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Inspector Morse
Inspector Morse.jpg
Morse (left) as played by John Thaw, with Lewis (right) as played by Kevin Whately.
Format Drama
Created by Colin Dexter
Tony Warren
Starring John Thaw
Kevin Whately
James Grout
Country of origin UK
No. of series 7 and 5 one off episodes
No. of episodes 33 (List of episodes)
Production
Producer(s) Zenith
Central Independent Television
Carlton Television
Running time 100 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel ITV
Picture format 4:3 (1987-1998)
16:9 (2000)
Original run January 6, 1987 (1987-01-06) – November 15, 2000 (2000-11-15)
Chronology
Related shows Lewis

Inspector Morse is a crime drama based on Colin Dexter’s popular novels about Chief Inspector Morse. The series, 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. The series comprises 33 two-hour episodes (100 minutes excluding commercials) — twenty more episodes than there are novels — produced between 1987 and 2000.

Contents

Production

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. Dexter makes a cameo appearance in all but three of the episodes. The series remains popular and is frequently repeated on ITV1 and ITV3 in Britain.

John Thaw had a special appreciation of the fact that Morse was different from classic characters such as James Bond and Sherlock Holmes. Morse was brilliant but he wasn’t 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 ‘bust’ his culprit; ironic circumstances have the case end and the crime brought to him. Also, Morse was a romantic but had little success in love.

Morse is a character whose talents and intelligence were being wasted in positions which 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 interests

Morse had 'highbrow' passions: music (especially opera, and Wagner is his favorite), poetry, art, classics, English real ale, classic cars, and cryptic crossword puzzles. When seen at home, Morse is usually listening to music, drinking beer (which he in several episodes refers to as food, and he never seems to eat any other non-liquid food), solving a crossword, or reading classic literature. Many of his cases touch on his 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 whilst 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 that the salesman 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 about 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 "Service of All the Dead" Morse's fear of heights is revealed. The name of this episode is "A Bulls eye", since the church-service isn't for the dead, but for those who will die during the episode. No other episode includes as many deaths.

Music

Problems listening to this file? See media help.

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 entitled 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 TV series and the CDs play some of Morse’s favourites, Mozart, Schubert, and Wagner.

Locations

  • Beaumont College (in the TV episodes "The Last Enemy" and "The Infernal Serpent") 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. St Saviour's College in the episode "Fat Chance" is also fictitious, though New College was used as the location for it.
  • 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".

Legacy

  • In November 2005, the Jaguar Mark 2 car (with number plate 248 RPA) used in the television series sold for more than £100,000.[1]

Spinoff series

A pilot episode, Lewis, starring Kevin Whately as the now-promoted Inspector Lewis went into production in July 2005. This pilot was broadcast on ITV on 29 January 2006, and in the US it aired on PBS on July 31 of the same year under the title Inspector Lewis. A further three episodes were broadcast on ITV in February and March 2007, a second series (of 4 episodes) was broadcast in February and March 2008, and a third series (of 4 episodes) was broadcast in March and April 2009.

See also

References

  1. ^ "Morse Jaguar makes over £100,000". BBC News. 2005-11-30. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/4485816.stm. Retrieved 2009-09-14. 

External links

Preceded by
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
British Academy Television Awards
Best Drama Series

1992 & 1993
Succeeded by
Between The Lines
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