I have a vague memory of trying to work with EPS files with Inkscape’s predecessor, Sodipodi. It was a nightmare. Needing to work with them just now, and since Inkscape didn’t just open it, I searched and found this post on zoltan’s blog about converting EPS files using pstoedit and skencil.
A search for pstoedit in Synaptic pulled it up but I noticed Inkscape was also there- the details of the Inkscape package suggests the installation of pstoedit but it hadn’t been installed. I installed just the pstoedit package, restarted Inkscape and can open the EPS file in Inkscape just fine (ok- I’m redoing the gradients- but pretty good).