Inspector Morse (TV series)
Kevin Whately (left) as Lewis and John Thaw as Morse
|Created by||Colin Dexter
|Based on||the novel series
by Colin Dexter
|Developed by||Anthony Minghella
|Written by||Varied (one per episode)|
|Directed by||Varied (one per episode)|
|Theme music composer||Barrington Pheloung|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||7 full series (1987–1993) and 5 specials (1995–2000)|
|No. of episodes||33 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Ted Childs|
Central Independent Television
|Running time||98 – 105 min|
|Original run||6 January 1987– 15 November 2000|
Inspector Morse is a British detective drama television series based on a series of novels by Colin Dexter. It starred John Thaw as Chief Inspector Morse and Kevin Whately as Sergeant Lewis. The series comprises 33 two-hour episodes (100 minutes excluding commercials) — 20 more episodes than there are novels – produced between 1987 and 2000. Dexter made uncredited cameo appearances in all but three of the episodes.
The series first shown on Britain's ITV network, was made by Zenith Productions for Central Independent Television. Later, it was produced by Carlton UK Productions between 1995 and 1996. Towards the series end, it was made by Carlton and WGBH.
Every episode involved a new murder investigation featuring several guest stars, and showed a complete story. Writer Anthony Minghella scripted three including the first, The Dead of Jericho, which was filmed in the summer of 1985, and aired on 6 January 1987 featuring Gemma Jones, Patrick Troughton and James Laurenson. Its other writers included Julian Mitchell (10 episodes), Daniel Boyle (5) and Alma Cullen (4 episodes), and its directors included John Madden (4 episodes), Herbert Wise (3), Peter Hammond (3), Adrian Shergold (3) and Danny Boyle (2 episodes).
Cast and crew
- John Thaw as Detective Inspector (later Chief Inspector) Morse
- Kevin Whately as Detective Sergeant Lewis
- James Grout as Chief Superintendent Strange
Other recurring characters:
- Peter Woodthorpe as Max (pathologist) in series 1–2
- Amanda Hillwood as Dr Grayling Russell (pathologist) in series 3
- Clare Holman as Dr Laura Hobson (pathologist) in specials
Main production credits:
- Kenny McBain, producer of series 1–2
- Chris Burt, producer of series 3, 7 and specials
- David Lascelles, producer of series 4–5
- Deirdre Keir, producer of series 6
- Ted Childs, executive producer
- Rebecca Eaton, American executive producer of episodes 31–33
- Laurie Greenwood, associate producer
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Morse was played by John Thaw, and the faithful Detective Sergeant Lewis by Kevin Whately. The character of Lewis was transformed from the elderly Welshman and ex-boxer of the novels to a much younger Geordie police sergeant with a family, as a foil to Morse's cynical streak. Morse's first name is not revealed except for the one occasion when he explains to a lady friend that his father was obsessed with Captain James Cook and for this reason his first name is Endeavour. On the other occasions, he usually answers "Morse. Everyone just calls me Morse" or dryly replies "Inspector", when asked what his first name is.
Thaw had a special appreciation of the fact that Morse was different from classic detectives such as Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes. Morse was brilliant but he was not always right. He often arrested the wrong person or came to the wrong conclusion. As a result, unlike many classic sleuths, Morse does not always simply arrest his culprit; ironic circumstances have the case end and the crime brought to him. Also, Morse was a romantic—frequently mildly and gently flirting with or asking out colleagues, witnesses or suspects—occasionally bordering on the unprofessional, but had little success in love.
Morse is a character whose talents and intelligence are being wasted in positions that fail to match his abilities. Several references are made to the fact that Morse would have been promoted above and beyond Chief Inspector at Thames Valley CID, but his cynicism and lack of ambition, coupled also to veiled hints that he may have made enemies in high places, frustrate his progression despite his Oxford connections.
Morse is a highly credible detective and plausible human being. His penchant for drinking, his life filled with difficult personal relationships, and his negligence toward his health, however, make him a more tragic character than previous classic sleuths.
Morse's eventual death in the final episode "The Remorseful Day" is caused by heart problems exacerbated by heavy drinking, differing from the literary character's diabetes-related demise.
Morse had 'highbrow' passions: music (especially opera; Mozart and Wagner among his favourites), poetry, art, classics, English real ale, classic cars and cryptic crossword puzzles. When seen at home, Morse is usually listening to music on his Roksan Xerxes record player, solving a crossword, reading classic literature, or drinking ale. While working, Morse subsists on quickly downed pints of ale in pubs, usually bought by Lewis who struggles to keep up. Many of his cases touch on Morse's interests and it is often his knowledge that helps him solve them.
In "The Death of the Self", the episode ends with Morse seeing one of the characters, an opera singer recovering from a long absence through stage-fright, make her 'comeback' performance at the amphitheatre in Verona, while in "Twilight of the Gods", he investigates the life of one of his opera idols, Gwladys Probert, a world-famous soprano. In "Who Killed Harry Field?", the murder victim is a painter, and in "The Way Through the Woods", Morse researches the Pre-Raphaelite movement to aid his investigations.
In several episodes, Morse's crossword-solving ability helps him to spot where people have changed identities by creating a new name which is an anagram. In "Masonic Mysteries", he is maliciously implicated in the murder of a woman when his Times newspaper is placed in the victim's house, with his handwriting filling in the crossword. In the same episode, the writer names Morse's old Inspector from when he was a detective sergeant as 'Macnutt' in homage to D.S. Macnutt, better known as the famous and influential Observer puzzle setter 'Ximenes'.
