I Need Light
Season 1, Episode 1
Air date 30 December 2012
Written by Richard Warlow
Directed by Tom Shankland
Episode Guide
In My Protection

I Need Light is the first episode of Season One of Ripper Street


When the body of violinist Maude Thwaites is found it bears all the hallmarks of a Ripper killing. However, an autopsy by Jackson suggests it is a copy-cat killing. Despite opposition from journalist Fred Best and Inspector Frederick Abberline, Detective Inspector Reid and his team enter into the world of Sir Arthur Donaldson, a pioneer in early photographic pornography and producer/star of one of the first 'snuff films', after discovering motion film of Thwaites being strangled. The investigation becomes more urgent when it is discovered that Donaldson purchased the services of Rose (who had already appeared in risque photos) and another prostitute.



East London, 1889: While conducting a "Ripper" tour of London's East End, the tour guide and his charges are horrified to stumble on the murdered body of a young woman, seemingly mutilated in the same fashion as the Ripper's victims.

P.C. Dick Hobbs runs to a warehouse where an illegal bare-knuckle boxing match is being held. Before Hobbs steps inside, an older constable grabs him and strips off his helmet and jacket, telling him that he will foul up the Inspector's entire operation if he enters dressed as a policeman. Marginally resembling a civilian, Hobbs rushes inside where Detective Inspector Edmund Reid is conferring with bookie Joseph Smeaton, who watches appreciatively as Reid's fighter, Bennet Drake, takes his opponent apart. Hobbs pulls Reid aside and says it appears as if the Ripper has struck again.

Part One Edit

An angry mob has already assembled outside the crime scene, barely held back by a line of policeman. When Reid arrives, he is hailed by Fred Best, the editor and chief reporter of The Star newspaper, asking if "he" has returned. Reid ignores him and proceeds to the crime scene, which is deserted except for the dead woman and a photographer, Cecil Creighton, hired by Best. Reid says he needs the crime scene preserved until he can see it in daylight, but Drake (actually Reid's sergeant and right-hand man) warns that the police can't keep the crowd out much longer. Reid points to Creighton, telling him to photograph the body in detail, as well as both ends of the alley.

Superficially, the victim appears to be the Ripper's work: her throat slit, her belly sliced open, and her face mutilated. Even more telling is the inscription painted on a nearby wall: "DOWN ON WHORES", the same message found near one of the previous victims. However, Reid notices very little blood, deducing quickly that she was killed elsewhere and then dragged to the crime scene. He instructs Drake to have the body taken to Leman Street in a carriage, carried in through a back entrance, and stored in an unoccupied cell until further notice.

Reid then rushes to Tenter Street and knocks open "Long" Susan Hart's brothel, demanding her sometime "lodger", Captain Homer Jackson. Jackson, hearing his name, pokes his head up from between Rose Erskine's legs, and asks that Reid wait until morning - or, failing that, five minutes. Reid refuses both and drags Jackson out.

Jackson reluctantly conducts an autopsy on the dead woman. When he notes the woman being hid in a cell, Reid says he must be certain before giving the public more proof of their belief that the Ripper has returned.

At Creighton's cramped basement studio, Reid examines the newly-developed photographs. He points out some undeveloped prints, and Creighton says he overexposed them. Reid insists on checking, and one photo shows that the wall where "DOWN ON WHORES" was written is blank. Creighton uncomfortably admits that it was Best who added the graffiti.

Reid furiously confronts Best at The Star office, and Best says that he added a bit of embellishment just to make plain to the public what is already plain to both him and Reid's former superior, Chief Inspector Fred Abberline, who already concurs that the murder is the Ripper's work. Since Reid is forced to admit that the Ripper was never caught, Best says that he has the right to run the story in Friday's paper, unless Reid can produce some evidence to the contrary before then.

Returning to Leman Street, Reid is confronted by a furious Inspector Abberline, who demands to know why the case has not been turned over to him. Reid stands his ground, saying "H" Division is his "shop" now, and he is not yet certain the victim has been "ripped." Abberline insists on viewing the body himself. To him, the wounds appear to be conclusive proof, but Jackson speaks up, saying the wounds were all post-mortem; the actual cause of death was strangulation. Reid challenges that Abberline wants the victim to be the Ripper's more than anything, just to have another chance at catching him, but Reid cannot proceed on that same assumption: if the woman was mutilated just to mislead the police, then Reid cannot afford to miss any clues that will lead to the real murderer. Abberline stonily says that if Reid does not produce proof, then he will pull rank and claim control of the case.

