis, you forgot Mary Jo Randle who was Falling Darkness.

  2. Christopher Fulford is always good whatever show he appears in. I was so taken with the Bach cello suite that I went to iTunes and bought Yo-Yo Ma’s Bach unaccompanied cello suites (37 of them!). It is sublimely beautiful.

  3. If I may I’m going to challenge you on your lack of motive 🙂 Just re-watched this and couldn’t help but notice similarities to the excellent Endeavour episode ‘Sway’. And I think reflecting on that you have your motive: older guy, long (frustrated?) marriage, dead/terminal wife, watches younger more charming men seduce women in a way he never could, something snaps, takes out years of pent up frustration. The fact that Malahide was having an affair with one of them I’m sure was not lost on Russell Lewis whose killer selects his victims based on their acquaintance with the Alfie character (and happens to like the old time tunes when moving in for the kill). Clearly an homage to the Morse episode.

    So to that end I think the motive holds up if not some of the other bits you mention – the shopping on the floor was driven by the need to provide Morse a tenuous link with the Montecristos, which was a little weak but as it’s such a fine episode and Minghella such a fine writer I guess we can allow a little artistic licence.

    Great blog, keep up the good work!

  4. I thought this episode was excellent. The motive is clear. We have a person who comes across as affable when we first meet him. It is his general niceness that makes him hate the way he is attracted to these younger women when his wife is ill and suffering and he transfers that self-hatred onto the women whom he is attracted to until such a point that it spills out into murder. Morse’s driving lessons showshe is unconsciously realising that as the driving instructor is the culprit even as he consciously pursues Boynton. This same motive is in the Lewis episode Fearful Symmetry where Dr Massey, whose wife is also absent, is attracted to Jessica but at the same time hates the loss of innocence – his own and Jessica’s. (Dr Massey’s wife excellent acting – same actress looks to be in the last Morse episode as a not dissimilar character).

  5. Chris, I’m really enjoying your blogs as I work my way through the Morse DVDs (halfway now) + I find them very helpful in untangling what happens.

    I agree this episode is somewhat lacking, though I didn’t have a problem with the scattered shopping in Jackie Thorn’s flat (signs of a struggle? or the murderer kicking stuff about in a rage after the kiiling?).

    One very small thing, I believe the book Jeremy Boynton picks up in Angie Howe’s bookshop is not Shaw’s play but a book called ‘Candida Albicans Special Diet Cook Book’ – about how to deal with an invasive yeast (I used to have a copy and recognised the cover – you can fleetingly see the name). It’s by Richard Turner & Elizabeth Simonsen.

    I really enjoyed having an intelligent and attractive woman police officer in the episode, who gives back to Morse as good as she gets, and also seeing the way he responds to her with some warmth and respect.

    1. Thank you Judith for your kind comment. A good point in regards to the foodstuffs lying around Jackie’s front door. I will have a look at the episode again in regards to the book.

  6. In the opening scene the car Jackie thorn is in , in front of the mark 3 Vauxhall cavalier is shown from the front as a Vauxhall astra Gte mark 1 B plate registered….
    Then from the rear after Morse leans across and bibs the horn the car turns into a white Vauxhall Nova GTE F reg

  7. I love this episode but totally agree about the ending. Really clunky and unsatisfying with some very un-Minghella type dialogue (which is usually his strength)

  8. I believe Caroline O’Neill who plays Win Thursday in Endeavour was also in this episode, although she isn’t mentioned in the full cast list on the IMDb website.

    1. Sorry, just remembered that she was in an episode of Lewis – And The Moonbeams Kiss The Sea – not the Morse episode. They were on the TV within a day of each other last weekend and my memory misled me.

  9. I am sure the driving sequences on the test track were filmed at the transport and road research laboratory (TRRL) located in Berkshire between Crowthorne and Wokingham.

    David Ryall was a very versatile actor and possibly his last appearance was as Grandad in the BBC comedy series Outnumbered

  10. Chris, I too wondered why Jeremy was not charged with threatening Angie. I also did not figure out who the killer was and also agree that his motive for doing so, while kind of weak, is not beyond possibility when one is bitter and resentful about unpleasant life events. I never like to see Lewis and Morse at odds but I guess that is inevitable when working side by side all the time. I did like Maitland’s role, as she was intelligent, diligent, and, while she could have been, was not overbearing with Morse. In the end they quite liked and respected each other.

  11. I found this to be one of the weakest episodes from a logical standpoint. Given that there is a killer lurking around AND there was no sign of forced entry at any of the locations, there is no reason for these women to open the door to their former driving instructor (!) , MONTHS AFTER they completed the courses. It just makes no sense. Anthony Minghella is a very fine writer, just not on this episode.

    4 JAGs (and that is being charitable).

  12. The laundromat (featuring Colin Dexter) is at 5 Salisbury Square, Old Hatfield in Hertfordshire. And still is!

    The scene that follows, where an unseen man follows a blue VW Beetle is at the car park next to the same Salisbury Square. The VW crosses a road called The Broadway heads up Church Street.

    1. Hello Matt. Thank you so much for that information regarding locations. I will add that info to the post very soon.

      1. My pleasure Chris.

        Is that enough info for you to find and cross reference them? I can supply more detail.

        I used to live about 5 minutes walk from said laundromat. I’m guessing the episode was shot in 1989, I was working just around corner at the time. Never noticed any filming though!

        Re-watching Morse recently I was surprised by just how many Hertfordshire locations are used.

        Love the site!

