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January 3rd, 2012 (12:59 am)

Intensive deduction by ITV, guided by the need to extend further a successful franchise, has established that Inspector Morse was once Detective Constable Morse; and so audiences have been transported to 1965 to meet him (in the person of Shaun Evans) investigate his first Oxford case. Morse is one of many coppers transferred from a new town police force to help with the murder of an Oxford teenager, but his doggedness wins him the notice of Inspector Fred Thursday (a lugubrious Roger Allam) and together, as the saying goes, they fight crime. Russell Lewis's script was unadventurous, with Morse and Thursday embroiled among police corruption, the sex industry, the secret service and compromised government ministers; if council housing had been involved this would have been clearly Our Friends in the North Oxford. Even Our Friends's Danny Webb was cast as a police bad apple; but dialogue made the other familiar connection, with Cliveden and the Profumo affair, explicit.

There were a few obvious anachronisms; a street seen through a window displayed what looked like 1990s architecture (specifically, the Lincoln College buildings on Bear Lane) and following up an address in Jericho does not take you to the corner of King Edward Street and Oriel Square, with Oriel College in plain sight if soft focus. I'd have wanted to use the present-day New Theatre as an exterior, with added CGI for the sake of faux-authenticity, but instead a different theatre was used. The Lamb and Flag seemed very much its modern self, complete with pub sign, rather than the more run-down edifice which I first entered in 1988 or whatever it looked like in 1965. A plainer pub sign at least would have helped. In-jokes abounded - Morse's radio is a Zenith, which was the name of the independent production company which made the original Inspector Morse series for the old Midlands ITV contractor Central. The first bus we see is heading to Woodstock (as in Last Bus to...) though that was given an in-story justification. John Thaw's daughter Abigail was cast as an Oxford Mail staffer. Shaun Evans's eyes get to morph into John Thaw's at the end too, which was a bit obvious. As in all latterday instalments of the Morse franchise, the character of the university was simplified to make a tale of elite disdain for the lower orders easier to tell, though I was no doubt not the only viewer who felt flattered by the line that Morse was 'too decent' to thrive at Oxford. I expect this pilot to go to series, though its ending, looking forward twenty years, suggests it would be content with an honourable afterlife prefacing Inspector Morse on download and disc packages.

Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/476511.html.


Posted by: Lady Summerisle (strange_complex)
Posted at: January 3rd, 2012 09:42 am (UTC)
Christ Church Mercury

Oh dear - I completely missed this! Still, I'm sure it will be on whatever ITV's equivalent to iPlayer is called. I'd definitely like to see it.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: January 3rd, 2012 04:20 pm (UTC)

It is worth looking at, certainly.

Posted by: Simon Bradshaw (major_clanger)
Posted at: January 3rd, 2012 10:23 am (UTC)

following up an address in Jericho does not take you to the corner of King Edward Street and Oriel Square

Are you sure this wasn't an ironic nod to the extremely eccentric approach the original series took to Oxford's geography?

Posted by: ooxc (ooxc)
Posted at: January 3rd, 2012 10:26 am (UTC)

Yes, I thought that the "geography was simply "the old joke" - as when I went into one college, and came out of another

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: January 3rd, 2012 01:06 pm (UTC)

If so, it was a bit heavy-handed. Most of old Morse was shot in London anyway.

Posted by: ooxc (ooxc)
Posted at: January 3rd, 2012 10:25 am (UTC)

Didn't Morse's car make a brief appearance in the car sales yard, or was that my imagination? And didn't its bonnet flash into sight as Morse and his boss drove away, about halfway through?

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: January 3rd, 2012 01:06 pm (UTC)

I think you are right on both counts.

Posted by: phoebesmum (phoebesmum)
Posted at: January 3rd, 2012 10:46 am (UTC)
English Rose

We enjoyed it, in an undemanding sort of way. My sole comments to the screen was "It's the '60s - everyone SMOKE, SMOKE FOR YOUR LIVES!" at the beginning and, at the end, "Never mind, Morse, in 30 years' time you still won't be able to solve a crime without leaving a string of corpses behind you." Morse's boss (the one decent copper in Oxford!) bore a strong resemblance to Stratford Johns, I thought, and the secret agent man was too Michael Caine for words. I expect those were homages, of a sort, although to what end I don't know.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: January 3rd, 2012 01:23 pm (UTC)

Roger Allam did look a bit like Stratford Johns, didn't he? This wasn't Z Cars, though; the new town setting from which Morse was transferred was probably a Z Cars reference, however.

The script seemed fond of Dempsey the secret agent, to the extent that I wonder if he'd pop up from time to time in a series.

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: January 9th, 2012 08:48 pm (UTC)

Still catching up...
This was quite enjoyable as a light one-off. I hope they'll keep it that way

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: January 9th, 2012 08:58 pm (UTC)

I suspect that a series is likely, though television's record with prequels is not as good as with sequels.