Virtual Murder (TV series)

Virtual Murder was an unusual investigative drama series shown on BBC television in 1992. It starred Nicholas Clay as Dr John Cornelius, a psychology lecturer at a provincial university, and Kim Thomson as his vivacious, red-headed partner, Samantha Valentine.

Virtual Murder
Kim Thomson as Samantha Valentine and Nicholas Clay as Dr. John Cornelius in Virtual Murder
Created byHarry Robertson and Brian Degas
StarringNicholas Clay
Kim Thomson
Stephen Yardley
Jude Akuwudike
Alan David
Carole Boyd
Theme music composerHarry Robertson
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of episodes6
Executive producer(s)Barry Hanson
Producer(s)Harry Robertson and Brian Degas
Running timec. 50 minutes per episode
Original networkBBC1
Original release24 July 
28 August 1992

Subject matter and cast

Virtual Murder was in the mould of some earlier off-beat series, such as The Avengers and Adam Adamant Lives!, both shown in the 1960s. Like Steed and Emma Peel or Adam Adamant and Georgina Jones, Cornelius ("JC") and Valentine investigated a succession of rather eccentric or bizarre occurrences. They often did so in cooperation with the police, represented by Stephen Yardley as Inspector Cadogan and Jude Akuwudike as Sergeant Gummer. Complementing the occult elements and those of virtual reality, there was a thread of playful, sometimes dark humour running through the scripts and an underlying sexual frisson between Clay and Thomson.

Other regular characters were Professor Owen Griffiths (Alan David) and Phoebe Littlejohn (Carole Boyd, best known for her role as Lynda Snell in BBC radio’s The Archers).


The series was created and produced at the BBC’s Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham by Brian Degas,[1] a scriptwriter for the film Barbarella (1968) and co-creator of the TV series Colditz (1972), and Harry Robertson, best known as a composer of film music (mostly under the name of Harry Robinson).[2] The original title of the series was Nimrod but this was changed to Virtual Murder – this was the original title of the script for what was intended to be the first episode, later renamed "Dreams Imagic".[3] As things transpired "Dreams Imagic" was, in fact, the last episode to be broadcast. Direction of the episodes was shared between Philip Draycott[4] and Peter Rose[5] with the episodes recorded between 12 August 1991 and 28 February 1992 on location in Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Kidderminster and Wolverhampton as well as at Studio A in Pebble Mill.[3] All but "Dreams Imagic" had an array of guest stars.


Six episodes of Virtual Murder were made and broadcast by the BBC on Friday evenings in 1992:[6]

Valuable paintings in art galleries are melting spontaneously, with no evident cause. Cornelius assists the police investigation, and a criminal and his motive are discovered.

Dramatic goings-on on the Empire Steam Preservation Railway, filmed on the Severn Valley Railway. The opening titles feature the locomotive 6960 Raveningham Hall running at night. In another night-time scene, filmed at Kidderminster, a victim of the villain is about to be run over by a train but escapes in the nick of time.

Critical reaction

On the whole, the series received a lukewarm critical response with Lynne Truss in The Times summing it up as "The Avengers re-written by someone who heard about it once but never actually saw it".[7] Another commentator, who, on balance, judged the series a failure, described it as being pitched "uncomfortabl[y] somewhere between the camp of The Avengers and the dark fantasy of The X-Files",[8] although the latter highly acclaimed American science fiction series post-dates Virtual Murder by over a year. Others have blamed the summer evening scheduling for jeopardising its chances of success.[9]

Ratings fell from 6.53 million for the opening episode to 4.9 million for the fourth episode and the series was not renewed for a second season.[10] Virtual Murder is well regarded in some quarters: for example, the eminent television historian Andrew Pixley, recalling the show in 2002, wrote, "Finally, I thought, somebody had been brave enough to craft a modern thriller which, while captured on videotape, boasted all the style, fun and imagination of the great British film series of the 1960s such as The Avengers and Department S".[11] However, the series remains largely forgotten today and, as of 2019, has never been repeated, nor released in any video format.

Notes and references

  1. Brian Degas on IMDb
  2. Harry Robertson on IMDb
  3. Pixley, Andrew (1997). "The Murder of a Series (in the Summer graveyard slot)". TV Zone. No. Special #26: Anniversaries Special '97. pp. 8–11. ISSN 0960-8230.
  4. Philip Draycott on IMDb
  5. Peter Rose on IMDb
  6. "Virtual Murder". BBC Programme Catalogue. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 6 January 2007.
  7. Truss, Lynne (8 August 1992). "TV Review: Fifty Ways to End it All". The Times. News Corp.
  8. "Virtual Murder [1992]". EOFFTV. Retrieved 19 January 2007.
  9. See, for example: Seymour, Kieran (2002). "Virtual Murder Episode Guide". Action TV Online. Archived from the original on 8 October 2006. Retrieved 19 January 2007.
  10. May, Dominic; Clark, Stuart & Yau, Edward (October 1992). "News: Ratings". TV Zone. No. 35. p. 4. ISSN 0957-3844.
  11. Pixley, Andrew (2002). "Virtual Murder". TV Zone. No. Special #45: TV Heroes. p. 30. ISSN 0957-3844.
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