      2. Hi Matt. I have updated the post with the information you gave. Unfortunately I couldn’t find photos of the laundromat and Google Street View does not have access to the square. I don’t suppose you have any photos of the Laundromat. Thanks again for supplying the location info.

      3. I went to check out the laundromat. Sad to say it’s now closed. Next time I’m over there I will get some pics for you.

    1. Hi John. The site of what was used as Boynton’s garage changed hands many times and is now a block of flats. However, I’m not sure where on Watling Street it is.

  13. The conversation in the car between Boynton and Angie Howe takes place in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. St Mary’s church and the war memorial can be seen behind them.

  14. Hi all… off sick from work so have been filling my time rewatching Morse, Lewis and Endeavour chronology (sad I know). Always refer to this site and it adds so much depth to the shows and is keeping me thoroughly entertained it’s also lovely seeing my old home town.
    I didn’t really notice this before but this episode really jars with the others both Morse and Lewis seem very different and there are some odd moments like Morse offering Tim Ablet a cigar just seemed out of character. Also the scene in the incident room seemed odd and was more reminiscent of other more procedural police dramas.
    Not a bad episode but a long long way from my favourite.

      1. John Price, your posts here are mostly pointless nitpicking. And a tad rude.

  15. I do the same Scott when I’m sick, and even when I’m not (doubly sad). Just rewatched one of my favorites, Way Through the Woods, and as always when I rewatch an episode I find something I’ve overlooked or didn’t appreciate. In this one, I laughed at Strange’s humor. When Morse asks Strange to have Wytham Woods searched, Strange, remarking on the shortage of department funds, says, “it better be you and Lewis with a metal detector.” and, “You better come out with more than a shovel.” Grout played such a good part in the Morse series.

  16. The last part of the episode mars the rest: there was no reason for Whittaker to continue his murders while Boynton was in the hospital. That made it clear that Boynton was not the murderer. It is surprising that a writer of Minghella’s stature would make such a mistake.

  17. I wonder why Morse was so apologetic to Boynton. Boynton really was a nasty piece of work and was guilty of blackmailing a young woman in order to get her to withhold information in connection with a murder inquiry – something that is a serious criminal offence and for which he should have been charged. If the police suspected him and decided to investigate, he only had himself to blame. Morse wasn’t the one that assaulted him, not Morse’s fault.

  18. “There’s no procedure. It’s crime solved like a crossword puzzle and I’m sick of it”

    Very good line. I wonder if it originated with a real policeman’s comments about the Morse series, or indeed, TV detectives in general?

  19. Despite being a bit predictable in places, I really like this episode. Carolyn Choa is very good as the traumatised survivor. The use of glass and fisheye lenses in doors is used to great effect here – doorstep callers are seen only in silhouette, or partially obscured by frosted glass. Adds to the tension.
    Morse is a bit of a buttock orifice in this, so it’s satisfying to see Lewis standing up to him.

    A 2005 episode of A Touch of Frost Near Death Experience, has more or less an identical plotline, with a serial killer targeting young women, victims are bound and gagged with tape, brutally stabbed, etc. Also the wrong person is the suspect right until the very end. I don’t think Sandy Johnson directed that, though as he was involved in directing some episodes, he may have had some input in the script. David Ryall and Christopher Fulford also appeared in episodes of AToF.

  20. I thought the scene near the beginning where Lewis tries to remember Whittaker’s name (before Whittaker has even appeared) is an obvious hint that he will be significant character. A bit like the ‘Margaret Jeffries’ twist in ‘Deadly Slumber’.

    1. Hello Cat. That is a good point Cat but personally I believed, when I first watched it, Whittaker might be the person that leads the police to the murderer rather than he being the murderer.

    2. I do think that a little too much time is spent at the driving school, signposting the fact that it’s going to be more significant to the plot than the viewer is first led to believe. Plus, the ending is of course terrible. Feels very rushed with some awful dialogue (“They’re daughters of Satan”, “l’m afraid l’ve got to keep you quiet, lnspector Morse. Sorry!” etc etc). Despite all this though, it’s still in my Top 5

      1. Hello Martin. You’re absolutely correct. A great episode with a terrible ending.

  21. Any eta on your last three Morse reviews, Chris? Interested to hear your take. I know you really rate ‘Death is Now My Neighbour’. Personally, I’ve always found the last three episodes just a little disappointing. A slightly tired feel

  22. This is a fantastic episode, with I agree a poor ending. There were a couple of coincidences that of course were part of the misdirection, mainly around the same jazz song being played by both Whitaker and Boynton, and then why would Whitaker take Morse out for a drive in a car that has the tape and knife in. At that point Morse had no hint at all it was Whitaker all along.

    The motive as I understood it seems to be triggered by Whittakers wife first being ill, and this would have been the time that Phillipa Lau was attacked because it said that it was 5 or so years ago. Then his wife became ill again so attacked again.

    I presume the reason Boynton wasn’t charged was due to Morse’s activity with Boynton having him arrested with no evidence, unlawful search and then both Morse and Maitland had been a bit indiscreet when talking with both Angie and Ablitt.

    There are a couple of unique scenes for me in this episode. Firstly, Morse being jovial when he arrives at the first murder scene. Secondly, the scene in the office where Maitland is first introduced and officers collectively are discussing the case.

  23. “If every man who hit his wife was accused of murder, the courts would be overflowing.”
    Said women’s assault expert Maitland as she rolled her eyes.
    Followed by “Who does that guy think he is?” directed at Morse.
    How sad this was the 90s version of feminism.

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