Inspector Lewis: The Mind Has Mountains

Dr. Hobson, Inspector Lewis, and Sergeant Hathaway/ Robert Day
Dr. Hobson, Inspector Lewis, and Sergeant Hathaway look as unhappy as the depressives/ Robert Day
Everyone’s on edge in this week’s installment of Inspector Lewis on Masterpiece Mystery: Inspector Lewis himself, who’s itching for a fight at every turn; Sergeant Hathaway, who’s feeling under-appreciated. Even Dr. Laura Hobson, medical examiner and Lewis’s erstwhile love interest, is not her usual unflappable self. (Friction between Lewis and Dr. Hobson has them both uncharacteristically out of sorts.)

Edgiest of all are the participants in an antidepressant drug trial going on at Oxford, especially after one of them—the ethereal Amy Katz—is found with her head bashed in after apparently jumping from her bedroom window onto some artfully arranged rocks in the garden below.

Of course, if this were a suicide, we wouldn’t need Inspector Lewis (Kevin Whately) and Sergeant Hathaway (Laurence Fox) to crack the case. So we’re looking for a murderer, this time one who has more than a passing familiarity with psychiatry.

“The Mind Has Mountains” comes from a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins—Oxford Class of 1867, poet, priest, and noted melancholiac.

O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne’er hung there.

Hopkins was writing about despair (he did that a lot). Considering that this episode involves people suffering from depression, despair is an appropriate subject.

But I suspect that screenwriter Patrick Harbinson chose that line because of another text: The Mind Has Mountains by Paul R. McHugh, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. McHugh’s book concerns the way popular culture influences psychiatric diagnosis and treatment, making certain conditions fashionable and giving some psychiatrists the notion that they’re all-knowing and infallible even if their professional judgment is questionable.

The Mind also has Mountains of Diagnoses
The Mind also has Mountains of Diagnoses
In this episode, that’s an appropriate subject, too: Dr. Alex Gansa, the psychiatrist who invited her to join the drug trial; the psychiatrist with whom she was in love, was treating Amy for depression.

This is Patrick Harbinson’s first script for Inspector Lewis, and the fact that his credits include Law & Order: SVU, ER, Wire in the Blood, and James Cameron’s Dark Angel, might explain why it eschews scholarly themes for standard cop-show fare such as pharmaceuticals, medical ethics, and De Clerambault’s Syndrome (more commonly known as erotomania, a movie-of-the-week condition if ever there was one).

I missed the literary allusions I’ve come to expect from Lewis; still the episode has bright spots. Douglas Henshall portrays Dr. Gansa with a cool superiority destined to rattle Lewis’s cage. (I’m guessing the character was named for the Alex Gansa who was Harbinson’s fellow writer/producer on 24.) And with one little gesture, Alex MacQueen makes the tiny role of Gansa’s department head, Dr. Julius Fisher, deliciously memorable.

The shrinks are not the heroes of our tale, however. That role belongs to modest, reasonable, realistic Lewis. He’s a confirmed skeptic of the psychiatric trade. His opinion of medical examiners might be a different story.

Dr. Hobson, Hathaway, and Lewis at the crime scene
Hobson looks at the body, Hathaway looks into space, and Lewis looks at. . .Hobson?
Since the beginning of the series, Dr. Hobson, the medical examiner played by Clare Holman, has been Lewis’s counterpart in every way. She’s smart, attentive and dedicated to her work. At the same time she’s a loyal, intuitive, amiable companion.

Romantics are swooning: “They make a great couple!” Faithful viewers of Inspector Lewis—and of Inspector Morse before him—know love can’t possibly be that easy.

Back when Lewis was working with Inspector Morse, he was a happily married father of two. When Kevin Whately returned as Inspector Lewis in the 2006 series pilot a lot had changed: Lewis’s wife, Val, had been killed in a hit-and-run; his kids, Lyn and Ken (I think his name was Ken), were grown and gone; and he was on his own.

Five years on, he’s settled into a new routine with a new partner—Sergeant James Hathaway played by Laurence Fox—and a new boss—Superintendent Jean Innocent played by Rebecca Front. (Val Lewis’s death is resolved in Season II’s “The Quality of Mercy.”)

As Lewis’s trusted colleague, Dr. Hobson’s role in the series continues to grow. She’s even pictured alongside Lewis and Hathaway on the Season IV DVD package, which gives us some indication of where the series is headed.

Or does it?

Friction and the occasional wayward spark aside, I’m hoping that Lewis and Dr. Hobson remain, as Superintendent Innocent says, “two grown-up single people who obviously like each other.” Innocent finds this frustrating. She wants more; but I don’t. (Possible Spoiler Alert: The flash video below has actor Kevin Whateley’s opinion, and he’d be likely to have the inside scoop.)

I don’t rely on Inspector Lewis for romantic tension. For me—and I hope for Lewis and Dr. Hobson—the suspense and satisfaction of solving a case will always be enough.

You can also watch the interview and the “The Mind Has Mountains” episode on the PBS website. And our coverage of all the series can always be found on our Masterpiece Mystery feature page.

Image via ShrinkWrap.

Leslie Gilbert Elman blogs intermittently at My Life in Laundry. She’s written two trivia books and has a few unpublished fiction manuscripts in the closet to keep the skeletons company.


  1. Terrie Farley Moran

    Leslie, like you I don’t think we need more from Lewis and Laura. I enjoy watching them just as they are. Of course if they move forward by inches rather than yards, I’d probably not mind a bit.

  2. Laura K. Curtis

    I, too, enjoy their relationship as it is.

    Every series has a set of relationships that make it work. I love the relationship between Inspector Barnaby (Midsomer Murders) and his wife, for example, but it would never do to try to imitate that with another set of characters. It works because of who those characters are.

    Lewis is a more cautious sort, as is Laura. I think they work well together with the inching ever closer but never actually making contact.

  3. Leslie Gilbert Elman

    Whew! I thought I’d take some heat on this. Glad to hear there are other viewers who feel as I do.

  4. Terrie Farley Moran

    @Leslie, don’t you love it when great minds think alike? @Laura, when you say “Lewis is a more cautious sort, as is Laura.” I say “exactly!” I wouldn’t want either of them to go against type. It would ruin the show.

  5. Alli

    I don’t agree with your take at all. It would be nice to see the two of them move closer. Not getting married or anything but just be a bit less lonely. Laura doesn’t seem as cautious as Lewis. She often asks him out and at the end of Series 5, she asks him to join her at home. A big step forward perhaps?

  6. Terrie Farley Moran

    Alli, I saw that and really don’t want them to move too quickly, but the invitation was nicely done.

  7. Leslie Gilbert Elman

    Yes and now we have to wait until next season to find out more!

    I believe it’s possible to be alone and not be lonely, and I think that Lewis and Dr. Hobson demonstrate that. It’s one of the reasons I like them as they are. If that changes, I’m still a fan. 🙂

  8. Alli

    I take your point. However, Lewis seems a lot more lonely than Laura. He was a happily married man. Must be tough to be on your own then. Laura seems a happy singleton but then again, she is the one wanting more.
    I have a question, according to the DVD release the episode when Laura asks him over for dinner isn’t suppose to be the last one in the series. They changed the order. Any takes on that?

  9. Leslie Gilbert Elman

    I think the episodes were shown in the U.S. in the same order they were shown in the U.K.

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