After Abberline leaves, Reid asks Jackson what else he noticed about the body. Jackson says that the woman experienced "intimacy" - quite vigorously - shortly before she died, but in spite of that, he doesn't think she's a whore. The woman is at least 28 years old, an age by which most professional whores' "apparatus" shows much greater signs of wear. Another odd sign was a small dab of some kind of jelly on her thighs. He then makes some educated guesses: based on some distinctive callouses and bruises around her shoulder and neck, that she played the violin, and based on soot accumulated in her hair, that her normal residence was in the suburbs north of the city. Reid orders Hobbs to send the inquiry via the station's new teletype machines.

Back at the brothel, Susan enters Jackson's room, unbidden, and asks to know what Reid wanted, and, more urgently, for assurance that Jackson will have no more dealings with him. Instead, Jackson has a question for her: which of her girls has been paid for "smut" (nude photographs). Susan furiously reminds him what will happen if the police pry further into their lives, but Homer rejoins that they are not "hiding" anymore, and that if Reid wants to make a friend of him, then that is much preferable to having a police inspector for an enemy. He repeats his question, and Susan reluctantly summons Rose. Jackson examines some nudes of Rose appreciatively, then asks where she had them taken.

A reply comes from Finchley about a missing violinist, sending Reid and Drake to the home of Mr. Christian Thwaites, who reported his wife, Maude, missing. When Reid knocks on the door, there is no answer, and, seeing the door ajar, Reid opens it to find Thwaites hanging from a noose in his foyer, choking slowly to death. A burly man runs out of the room towards the back, and Drake chases him to the window while Reid holds up Thwaites. The man jumps out the window and runs to a small carriage parked in the street, where Drake sees a "toff" - a well-dressed young man with an unmistakable bearing of aristocracy - sitting in the back. Before Drake can pursue, Reid yells that he cannot support Thwaites much longer, and Drake runs back and stands on a chair to cut the rope.

A short time later, Reid and Drake are questioning Thwaites in his living room. He says he never saw the men who attacked him before, and asks if they came to talk about Maude. Reid reluctantly takes him to the station to view the body in the cell. As soon as he uncovers her, Thwaites collapses in sobs, confirming the corpse's identity as his wife.

Part Two Edit

Rose escorts Jackson to the underground smut studio, where women are posing in various states of undress, often with costumes. Noticing a rubbish skip, Jackson picks up a few photos, and, among the shredded paper, an even more salacious shot.

In The Brown Bear pub, adjacent to the police station, Reid and Drake are sharing a pint while reviewing what they know: they know the victim's name and how she was killed, but little else. Then Jackson arrives and drops the photos on the table, including one that has captured a man and woman mid-coitus. "The act itself, Reid, that's the future of smut." Jackson says Reid was right, the gel on Maude Thwaites' thighs was from a photographer's dry plate, and her involvement with the underground smut would explain her recent intimacy.

Reid lays the pictures before Thwaites, demanding to know where Maude had them done. In shame, Thwaites says that everything Maude did, she did for them: Thwaites married her while she was earning pennies as a fiddle teacher and occasional prostitute. He promised to take her away from that life, but then lost his job, and was forced to mortgage their home and all their possessions just to avoid bankruptcy. She reverted to her old ways of earning money, and he did his best to deny that it was happening. He knows nothing of who she posed with or who might have purchased her photographs. Drake presses threateningly, and Thwaites tearfully says that they can't hurt him - he has lost his wife, and wishes nothing more than that his would-be killers had succeeded.

Reid has Thwaites placed in a cell under suspicion, but privately says to Drake that he doesn't think Thwaites is the killer. Drake is skeptical, wondering whether a husband's shame at having a tart for a wife might eventually drive him to murder. Reid says they must table the inquiry for now, and return to their ongoing "sting" against Joseph Smeaton.

That evening, Drake is taking part in another bare-knuckle match, this time with the expectation that he will take a fall in the fifth round. Out of the corner of his eye, Drake notices a well-dressed man seated among the spectators, and freezes, opening himself to a punch from his opponent that drops him. The referee pronounces the match over, and Smeaton gleefully hands out his guests' winnings. At that point, Reid calls in his constables and places Smeaton under arrest. Noticing that the money Smeaton is handing out is counterfeit, he stuffs a handful into Smeaton's mouth and says they will add forgery to the charges for illegal fights and gambling.

Drake, lying winded on the ground, urgently calls Reid over, and points out the "toff" from Thwaites's apartment. The man, seeing the police enter the warehouse, quickly vacates his seat and walks briskly to his waiting carriage. Reid gives chase, but loses him.

