Endeavour Morse (Detective Chief Inspector Morse) is the primary character of the Inspector Morse Television Series and Novels. Morse is a CID officer for the Thames Valley Police in Oxford. In the series, Morse is noted for his Jaguar Car, thirst for beer and passion for music, literature and art. Morse is also well noted for his sullen temperament, yet likeable persona. He is portrayed by John Thaw followed by Shaun Evans in the prequel TV movie and the follow up series Endeavour.
Name and familyEdit
Morse's first name, "Endeavour", was kept a secret until the end of Death is Now My Neighbour (traditionally Morse claimed that he should be called "Morse" or joked that his first name was "Inspector"). In the series it is noted that his reticence about his Christian name led to a public school (Stamford School, where Colin Dexter and his brother were both pupils) nickname of "Pagan". The origin of his name is the vessel HMS Endeavour, as Morse's mother was a Quaker (Quakers have a tradition of "virtue names") and his father was a fan of Captain James Cook. Morse's father was, by trade, a taxi driver and Morse likes to explain the origin of his additional private income by saying that he "used to drive the Aga Khan". The author of the Morse novels, Colin Dexter, is a fan of cryptic crosswords, and Morse is named after champion solver Jeremy Morse, one of Dexter's arch-rivals as a clue-writer in the crossword world.
Dexter used to walk along the bank of the River Thames at Oxford opposite the boathouse belonging to 22nd Oxford Sea Scout Group, the building is named "T.S. Endeavour".
During the episode "Cherubim and Seraphim", it is learned that Morse's parents divorced when he was 12. He remained with his mother until her death three years later, when he had to return to his father. He had a dreadful relationship with his stepmother, Gwen, and claimed he only read poetry to annoy her and that her petty bullying almost drove him to suicide. He has a half-sister, Joyce, with whom he is on better terms, and was devastated when Joyce's daughter, Marilyn, took her own life.
Habits and personalityEdit
Morse is ostensibly the embodiment of white, male, upper-middle-class Englishness, with a set of prejudices and assumptions to match. He may thus be considered a late example of the gentleman detective, a staple of British detective fiction. This background is in sharp juxtaposition to the working class origins of his assistant, Lewis (named for another rival clue-writer, Mrs. B. Lewis); in the novels, Lewis is Welsh, but this was altered to a northern English (Geordie) background in the TV series. He is also middle-aged in the books.
Morse's relationships with authority, the establishment, bastions of power and the status quo are markedly ambiguous, as sometimes are his relations with women. Morse is frequently portrayed in the act of patronising women characters, to the extent that some feminist critics have argued that Morse is a misogynist.
Morse's appearance of being patronising might have been misleading; he habitually showed empathy towards women, once opining that the female sex is not naturally prone to crime, being caring and non-violent. He was also never shy of showing his liking for attractive women, and often had dates with those involved in cases.
Morse is an extremely intelligent individual. He dislikes spelling errors and grammatical mistakes, demonstrated by the fact that in every personal or private document written to him he manages to point out at least one spelling mistake. He claims his approach to crime-solving is deductive and one of his key tenets is that "there is a 50 per cent chance that the last person to see the victim alive was the murderer". In reality, it is the pathologists who deduce; Morse uses immense intuition and his fantastic memory to get to the killer.
Although details of Morse's career are deliberately kept vague, it is hinted that as a schoolboy he won a scholarship to study at St. John's College, Oxford. He lost the scholarship as the result of poor academic performance, which in turn resulted from a failed love affair (mentioned in the series at the end of "The Last Enemy") and recounted in detail in the novel The Riddle of the Third Mile, chapter 7. Forced to leave the University, he entered the Army, and on leaving it, joined the police. He often reflects on renowned scholars (such as A. E. Housman) who, like himself, failed to get academic degrees from Oxford.
The novels in the series are:
Last Bus to Woodstock (1975) Last Seen Wearing (1976) The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn (1977) Service of All the Dead (1979) The Dead of Jericho (1981) The Riddle of the Third Mile (1983) The Secret of Annexe 3 (1986) The Wench is Dead (1989) The Jewel That Was Ours (1991) The Way Through the Woods (1992) The Daughters of Cain (1994) Death is Now My Neighbour (1996) The Remorseful Day (1999) Inspector Morse also appears in several stories in Dexter's short story collection, Morse's Greatest Mystery and Other Stories (1993, expanded edition 1994).
Dexter killed off Morse in his last book, The Remorseful Day. Morse dies in hospital from a heart attack, caused by his years of drinking, damaging his arteries.
The Inspector Morse novels were made into a TV series (also called Inspector Morse) for the British TV channel ITV. The series was made by Zenith Productions for Central (a company later acquired by Carlton) and comprises 33 two-hour episodes (100 minutes excluding commercials)—20 more episodes than there are novels—produced between 1987 and 2000. The last episode was adapted from the final novel, The Remorseful Day, in which as previously stated Morse dies.
Around August 2011 ITV started filming a prequel series, Endeavour, with author Colin Dexter's participation. It portrays a young Morse in his university days, with upcoming actor Shaun Evans playing Morse. Another spin-off, Lewis, based on the television incarnation of Lewis has been produced from 2006. In 2012, it was announced that ITV had commissioned a full series following the success of the pilot episode. After the success of the first series, which aired in 2013, ITV commissioned a second series due for 2014, four episodes in total, each two hours long.
An occasional BBC Radio 4 series (for the Saturday Play) was made starring the voices of John Shrapnel as Morse and Robert Glenister as Lewis. The series was written by Guy Meredith and directed by Ned Chaillet. Episodes included: The Wench is Dead (23 March 1992); Last Seen Wearing (28 May 1994); and The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn (10 February 1996).
A brand new Inspector Morse stage play appeared in 2010, written by Alma Cullen (author of four Morse screenplays for ITV). The part of Morse was played by Colin Baker. The play, entitled Morse—House of Ghosts, saw the inscrutable Detective Chief Inspector Morse looking to his past, when an old acquaintance becomes the lead suspect in a murder case that involves the on-stage death of a young actress. The play toured the UK from August to December 2010.