1 9 8 7 – 2 0 0 0 (UK)
33 x 120 minute episodes
Adapted from the best-selling novels by Colin Dexter, Inspector Morse revolved around Detective Chief Inspector Morse and his long-suffering, but ever-faithful assistant, Sergeant Lewis (both of the Thames Valley Police and operating in the university city of Oxford).
The role of Morse was played by John Thaw, already famous for his portrayal of Flying Squad Inspector Jack Regan in the UK 70’s cop classic, The Sweeney.
Thaw’s thoughtful and sensitive portrayal of the intellectually brilliant, but socially ill-at-ease Oxford sleuth once again turned him into a television icon, whose popularity would ultimately eclipse even that of his earlier role.
Each two-hour Morse episode was in effect a feature film made for television, which allowed for complexly challenging plots, which had made the original novels a worldwide success.
The format was adopted by UK production companies across the board in the years that followed with shows such as Prime Suspect.
Although in the original novels Sergeant Robbie Lewis is a 63-year-old Welshman, for television it was decided that a much younger actor was needed as a counterfoil to Morse’s cynical world-weariness.
This role was played by Kevin Whately who had starred as likeable Newcastle bricklayer, Neville, in the popular UK comedy series, Auf Wiedersehen Pet.
The other recurring role in the series was that of Morse’s superior, Chief Superintendent Strange, played by James Grout.
The character of Inspector Morse was introduced to television in The Dead of Jericho (the 5th of Dexter’s novels). The result was an instant and unanimous success with the viewing audience and critics.
Over the course of thirteen years, a worldwide audience of over a billion people ensured the series became a multi-award winner. The series also catapulted the city of Oxford to stardom.
After a total of thirty-three investigations and eighty-one deaths, Morse’s creator himself decreed the time had come to end his greatest creation’s glittering career.
As Colin Dexter (who appeared as an extra in every single episode of the show) explained: “(Morse) started off in his early 40’s and he must be at least 70 now. Very few police officers are over their mid-fifties.”
Morse had always been a big drinker (he had a great affinity for Real Ale although rarely paid for a round!) and never looked after himself very well, never spending enough time sleeping or exercising.
To the dismay of fans of the good Inspector in both book and TV form, Morse’s end was fated to be the ultimate one. So on the remorseful night of Wednesday, November 15th, 2000, 13 million British television viewers tuned into the ITV network to bid a final sad farewell to the Jaguar driving detective and witness the death of Chief Inspector Endeavour Morse.
The end was as heartbreakingly sad and lonely as his fictional life had been.
In April 2002, Inspector Morse’s famous 1960 burgundy Jaguar Mk II was sold at auction in London for £53,000 (A Mk II Jaguar of that class is usually worth about £6,000).
The opening notes of the closing music (strident string chords) spell ‘MORSE’ in Morse code. (dah dah – dah dah dah – dit dah dit – dit dit dit – dit etc).
Chief Inspector Morse
DS Robbie Lewis
Chief Supt. Strange