Part Three Edit

Returning to the station, Reid says that whatever Thwaites may know about this man's identity, they will have it from him this time. But when they reach the cell, Thwaites is dead, having slit his wrists with the knife that came in with his supper.

In Reid's office, Reid, Drake, and Jackson review what little they know. Looking at a portrait of Maude from the Thwaites home, Reid notices something odd, and pulls down a handful of the crime scene photos taken earlier. He points out an identical blemish on the photographs, proving that they were all taken with the same camera.

The three men rush to Creighton's studio and force the door, but Creighton is not there. They begin to search the room, and Jackson notices that a steamer trunk in the corner has a false bottom. Beneath it, they find various nude or pornographic photographs of Maude. Flipping through them, Reid sees one of her on a bed, being throttled with a belt by a man in Egyptian costume. Drake recognizes the man as the "toff" they are all seeking. Jackson finds one last odd thing: a strip of photographic plates bound together, showing what appears to be the same identical shot of a bird.

While they are absorbed in the evidence, Creighton returns, sees them, and throws a match into his (highly flammable) cache of photos, then rushes out and locks them inside.

They can't batter the door, and Drake soon finds that water only engorges this particular kind of fire. The men appear to be trapped, but Reid grabs a set of chemicals from Creighton's store and makes "guncotton", an impromptu explosive charge. The three men take cover behind an upended table and Reid throws a match, blowing the door open.

Outside the studio, Reid looks again at the strip Jackson lifted, and notes that, though the shots appear identical, the bird is actually in a different position at the end of the strip, meaning the plates have actually captured the bird in motion. A Frenchman named Le Prince has been experimenting with a camera capable of capturing, and then displaying, articles in motion. Now, Reid postulates, what if someone could apply the same technique to the smut photos they have seen - make the participants move and come alive on a screen? Jackson and Drake are briefly stunned by the implications - "in the right circles, make them a mint" Jackson remarks. Reid says their goal is to find the man in the photos, who they now know is the one who strangled Maude Thwaites to death.

As they speak, the man himself is seated in his carriage outside Long Susan's, who welcomes him with the smile and manners she reserves for her richest and most elegant clients. He hands her a wad of banknotes, and she escorts two of her girls, Rose and Myrtle, to the carriage for a private party. The "toff" insists on blindfolding them both before they enter, then offers them sweets. Neither of them are aware of Creighton, sitting sullenly in one corner.

On Friday morning, Chief Inspector Abberline storms into "H" Division and demands to speak with Reid. Sgt. Artherton says Reid is addressing a gathering of his men.

In the muster room, Reid passes around copies of the photograph, telling his men to tap all their underworld contacts for this man's identity. Abberline enters, takes one of the photographs, and says the man's name is Sir Arthur Donaldson.

As the police rush outside and board a Maria, Abberline tells Reid that Donaldson was arrested twice in the summer of 1886, before Reid's time at "H" Division - once for exposing himself at a church picnic in Victoria Park, and then for a lewd assault on a pregnant woman on the Stepney omnibus. The police charged him, but, Abberline says ruefully, his family was so rich and so eminent that they might as well have expected the Queen herself to spend a night in gaol. All they have on Donaldson is his home address. Reid thanks his old superior, then rushes to join his men. As the Maria speeds away, Abberline sags in disappointment, now forced to accept that Maude Thwaites is not a Ripper victim after all.

Part Four Edit

In the parlor of Donaldson's house, Rose reawakens in a tangle of half-dressed men and women. She moves haltingly, as if she has been drugged, and struggles to remember what happened the previous night. She has vague recollections of violence, and quickly covers herself with a sheet and tries to exit the house. But Donaldson has been watching her, and drags her back inside.

The police storm into the residence listed as Donaldson's home address, only to find it empty, and all the furniture covered in dust sheets. No one has been there for a long time.

Jackson returns to Tenter Street and asks Susan where Rose is. She refuses to say, and he says it is important that she stop having the smut photos taken, there is someone dangerous mixed up in it. Susan scoffs, "you squire her one day and daddy her the next?" Jackson sardonically asks if Susan is jealous, and she replies, in a voice of pure ice, that she would rather shrivel and die alone than let him near her again. Jackson insists on knowing where Rose is, and she says she doesn't know; she was ordered out by a "toff" in a carriage, and hasn't returned - what's worse, the banknotes she was paid in have turned out to be counterfeit. Alarmed, Jackson says she has to come with him to tell Reid, immediately. She refuses, and he reaches for her. She bolts to her feet, telling him that if he so much as touches her, she will kill him. In exasperation, Jackson grabs her arm and drags her out, ignoring her protests.

