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Inspector Morse

By Piers Ford

When Inspector Morse first appeared on television in 1987, nobody could have predicted that it would run into the next century, maintaining throughout a quality of scripts and storylines that raised the genre of the detective series to a new level. Much of its success can be attributed to John Thaw's total immersion in the role. Morse is a prickly character and not obviously easy to like. As a detective in Oxford with unfulfilled academic propensities, he is permanently excluded from a world of which he would dearly love to be a part. He is at odds with that world--and with his colleagues in the police force--most of the time. Passionate about opera and "proper beer", he is a cultural snob for whom vulgarity causes almost physical pain. As a result, he lives from one disillusionment to another. And he is scarred--more deeply than he would ever admit--by past relationships. But he also has a na´ve streak and, deep down, sensitivity, which makes him a fascinating challenge for women.

At the heart of Morse's professional life is his awkward partnership with Detective Sergeant Lewis, the resolutely ordinary, worldly sidekick who manages to keep his boss in an almost permanent state of exasperation while retaining his grudging respect. It's a testament to Kevin Whately's consistently excellent performance that from such unpromising material, Lewis becomes as indispensable to the series as Barrington Pheloung's hypnotic, classic theme music. Morse's investigations do occasionally take him abroad to more exotic locations, but throughout 14 successful years of often gruesome murders, the city of Oxford itself became a central character in these brooding two-hour dramas: creator Colin Dexter said he finally had to kill Morse off because he was giving Oxford a bad reputation as a dangerous place!

Episode Guide

Inspector Morse 1.1 The Dead Of Jericho
Morse investigates the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of Anne Stavely. Based on the novel by Colin Dexter.

Inspector Morse 1.2 The Silent World Of Nicholas
Inspector Morse investigates the murder of Nicholas Quinn, a member of the Oxford examinations board.

Inspector Morse 1.3 Service Of All The Dead
A church warden is found dead in his vestry. Inspector Morse is put on the case. Before long he has five murders to solve. Based on the novel and personally selected by Colin Dexter.

Inspector Morse 2.1 The Wolvercote Tongue

Inspector Morse 2.2 Last Seen Wearing

Inspector Morse 2.3 The Settling Of The Sun

Inspector Morse 2.4 Last Bus To Woodstock
When the body of a young insurance clerk is found in a pub car park, Inspector Morse is called in. Based on the novel by Colin Dexter.

Inspector Morse 3.1 The Ghost In The Machine
Valuable erotic paintings are stolen from the stately home of Lord Hanbury and his disappearance is soon investigated by Morse.

Inspector Morse 3.2 The Last Enemy
After a body is found in the canal the only clue to its identity points to a connection with one of the Oxford colleges. Morse investigates.

Inspector Morse 3.3 Deceived By Flight
Morse and Lewis soon encounter trouble at a cricket match when a player is murdered even before the first ball is bowled. Based on the book and personally selected by Colin Dexter.

Inspector Morse 3.4 The Secret Of Bay 5B
After playboy architect Michael Gifford is found strangled in his car the list of suspects grows. Morse sets out to solve the mystery.

Inspector Morse 4.1 Infernal Serpent
Morse investigates the death of an eminent environmentalist, killed only minutes before he was due to give a highly controversial lecture.

Inspector Morse 4.2 The Sins Of The Fathers
Morse and Lewis are called in to investigate the mystery of an unwelcome takeover bid of a family-run real ale brewery and the death of the current managing director.

Inspector Morse 4.3 Driven To Distraction
Morse and Lewis are led away from the real murderer by a series of false clues. A local garage owner unwittingly puts them back on the trail, but there's a twist in the tale. Based on the book and personally selected by Colin Dexter.

Inspector Morse 4.4 Masonic Mysteries
All the clues point to Morse himself after his lady friend is stabbed at a dress rehearsal of the local amateur dramatic society's latest production.

Inspector Morse 5.1 Second Time Around
Morse becomes concerned when an ex-Deputy Police Commissioner is murdered. He also discovers that there exists a connection between a missing chapter from the murdered man's memoirs and himself. Based on the book and personally selected by Colin Dexter.

Inspector Morse 5.2 Fat Chance
A woman deacon dies in suspicious circumstances and Morse investigates.

Inspector Morse 5.3 Who Killed Harry Field?
Morse becomes involved in the arty world of Harry Field after he is mysteriously killed.

