Cherubim and Seraphim

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"Cherubim and Seraphim"
Inspector Morse episode
Episode no. Season 6
Episode 5
Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by Julian Mitchell
Production code 25
Original air date 15 April 1992
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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List of Inspector Morse episodes

"Cherubim and Seraphim" directs here. For the religious group, please see Sacred Cherubim and Seraphim Society

"Cherubim and Seraphim" is an episode of the British television detective mystery show Inspector Morse dramatized on ITV. It was first broadcast in 1992. Cherubim and Seraphim are both Biblical words and their origin is described in Christian angelic hierarchy.

Set-Up[edit]

The story involves a group of teenagers reveling in the contemporary rave and acid house culture. A teenager, Marilyn Garrett (Charlotte Chatton), the daughter of Morse's stepsister Joyce (Sorcha Cusack), is found dead, having taken an overdose. Morse takes leave to investigate the death, searching for a reason for Marilyn's suicide. Despite his love of opera and classics Morse shows some interest in and empathy with the prevailing youth culture and its music, although it is utterly alien to him. On one occasion, when listening to some homemade acid house music, Morse becomes excited as he spots a sample of the Hallelujah Chorus on headphones but the backing track we hear repeated in this episode actually contains an extract from Allegri's Miserere.

Meanwhile, Morse's stepmother Gwen – the mother of Joyce – is being treated in a nursing home where a Doctor Desmond Collier (Jason Isaacs), a pioneering chemist who has invented a new anti-aging drug, 'Seraphics', which work by expanding the blood vessels which leading to the brain, allowing blood to move more freely.

Investigation[edit]

A second teenager, Jacko Lever, is reported missing. As Morse is on holiday, his Detective Sergeant Lewis (Kevin Whately) is placed with another Inspector, the more methodical and soon to retire DCI Holroyd (John Junkin). Lewis (who is studying for inspector) is in charge of the search for Jacko with Holroyd observing him. The teen is eventually found dead in a railway tunnel; another suicide.

Both Marilyn and Jacko are found to have taken the same pill before their death, although it is not immediately recognizable to the pathologist. A friend of Marilyn's, Vicky Wilson (Liza Walker), goes missing, which adds a degree of urgency to the investigation. Morse and Lewis learn more about rave culture from a younger drugs squad officer and they manage to discover a periodical unofficial 'rave' event called CHERUB which Marilyn, Vicky and Jacko have been attending.

During the investigation, Lewis is shown having difficulty connecting with his teenage daughter, who plays her choice of pop music very loudly (Lewis remarks that it is worse than Morse's operas), and seems to be displaying teenage angst. Lewis is also struggling to memorise the turgid details of Traffic Policing as part of his preparation for an examination that could result in him being promoted to Inspector. (Of course, following the end of the Morse series, Lewis reappears in a similar TV series of his own, titled Lewis. He has become an Inspector, but not with the intellectual brilliance or background of Morse, although Lewis does follow some of Morse's empathetic and irregular approaches to detective work. In this later series Lewis is assisted by Detective Sergeant Hathaway, who is young, but intellectually similar to Morse.)

Lewis also quickly grasps the teenage rave-party characters' interest in paisley-like fractal art. He understands, intuitively, that fractals are an aspect of Chaos Theory and is clearly interested. Morse struggles to understand this. But one of the concepts of Chaos Theory is echoed in the plot: a tiny event in a distant place can have unpredictable, and huge consequences, elsewhere. Seemingly separate things in the world are in fact connected, and there are unexpected patterns in randomness.

In the same way that Lewis sees connections between the teenage rave-party characters and his own daughter, Morse is stimulated by the suicide of his niece to reflect on his own troubled teenage years. He explains to Lewis that his parents divorced when he was young, and he initially lived with his mother. But after she died, he went to live with his father, who had remarried. Morse's stepmother disliked him at that time, and, in this story, as an old woman with dementia, she dislikes him still. Morse has a good relationship with his stepsister. Tellingly, Morse reveals that, as a rebellious teenager, he deliberately read poetry because he knew his stepmother did not understand or like it. He traces much of his intellectual approach to life to his rebellion against his stepmother. For example, he says that he spent school holidays visiting parish churches and investigating their architecture and art.

Crucially, Morse confesses to Lewis that, when he was fifteen years old he was so distressed by home-life that he decided he would commit suicide. To prepare for this he created a list of as many different ways of killing himself as he could imagine. For each one he considered to what extent it would hurt his father, or his stepmother, or his stepsister. When he had completed the list he realised how clever he must be to have worked so much out. (He agrees, with a half-smile, as he tells this to Lewis, that he was vain then, about his intellect, and is still vain.) He concluded, having made this list, that he must be too clever to waste his cleverness by killing himself.

This single episode reveals almost all that is known about the young Morse, and his path to the much older person who is the centre of the stories.

Conclusion[edit]

Morse and Lewis observe, concealed, a rave at a leased stately home. Morse is somewhat disappointed to see no alcohol being drunk. They do discover, however, that a new experimental drug is being used. The drug in question is currently in testing; there is some controversy about the long-term effects on young people, and whether such considerations are relevant as the medicine is intended for the elderly. As the medicine increases blood flow, and therefore the supply of oxygen to the brain, it helps relieve some symptoms of ageing in the elderly but leaves young people, whose blood vessels do not need widening, with what the pathologist describes as "a feeling of extreme clear-headedness." Vicky, when discovered, describes the effects of seraphics as being a feeling of "seeing the whole world and loving everybody in the world", the comedown of which can cause such terrible depression it is believed to have led to the two suicides.

The drug dealer is observed by Morse and Lewis – it is Dr Collier, but he is killed in a car crash as he attempts to escape. Morse subsequently declares he hopes the 'killer' is in Hell, to which Lewis responds, "You don't believe in Hell, Sir." Morse responds that he wishes he did, commenting on how awful it is to be fifteen. There is some reference to his teenage years and his uneasy relationship with his stepmother.

Locations[edit]

  • Hansworth Park House. Gwens nursing home.
  • Mentmore Towers. The final rave at the stately home.
  • Pitstone cement works (now closed / demolished). A rave, a meet-up and the death of a young black man while running along the railway line.
  • Rickmansworth Masonic school for Girls.
  • Ye Olde greene Manne public house, Batchworth Heath. Drinking scene and discussion between Morse and Lewis.

References[edit]