Reid and Drake return to Leman Street, determined to scour their records for any clue as to Donaldson's bolt-hole. Jackson is waiting and shoves Susan forward, telling her to speak up. Sullenly, she repeats to Reid where Rose has gone, and holds up the "snide" currency. Realizing there is a connection with Smeaton, Reid and Drake rush down to the cell and conduct a brief, brutal interrogation of the bookie. Under duress, he admits that he visited Donaldson's house, but only once.

Donaldson forces Rose to watch as Creighton screens his "masterpiece" on a canvas wall: Donaldson, dressed in Egyptian costume, throwing Maude Thwaites onto a bed and strangling her to death. Rose is visibly horrified, while Donaldson is visibly aroused, and proposes that they make another. Creighton, fighting his own revulsion and shame, mumbles, "I need light." Donaldson says that is easily solved. He drugs Rose, then drags her outside to the house's courtyard, where the Egyptian tableau from the previous motion picture is set up. Donaldson dresses in his own version of ancient dress (including a gold laurel leaf crown) while Creighton sets up his camera. Creighton begins cranking the camera, recording the scene as Donaldson throws himself on Rose and starts twisting the belt around her neck.

The police storm into the house, where some of the revelers from the previous night's orgy begin waking. Seeing Myrtle, Jackson asks urgently where Rose is, but she is also drugged and only half-awake. One of the men, waking, grabs a sabre and lunges at Jackson, but only wounds his hand. Drake disarms the man and takes the sword. Looking out the window, he and Reid see the courtyard, and rush outside.

In the courtyard, Creighton has to cover his mouth with his handkerchief, to keep from retching, even as his other hand continues turning the handle of his camera. Donaldson twists harder and Rose's eyes start to roll up in her head - then she sees Drake charge across the courtyard with a bellow, and he runs Donaldson through with the sword in his hand. Donaldson collapses to the ground, dead, while Rose falls back onto the bed, coughing and gasping, but unmistakably alive. Drake hastens to loosen the belt around her neck and wrap her in his overcoat.

While Drake and Reid are focused on Rose, Creighton hurriedly puts his lighter to the strip of film inside the camera, hoping to destroy the evidence. He cringes when Reid turns to him, but Reid says that, whatever punishment the courts hand down for his actions, his camera is an extraordinary invention.

This unexpected praise is the final straw for Creighton, who breaks down sobbing, no longer able to suppress his shame at the evil uses he has sold his "extraordinary" invention for. Instead of backing away from the camera, he lifts it off its stand and clutches it tightly to his chest, screaming as the flames spread to the housing and burn him alive with it. Reid, Drake, and Jackson can only watch as he collapses to his knees over his now destroyed camera.

Drake carries Rose into the brothel and Susan guides him to Jackson's room, where he lays her on the divan. Weakly, Rose mumbles that she had thought she was safe at last, and free from the dangers most nightwalkers are privy to. Drake shushes her and tells her that she is safe now. She reaches out and strokes the lapel of his jacket, as if not wanting him to leave, but Jackson enters and tells Drake he will tend to Rose's wounds. Drake walks out of the brothel in a daze, obviously struck by Cupid's arrow.

In a private room of The Brown Bear, Reid meets with Abberline and Best. Reid hands Best a dossier of the facts, including the fake currency, the photos of Maude, and the snuff film. Best sees enough inside the folder to know he has been given the story of the year, but asks why. "Because it is the truth", Reid replies. Maude Thwaites was never "ripper", but Abberline and Best, for their own reasons, wished it to be so. Reid says he will no longer look for the Ripper "in every act of evil that crosses our path" - there is enough evil in the city already, and their continued obsession with one maniac has blinded them to the truth for too long. Best agrees to publish the true facts, and Reid orders him out.

After Best is gone, Abberline leans forward and says Reid cannot abandon his hunt for the Ripper, who they both know must still be alive somewhere - "these streets demand your vigilance." Reid rejects this; he says they did everything in their power (and occasionally stepped outside the boundaries of the law) to catch the Ripper, and they can do no more. "All we can do now is hope that he is gone, and stays gone." With that, Reid leaves the pub, replaces his hat, and strides back to the station to resume his duties.


Main CastEdit

Recurring CastEdit

Guest Cast Edit


See AlsoEdit