Murder on the Home Front Episode One Review: Patrick Kennedy and Tamzin Merchant shine in this odd mix of CSI and Foyle’s War

by Matt D

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I think most of us are quite accustomed to forensic crime dramas in this day and age. From Silent Witness through to CSI, we’ve seen plenty of crime shows that revolve around the use of forensic evidence to sole murders. However ITV’s latest drama, Murder on the Home Front, takes us back to the dawn of forensic crime solving techniques and hopes to create an original murder mystery.

Our setting is 1940s London in which brilliant pathologist Lennox Collins is assisting the police with their latest murder enquiry. Lennox is appalled by the way the police contaminate the crime scene namely by stepping in pools of blood and leaving their sandwiches on nearby shelves. Lennox asks DI Freddy Wilkins for as much forensic evidence as he can, however Wilkins is surprised as Lennox’s superior Professor Stephens never asks for anything like that. While at the crime scene, Lennox and Wilkins meet plucky young reporter Molly Cooper who wants to get an exclusive on the murder story. Instead of sending her away, Lennox hires her as his new assistant as he needs someone to help him type up his notes. Molly is astounded at how quickly Lennox is able to gather clues about the victim, Mary Williams, including the fact that she was ‘a goodtime girl.’ He is also able to deduce that Mary was a regular at The Metropol Night Club due to a giant M being stamped on her hand. Meanwhile Molly meets crime scene photographer Issy Quennell who gives her some helpful tips namely to never get too attached to the stiffs and to never wear anything she cherishes to work. At the same time, Lennox is being chastised by Professor Stephens as he has gone behind his back and published an article in a scientific journal. Lennox believes that crucial mistakes are still being made during crime scene investigation however Stevens tells him that the only mistake he ever made was hiring him. Stephens goes on to tell Lennox that the only reason he’s on his team is because all of the good men went off to war.

Murder On The Home Front

Meanwhile the police believe they have their man in Wilfred Ziegler a lonely lodger at Mary Williams’ boarding house who found the body in the first place. The fact that Ziegler is half-German would explain the swastikas carved into his victim’s tongues however and the majority of the investigating officers work hard to prove that Ziegler did it. However, Lennox isn’t convinced of Ziegler’s guilt and so he and Molly travel to The Metropol in an attempt to gather more evidence on the case. After conducting a number of interviews they narrow their search down to three individuals – the club’s owner, a young private who was dancing with her and a Polish-born munitions engineer. However, after another body is found, the police decide to arrest Ziegler despite Lennox believing that the lodger is innocent. But it does appear as if the wrong man has indeed been charged, when a beloved actor and key witness is found murdered.

Murder on the Home Front is an odd programme to asses as I’m still not quite sure on what sort of programme it wants to be. On one hand we have this period murder mystery piece in which we are shown the birth of forensics and the fight that one man faces in order to get his voice heard. Of course, being a forensics show, there is plenty of blood and guts and there are a total of four murders in this first episode alone. At the same time, Murder on the Home Front as an odd comic touch that I never found quite worked. From an early scene in which a potential sexual conquest of Lennox’s flees his house when she spots a skeleton on the wall, there are plenty of knockabout scenes that feel out of place here. Writer David Kane’s script is packed full of this type of gallows humour and I personally confused the tone of the overall project.

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What the programme does have going for it is its period detail with even the bomb-wrecked houses feeling completely genuine. From the opening air raid onwards, it’s clear that we are slap bang in Blitz-ridden London and this at least makes the drama feel a little bit original. Murder on the Home Front also benefits from having a number of likeable characters who you actually care about. While Dr Lennox Collins is a little bit of a TV cliché, in so much as he is brilliant yet misunderstood, he is still trying to fight for what he believes is right. Patrick Kennedy employs the right mixture of dry wit and quick thinking to successfully portray Lennox. Meanwhile Tamzin Merchant is suitably plucky as the driven Molly who ultimately wants to be a crime novelist. Merchant portrays Molly as a girl who thinks she knows everything but quickly learns that she’s in over her head. I also felt that Emerald Fennell added a certain amount of class as the intelligent Issy while James Fleet was suitably stoic as the traditional Professor Stephens.

Overall with its use of forensics, period setting and quick-witted lead, Murder on the Home Front comes across as an odd combination of CSI, Foyle’s War and Sherlock. While I David Kane’s script was well-paced, I still found the humour a little hard to stomach at times. However on the plus side the period detail was lovingly-crafted while the performances from Kennedy and Merchant were engaging. Ultimately I don’t feel that Murder on The Home Front added much originality to the forensic crime genre but it was still an enjoyable piece of drama nonetheless.

Did you watch Murder on the Home Front? If so did you enjoy it? Leave Your Comments Below

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1 Comment

  1. DavydMorgan-Moore on May 10, 2013 at 8:31 am

    Sir,
    A very interesting first part of the drama but with many flaws. Firstly, well done for the storyline. A young pathologist, a cross match on a modern Sherlock/Watson, a chap who does not take it on face value, but needs to build a complete picture into the physical and psychological aspect of the killer and the victim. Now for the bad dramatic license. At the start, the german 110 aircraft did not carry the amount of bombs portrayed. The Normandy stripes were kept a secret even from the allies and were only painted on all aircraft except four engines types, from the 2nd of June ’44. Not during the blitz. The American style coloured singer and the type of music and dance, was from a later period of the war. The yanks had not arrived thus far. These are just a few of a long list of problems. Does the drama have a person responsible for accuracy of what it was like during the blitz? I will take on the job.

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