‘Inside No. 9’ Season 2 Episode 3 review: ‘The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge’

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This week’s episode of Inside No. 9 is the third of the second season, which makes it literally Episode No. 9.

It’s probably reaching to read too much into such things, particularly as the programmes were almost certainly recorded out of sequence, but there’s still a pleasing symmetry in that there’s a return to roots in the more macabre elements of this week’s story, ‘The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge’.

For long-time fans of The League of Gentlemen who somehow remain blissfully unaware of what Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith have been up to in the intervening years, this story is probably best described as the Christmas special edition. It’s certainly the first episode of this show that’s clearly set in non-contemporary times: at the height of hysteria of the witch trials of 18th Century England.

Inside No.9 2 3 The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge (RUTH SHEEN)

Plotwise, the episode has a lot in common with Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, and shares a great deal of tone with the classic horror Blood On Satan’s Claw – which, apart from featuring at least two stalwarts of classic Doctor Who, also features a turn from Michelle Dotrice, who appeared in last week’s ‘The Twelve Days of Christine’.

Elizabeth Gadge (Ruth Sheen) is accused of witchcraft and all sorts of depraved sexual acts, although it’s quickly evident that her accusers are less concerned with devilry than they are distracted by the chance of getting their hands on her property.

Inside No.9 2 3 The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge (DAVID WARNER)

Like all the best jokes in this episode, that’s at least in part based on nasty historical fact. In the village of Little Happens, Andrew Pike (David Warner) presides ineffectually over proceedings, and is more interested in drumming up a roaring tourist trade, as well as being mouth wateringly fascinated by the many used of a torture device.

David Warner’s performance really sets the tone for this episode, reminiscent of Leslie Neilson’s deadpan reaction to the ridiculous in Police Squad! There isn’t any of that show’s Mad Magazine style visual comedy, but it shares the DNA of having everybody play the show with deadly, earnest seriousness, even when delivering some admittedly silly jokes.

Inside No.9 2 3 The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge

Some of those jokes are in the punning names: Shearsmith and Pemberton arrive as Warren and Clarke, the witchfinders generally disagreeing with each other about how to best conduct a trial. There’s a beautifully tortured gag about the name of Goodwife Twoshoes, partner to Richard (Paul Kaye), and it’s reasonable to assume that both Shearsmith and Pemberton knew what ‘gadge’ meant back in the seventies.

Once again, this is genuinely exciting and unpredictable television, a chocolate box of dark delights where someone’s stolen the little card: you never know what you’re going to get next.


Aired at 10pm on Thursday 9 April 2015 on BBC Two.

> Buy Season 1 on DVD on Amazon.

> Order Season 2 on DVD on Amazon.

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