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Kevin Whately as Robbie Lewis in Oxford, August 2015
|First appearance||Last Bus to Woodstock, 1975 novel
The Dead of Jericho, 1987 TV
|Last appearance||What Lies Tangled , 2015 TV|
|Portrayed by||Kevin Whately (Television) (1987-2015)
Christopher Douglas (BBC Radio) (1985)
Robert Glenister (BBC Radio) (1992-96)
Lee Ingleby (BBC Radio) (2017)
Andrew Bone (stage)
|Aliases||Robbie, Rob, Bertie|
|Occupation||Police Detective in Thames Valley Police/Oxfordshire Police CID|
|Title||Detective Sergeant (novels, Morse)
Detective Inspector (Lewis)
Detective Sergeant/Detective Inspector Robert "Robbie" Lewis is a fictional character in the Inspector Morse crime novels by Colin Dexter. The "sidekick" to Morse, Lewis is a Detective Sergeant in the Thames Valley Police, and appears in all 13 Morse novels. In the television adaptation, Inspector Morse, he is played by Kevin Whately. Following the conclusion of the series, Whately reprised the role as the lead character in Lewis, in which the character has been promoted to Inspector.
Lewis is a sergeant on the staff of the Thames Valley Police in Oxford, England, and in Inspector Morse is assistant to the eponymous Detective Chief Inspector Morse. Although Lewis's given name is Robert (Robbie), he was rarely referred to as anything but "Sergeant Lewis" or "Lewis."
The background and personality of Lewis – a working class, easygoing family man with a Geordie accent – is frequently contrasted with that of Morse – Oxford educated, RP-accented, lifetime bachelor. Morse frequently uses these differences to insult or demean Lewis, perhaps from Morse's point of view in a playful manner, but Lewis is often not amused by the jabs. In his frustration, Lewis is often more in step with their joint superior Chief Superintendent Strange, himself an evident supporter of Lewis; however, despite a great respect towards Strange, Lewis is always unflinchingly loyal to Morse and follows his lead.
In Inspector Morse, Lewis is often shown following a hunch that Morse criticises, and in the end Lewis is usually proved correct, or at least more correct than Morse. Near the end of the television series, Lewis moves on in his career and takes a promotion. With the end of Inspector Morse and the death of its star, John Thaw, Lewis's adventures had seemed to come to an end.
In the episode "The Dead of Jericho", Lewis tells Morse "It's also my birthday". The first victim is killed on 11 June, and this utterance occurs a few days to a week later. This puts Lewis' birthday in mid-June.
Lewis does not make an appearance in the episode "The Wench is Dead", as he is out of town on an inspector's course.
In the pilot episode, Lewis returns to Oxford from a two-year stint training police in the British Virgin Islands, following the death of his wife Valerie in a hit-and-run accident. Lewis still must work partly in the shadow of the now-five-years-dead Inspector Morse, who some time prior to his death had worked a case involving one of the murder suspects as a juvenile. In the new series, Lewis gains his own junior, Detective Sergeant James Hathaway (played by Laurence Fox), a Cambridge-educated man who joined the police after giving up training for the priesthood. Another staple of the series, pathologist Dr. Laura Hobson (played by Clare Holman), appears late in the Morse series, and continues on through all of the Lewis episodes as a witty part of the team, with a cynical sense of humour and as a romantic interest to him.
After Robbie retires (and before he returns to work at the request of their superior, Chief Superintendent Jean Innocent, played by Rebecca Front), Hathaway gains his own assistant, Detective Sergeant Elizabeth (Lizzie) Maddox (played by Angela Griffin). Maddox is black, married, and usually very matter of fact, but smart, and occasionally shows a sense of humour in her work with James (and Robbie). In one episode, she is almost killed (an attempted murder by the villain of the episode).
The popularity of the one-off episode spurred the continuation of the story into a total of nine series comprising 33 episodes, the most recent airing in 2015. In the latest series, Lewis had retired from the police force, but is brought back as a consultant to work with Hathaway, who is now a detective inspector himself.
Two notable differences between the Lewis from the novels and Whately's portrayal is that Lewis in the novels is Welsh and an older man in his early sixties. When Whately auditioned for the role and then learned this fact, he considered it unlikely that he would get the part. However, Colin Dexter has consistently stated that the younger Lewis is an improvement on the character he originally created, and that if he could start the novels afresh he would begin with Lewis as he is seen in the television adaptation.