Why did Midsomer Murders change Barnaby?

Midsomer Murders did not change Barnaby, but DCI Tom Barnaby’s position was taken over by DCI John Barnaby, as John Nettles decided to leave the series in 2011.

Midsomer Murders is one of the most popular flagship crime drama series on ITV. The show first premiered in 1997 and was helmed by acclaimed English actor, John Nettles, who played the role of DCI Tom Barnaby.

In 2011, Nettles decided to leave the role after 14 years of playing the character. His decision meant that there was a vacancy in terms of the lead character of the series.

This is where Neil Dudgeon came in as the character of DCI John Barnaby and stepped up to lead the series. This matter can cause confusion as the cousins share the same last name in the story, but they are two different characters.

Why did John Nettles leave Midsomer Murders?

John Nettles technically played the role of DCI Tom Barnaby since 1996 in the pilot episode titled “The Killings of Badger’s Drift”. Therefore, by the time he decided to leave the role, he had been playing the character for over 14 years.

While it seems that Midsomer Murders showed no signs of stopping as it continues to be a ratings-puller and popular watch for BritBox subscribers and ITV television viewers, Nettles wanted to leave during the high.

This is as he said, “It’s always wise to leave people wanting more, rather than be booed off the stage because you bored them.”

Why did Midsomer Murders change Barnaby?

Technically, Midsomer Murders did not change Barnaby, but it replaced one for another. John Nettles is the original lead who started with the show when it first premiered on ITV in 1997.

But in light of John Nettles’ departure from the series at the end of season 13, the series looked to introduce a lead that would take over as Detective Chief Inspector and that would still bear the Barnaby namesake for continuity purposes for viewers.

Hence, the series started introducing Neil Dudgeon as DCI John Barnaby. He first made a cameo appearance in season 13, episode two titled “The Sword of Guillaume”.

In the episode, the two cousins worked together to solve the mystery of someone who was decapitated during a horse ride. This showed viewers the chemistry and similarities between the two characters.

However, DCI John Barnaby enjoyed his first full-length appearance on the series in the season 14 premiere episode titled “Death in the Slow Lane”.

In the opening scenes, he was being shown around by DS Jones, who was formerly Tom Barnaby’s sidekick.

But after Tom decided to retire and travel the world with his wife, Joyce, he was partnered with the new Barnaby, who he was surprised to find out has degrees in psychology, maths, biology, physics, and chemistry, unlike his predecessor.

Therefore, the biggest confusion is the use of the name Barnaby, which can either refer to Tom Barnaby, the original, or John Barnaby, depending on when you were introduced to the series.

John Nettles on Neil Dudgeon as his replacement on Midsomer Murders

When it was confirmed that John Nettles was leaving his role as the beloved DCI Tom Barnaby, there was the question of who would replace him.

This question was answered before the premiere of season 14, when Neil Dudgeon was revealed as the replacement.

At the time, there was interest in Nettles’ reaction, who had already shared scenes with Dudgeon in his final season.

Nettles, in turn, was all compliments and good humour, stating, “I am only worried that he is much younger than I am and a much better actor!”

Midsomer Murders on why Neil Dudgeon was the ideal replacement

While Neil Dudgeon did not speak about his feelings at the time about replacing John Nettles in the leading role of Midsomer Murders, the production team, who had worked with the two actors in season 13, shared why they believed Dudgeon was the ideal replacement.

Executive Producer, Brian True-May, shared, “Having worked with Neil Dudgeon twice on Midsomer Murders already, I feel he is the perfect choice.  I admire him as an actor and know he will be a wonderful addition to the team and a great ambassador for the series.”

Midsomer Murders: Would the new Barnaby ever leave?

Considering that John Nettles called it quits on Midsomer Murders after 14 years, and Neil Dudgeon has just surpassed the milestone of his tenth year playing the character, the looming question is whether he, too, is beginning to feel the itch to move on to other adventures.

But during his interview with RadioTimes in 2020, Dudgeon seemed to have no intentions to leave anytime soon. He explained, “I’ve got no intention of stopping doing it. I don’t know what else I’d do!”