Inspector Morse 5.4 Greeks Bearing Gifts
Oxford's tight-knit Greek community is torn apart by the death of a chef and the disappearance of a baby.

Inspector Morse 5.5 Promised Land
Morse and Lewis head for Australia in pursuit of a supergrass, Kenny Stone.

Inspector Morse 6.1 Dead On Time
Morse becomes deeply involved when a Don apparently commits suicide. The man's wife, Susan, was once engaged to Morse who makes no secret of the fact that he is still in love with Susan. Based on the book and personally selected by Colin Dexter.

Inspector Morse 6.2 Happy Families
A wealthy industrialist is murdered but his family seem uninterested. Then a second murder occurs.

Inspector Morse 6.3 The Death Of The Self
An Englishwoman dies in Italy after a freak accident. Morse travels to investigate.

Inspector Morse 6.4 Absolute Conviction
Three eighties entrepreneurs are jailed for stealing millions from their investors, then one of them is found dead in his cell.

Inspector Morse 6.5 Cherubim And Seraphim
Morse takes compassionate leave after his step-niece commits suicide.

Inspector Morse 7.1 Deadly Slumber
Avril Steppings was left with permanent brain damage after an operation went wrong. Chief Inspector Morse is called in when the doctor who runs the clinic where the operation was performed is murdered.

Inspector Morse 7.2 Day Of The Devil
Chief Inspector Morse is involved in a manhunt when a dangerous mental patient escapes from a high security hospital.

Inspector Morse 7.3 Twilight Of The Gods
Morse and Lewis are busy investigating the murder of a freelance journalist, when a shot is heard and a guest at a college celebration falls to the ground..

Inspector Morse 8.1 The Way Through The Woods
The Lover's Lane Killer is dead - murdered in a prison fight before his trial. But the case is not closed. Inspector Morse is convinced that the key to a complex murder mystery lies not at the Lake at Blenheim but in the depths of Wytham Woods.

Inspector Morse 8.2 Daughters Of Cain
What first appears as a routine case for Morse and Lewis becomes more complex as they unfold a story of undergraduate suicide, illegal drugs in college and the subsequent dismissal of a loyal college scout. Suspects abound. until a ceremonial knife goes missing from a museum and a body is found in the river.

Inspector Morse 8.3 Death Is Now My Neighbor
An apparently motiveless murder in an Oxfordshire village is quickly followed by an identical murder in the house next door. Inspector Morse investigates.

Inspector Morse 8.4 The Wench Is Dead
Morse investigates a murder committed in June, 1859, taking him away from twentieth century Oxford.

Inspector Morse 8.5 The Remorseful Day
In this final celebration of one of British television's biggest-ever successes, suspense and sadness are mixed to create an explosive episode. Sparks begin to fly as the year-long investigation into the murder of Yvonne Harrison in a quiet Cotswold village is jolted back into life with the promise of new evidence.

Yvonne (Meg Davies) was found battered to death a year prior to this story's debut in the home she shared with husband Frank (Paul Freeman) and their son Simon (Simon Hepworth). It was Frank Harrison that found the body of his wife when he arrived back from a business trip to London. Yvonne was naked, gagged and tied to her bed.

For the initial investigation, Morse was the man on the case while Lewis was on an inspectors' course. But Morse's boss Supt Strange (James Grout) decided the inspector was "not temperamentally suited" to the case and takes him off the investigation.

But interest in the case is re-ignited after an anonymous letter arrives at police headquarters suggesting they keep an eye on Harry Repp (Eddie Webb), a small-time burglar about to be released from prison. Lewis follows the lead.

After a spell of illness, Morse is languishing at home with his classical music - and a new hobby of bird-watching. Any day now, he is due back on full duties. How will he react to Lewis leading the revitalized investigation?

Before long Morse is interfering as only he can, questioning Repp's wife Debbie (Helen Pearson) and checking up on his Sergeant's procedure.

As the murder investigation becomes ever more intricate, Morse attends the John Radcliffe hospital where he is seen by his new doctor, Yvonne's daughter Sandra (Anna Wilson-Jones), and the state of his health is brought into question once more...


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Aired: 1987-2001

Cast: John Thaw, Kevin Whately, 1962 Mark 2 Jaguar, James Grout

Network: ITV

Genre: Mystery

Theme song

Image courtesy of the BBC

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