The episode was adapted from the novel of the same name by author Caroline Graham and was screenplayed by Anthony Horowitz, who was also well-known for adapting dramas such as Foyle's War and Agatha Christie's Poirot. It was directed by Jeremy Silberston. It is the first appearance of Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby and Detective Sergeant Gavin Troy, played by John Nettles and Daniel Casey respectively.
When elderly Emily Simpson stepped into the woods one sunny afternoon, she never expected to see what she did. Something she was never meant to see and that meant she had to be silenced. DCI Barnaby and DS Troy arrived in the village of Badger's Drift to discover an array of eccentric characters all with their own sinister agendas. And does the murder have anything to do with a shooting at the local manor that happened one year ago?
PlotWhen gentle spinster Emily Simpson is murdered in her own home in the seemingly tranquil village of Badger's Drift, it attracts the attention of DCI Tom Barnaby and DS Gavin Troy of Causton CID. When her friend, Lucy Bellringer, is unconvinced that Miss Simpson died of natural causes, she voices her suspicions. Suspects include Iris and Dennis Rainbird, the Lessiter family, which includes Trevor, the local GP, his wife Barbara, and daughter Judith . Other persons of interest are Henry Trace, the landowner and is engaged to young Katherine Lacey; his estate manager is David Whitely, Katherine's artist brother Michael, and Phyllis Cadell. Barnaby also learns of the shooting of Henry's first wife Bella almost two years ago.
- John Nettles as DCI Tom Barnaby
- Daniel Casey as DS Gavin Troy
- Jane Wymark as Joyce Barnaby
- Laura Howard as Cully Barnaby
- Barry Jackson as Dr. George Bullard
- Renée Asherson as Emily Simpson (as Renee Asherson)
- Rosalie Crutchley as Lucy Bellringer
- Jonathan Firth as Michael Lacey
- Emily Mortimer as Katherine Lacey
- Julian Glover as Henry Trace
- Selina Cadell as Phyllis Cadell
- Christopher Villiers as David Whitely
- Richard Cant as Dennis Rainbird
- Elizabeth Spriggs as Iris Rainbird
- Bill Wallis as Dr. Trevor Lessiter
- Diana Hardcastle as Barbara Lessiter
- Jessica Hynes as Judith Lessiter (as Jessica Stevenson)
- Barbara Young as Anne Quine
- Avril Elgar as Mary Sharpe
- Cory Pulman as Terry Bazely
- Peter Jordan as Counseller 1
- Marlene Sidaway as Counseller 2
- Jonathan Oliver as Counseller 3
- Simon Godwin as Giovanni
- Neil Conrich as Duty Police Officer
- Paul Putner as Policeman
- Nigel Asbridge as Vicar
- Guy Normas as Grave Digger (uncredited)
- Elizabeth Spriggs and Richard Cant later portrayed Iris Rainbird's sister, Ursula Gooding and nephew Alistair Gooding respectively in the second episode of Series Nine entitled Dead Letters.
- Neil Conrich and Christopher Villiers were the first actors to originate recurring characters in the series, Conrich's character of Police Constable Angel appeared in four subsequent episodes concluding in Birds of Prey, and Villiers character David Whitely later appeared in the Series Two episode entitled Death's Shadow.
- Guy Normas the Gravedigger in the episode holds the record for the longest period between his first appearance in the series, The Killings at Badger's Drift and his latest appearance, the series finale of Series Twenty, Send in the Clowns.
The following actors and actresses from the pilot episode of the series have appeared in subsequent episodes:
- Selina Caddell - Midsomer Life
- Richard Cant - Dead Letters
- Elizabeth Spriggs - Dead Letters
- Neil Conrich - Written in Blood, Death of a Hollow Man, Death's Shadow, Strangler's Wood, Beyond the Grave and Birds of Prey
- Guy Normas - Send in the Clowns
- Paul Putner - Written in Blood
- Marlene Sidaway - Written in Blood, Death's Shadow and Judgement Day
- Christopher Villiers - Death's Shadow
- Barbara Young - Last Year's Model