In "The Sins of the Fathers", he investigates a murder in a brewery-owning family while, in the first episode, "The Dead of Jericho", he compares the life of a dead woman with that of Jocasta, the mother of Oedipus. The same episode also introduced his Jaguar Mark 2 car (which is damaged at the start and end of the story). His interest in classic cars is also explored in "Driven to Distraction" where, he suspects a car-salesman of murder. He so strongly seems to dislike Jeremy Boynton that he refers to Morse's own Jaguar as "she", which makes Morse convinced of his guilt.
In "Cherubim and Seraphim", he investigates the suicide of his niece and discusses with her English teacher her interest in the poet Sylvia Plath, who also killed herself. The teacher defends the teaching of Plath's poetry to students and says that her suicide will not influence students to do the same. In "Second Time Around", investigating the killing of a retired detective, Morse is haunted by an early case of his in which a young girl had been murdered and an obvious suspect could very well be innocent.
In "Ghost in the Mashine" and more obvious in "Service of All the Dead" Morse's fear of heights is revealed. (The latter title is interesting, since "All the Dead" are all alive before the service, but not for much longer in most cases...) The chief inspector appriciate the nature of women, but ladies are also somewhat of his Achilles heel. This is perhaps best illustrated in "The Day of the devil", here Morse "cannot se the wood due to all the trees", so to speak. Morse finds a female psychologist at a prison to be extremely stupid, but in the end it turns out that it is she that has played the inspector from the very beginning, in order to get vengeance on an internee that has raped her many years ago. Also in "Dead on Time" Morse meets a woman he has known since his youth. It became nothing of it then, and now the woman already has decided to commit suicide. And there is nothing that Morse, who still has feelings for her, can do about it. He gets more lucky in "Fat Chance" however, and this is possibly the only episode where the inspector arrives for work in the morning with a smile on his face. In "Last seen wearing" Morse calls himself "the three file man" concerning missing persons, and hence he is overwhelmingly convinced of that a missing gird is infact dead, to Sergeant Lewis disappointment and protests. This is also one of several episodes where the chief inspector's original instincts are wrong.
Sample of the music used during the end credits of Inspector Morse, including the Morse code motif.
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The theme and incidental music for the series was written by Barrington Pheloung and utilises a motif based on the Morse code for "M.O.R.S.E.". In the documentary, The Mystery of Morse, Pheloung states that he occasionally spelled out the name of the killer in Morse code in the music, or alternatively spelled out the name of another character as a red herring. The series also included opera and other classical genres as part of its soundtrack, most notably pieces by Richard Wagner and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (whose Magic Flute is a significant plot device in one episode).
Beaumont College (in the TV episode "The Last Enemy") and Lonsdale College (in The Riddle of the Third Mile, the book on which "The Last Enemy" was based) are both fictional Oxford colleges. The real Brasenose College and Exeter College were used to represent Lonsdale, while Corpus Christi was used for Beaumont. Both fictional names are from real streets in Oxford. There is a Lonsdale College at Lancaster University. St Saviour's College in the episode "Fat Chance" is also fictitious, though New College was used as the location for it. Merton and University College were used for the fictional Beaufort College in the episode "The Infernal Serpent". Christ Church appears in "The Daughters of Cain" as the fictional Wolsey College. In a number of episodes, the main quad at Wadham College is used, especially the classic view as seen from the main entrance—unlike the students, the actors are allowed to walk on the grass! Eton College was used extensively as an alternative set to depict various parts of Oxford through the series, notably the county court in the episode "The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn", while the nearby school of St John's Beaumont, Old Windsor, became the Foreign Examinations Syndicate in the same episode, with both external and internal filming taking place there. Many of the generic locations used throughout the series, including Morse's house, were situated in Ealing, London, amongst the residential streets to the north of Ealing Broadway. Some scenes were also filmed at Brunel University, London.
The Regency red 1960 Jaguar Mark 2 2.4L car (with number plate 248 RPA) used by Morse throughout the television series became synonymous with the main character, despite Morse's driving a Lancia in the early novels. (After the start of the TV series the novels changed to the Jaguar). The Jaguar was given away in a competition a year after filming ended, and in 2002 it was auctioned for £53,200, many times the going rate for a "normal" 2.4. In November 2005 it was sold again for more than £100,000.
The spin-off Lewis, starring Kevin Whately as the now-promoted (and widowed, making the character's situation closer to Morse's) Inspector Lewis, premiered in 2006 on ITV. Seven series were produced, with the final series being shown in early 2013. It airs in the US on PBS under the title Inspector Lewis.
In 2012 ITV aired a two-hour special prequel film, Endeavour, portraying a young Morse, with author Colin Dexter's participation. Set in 1965, Shaun Evans plays the young Detective Constable Morse, who is preparing to hand in his resignation when he becomes embroiled in an investigation involving a missing schoolgirl. In 2013 this was followed by a 4 episode series.
- "Inspector Morse in Jericho". Jericho Echo. June 2003. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
- "Inspector Morse an Episode Guide". Epguides.com. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
- Inspector Morse at the BFI's Screenonline, Retrieved 4 August 2010,
- "DID YOU KNOW? — Xerxes & Inspector Morse". Roksan Audio Ltd.
- "Back from the dead". The Daily Telegraph. 28 April 2007. Retrieved 28 April 2012.
- "Morse Jaguar makes over £100,000". BBC News. 30 November 2005. Retrieved 14 September 2009.
- Granada International's Official Inspector Morse website
- Official Inspector Morse website
- Inspector Morse at itv.com.
- Inspector Morse at the British Film Institute.
- Inspector Morse at the BFI's Screenonline.
- Inspector Morse at the MBC's. Encyclopedia of Television.
- Inspector Morse at the Internet Movie Database.
- Inspector Morse episode guide