Breaking The Code
Tripwire continues its list of its Top 30 Crime and Police shows, selected by its editor-in-chief and senior editor. Counting down to its first choice at the end, here’s its 18th entry, ITV’s Inspector Morse…
18. Inspector Morse
Creator: Colin Dexter
Stars: John Thaw, Kevin Whately, James Grout
Just over a decade after he played the maverick London copper DI Jack Regan, John Thaw returned to fictional police duty this time as DCI Morse. An antithetical figure to Regan’s rough and ready policeman, Morse was a refined bon vivant police officer who loved real ale, opera and driving around Oxford in his vintage red Jaguar.
Solving murders in historic Oxford with the assistance of laidback sidekick Detective Sergeant Lewis (Whately), Inspector Morse is a stately affair. Running for 13 years, it captured viewers’ imaginations worldwide thanks to Thaw’s understated performance and the beauty of the settings offered a counterpoint to the gruesome murders. It was also helped by cameos from the likes of familiar faces like Simon Callow, former Doctor Who Patrick Troughton, Geoffrey Palmer and Sean Bean. It even attracted top-notch talent like the late Anthony Minghella and future superstar director Danny Boyle to write and direct episodes.
Inspector Morse grew and evolved over its thirteen years with its mysteries growing increasingly more byzantine but it always used its almost two hour running time to offer a police series that was more ambitious and epic than anything that had appeared on British TV prior to it. Working-class man Thaw, who did win a place at RADA, brings a cerebral authority to Morse. He is a figure who is obviously far more sharp and perceptive than any of his work colleagues. He is also out of kilter with his other police contemporaries thanks to his lifestyle and Oxford feels like the perfect place for a character like him. The programme makers bring creator Colin Dexter’s concepts, on whose novels these adventures are based, to small-screen life with vitality and inspiration. There is a real chemistry and warmth between Morse and Lewis too despite a seeming initial antipathy when they first meet.
Inspector Morse is an elegant slice of cosy crime that offers a comfortable image of a Britain that appeals to viewers looking for a bit of nostalgia, which is lifted by the presence of Thaw as its central protagonist. Its success continues to this day thanks to two spin-offs, Lewis, which ran from 2006 to 2015, and prequel Endeavour, which began in 2012.
inspector Morse is on now on ITV3 on the ITV Hub in the UK and Britbox in The US