A Review of Morse Episode, ‘Fat Chance’. Plus the Art, Music and Literary References.

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On looking back at previous posts I noticed that my last Morse episode review was October 2015. My mouth literally dropped open when I noticed that. Time certainly does fly past very quickly. Unless you are watching a Party Political Broadcast when time appears to stand still.

So, here I am reviewing the episode ‘Fat Chance’ which is episode 2 of series 5 and chronologically is episode 17.

This episode was first broadcast in the UK on 27 Feb 1991.

This episode is not based on any of Colin Dexter’s books.

WHERE’S COLIN?

If you blink you will miss Mr Dexter.

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Colin is in the scene when Hilary Dobson is attending her interview for the chaplaincy. It is at 1 hour 22 minutes and 33 seconds. The blurred photo above is the best I could get under the circumstances.

Directed by Roy Battersby: Roy only directed this one Morse episode. He went on to direct episodes of the wonderful series ‘Cracker‘ and ‘A Touch of Frost‘. He married Judy Loe in 1997. To Morse fans Judy Loe is best known as the character Adele Cecil from the Morse episodes, ‘Death is now my Neighbour’ and ‘The Wench is Dead’. I have written this many times but I am going to write it again; Morse SHOULD have been allowed to end his days with Adele in Australia and NOT killed off. Ok Chris, breathe and move on.

Screenplay by Alma Cullen: Alma Cullen also wrote the screenplays for the Morse episodes, ‘The Secret of Bay 5B’, ‘The Infernal Serpent’ and ‘The Death of the Self’. Alma Cullen was also responsible for writing the theatre play ‘House of Ghosts’ in 2010 starring Colin Baker as Inspector Morse and Andrew Bone as Lewis.

house-of-ghosts

The play was badly received by the critics and the theatre going public at large. For the most part Morse fans were unhappy at the choice of Colin Baker (best known as Dr. Who from the 1980s) as Morse. However no one involved came away unscathed.

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Colin Baker as Morse and Andrew Bone as Lewis. (photo copyright of The Journal)

Episode Jag Rating – out of 10.

seven jags

SYNOPSIS

While sitting her exam paper on the post-exilic era (c. 538 – 332 BCE) Dr. Victoria Hazlett, her arm in a sling, collapses to the ground and dies. During this time her room is being ransacked by unknown man posing as a scout for a university.

The sling around Dr. Hazlett’s arm was due to her falling from her bike three days previously. An onlooker stated that the brakes on the bike appeared to have been cut.

Dr. Hazlett was part of a women’s group, PAX. The PAX group are an organization run by female clerics to help women. This group is attempting to have one of their own, Hilary Dobson, replace the chaplain Lance Mandeville when he retires. However, Lance Mandeville has no truck with the idea of female clergy and is backing his own candidate.

Meanwhile the Reverend Geoffrey Boyd, a friend of Mandeville, is having a mental breakdown and has encrusted his room with pictures of women, many of them the PAX Group, with the words HARLOT writ large on the walls.

One of the women who stays at the hostel run by the PAX Goup, Dinah Newberry, runs away and attempts to bring the Think Thin organization into disrepute. The organization runs a health spa and ‘helps’ people diet with the aid of a stimulant sold in tablet form.

With the death of Dr Hazlett looking possibly like poison, Morse and Lewis have to weave themselves through the politics of religion, feminism and the world of dieting.

REVIEW.

(warning, this review may contain some spoilers)

This episode is interesting in that there is no actual murder so there is no murderer to be arrested at the end. For most of the episode we the audience are aware that there has been no murder and that the end will produce no climatic arrest of a murderer. As David Bishop writes in his book ‘The Complete Inspector Morse’, “The absence of a killer removes any sense of jeopardy”.

While I agree with David, regarding a lack of jeopardy due to a non murder there is some jeopardy as to whether Dinah Newberry will kill Freddy Galt. Because there appears to be no murder committed we the audience are on tenterhooks awaiting a murder and for a time it appeared that the victim would be Freddy Galt the head of the Think Thin organization. Also for a moment when Dinah attacked Freddy I wondered if Emma Pickford would be accidentally stabbed.

I suppose what is more interesting about the episode is the political machinations of the clergy, the topical (and it can still be addressed as topical) rise of female roles within religions and of course Morse’s relationship with Emma Pickford.

One can only ponder how Morse’s relationship with a theist like Emma would have progressed. Could it have progressed? I’m never been sure if Morse is an atheist or an agnostic. However, I don’t think religion would have caused the end of relationship it would have been Emma’s two children. I cannot see Morse having the patience to attend to two young children. Of course with all Emma’s commitments could she really have found the time to have a full time relationship with Morse?

Though the episode can, as David Bishop wrote “seem rather inconsequential”, I think it has enough charm and interesting performances and set pieces to make it an above average episode in the Morse canon. Zoë Wanamaker as Emma Pickford and Maggie O’Neill as the cigar smoking Hilary Dobson are excellent in their roles. Kevin Whately is as always excellent and I love his uncomfortable reactions to Hilary Dobson as he tries to equate her being a woman, a deacon AND a cigar smoker. One of my favourite scenes, a clip of which can be found below, is between Hilary Dobson and Lewis.

If one were to look at the episode with a harshly critical eye, ‘Fat Chance’ could be seen as “inconsequential”. The whole Think Thin side story could be construed as unnecessary as it both achieved very little and the discovery of the metabolic drug in Victoria Hazlett’s system could have been dealt with by having a conversation between Morse and an expert endocrinologist. Why would the Think Thin organization draw such attention to itself by hiring someone to burgle Victoria Hazlett’s rooms? Ultimately they weren’t at fault for Victoria’s death as the metabolic substance was only deadly because it inadvertently became mixed with painkillers and wine. Dr Briardale the endocrinologist who worked for Think Thin and was the Police’s expert witness could have identified the drug but verified that on its own it wasn’t harmful when administered to people who had been rigorously vetted by himself. The drug must have passed the UKs Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). This organisation looks after the safety of prescribed medicines and other health devices and equipment.

Still looking at the episode from a harshly critical point of view the episode might have benefited by concentrating on the religious element and the role of women in the clergy and also keeping Geoffrey Boyd as the possible murderer of Victoria until nearer the end of the episode. On the point of Geoffrey Boyd. he was having a complete mental breakdown but he had the wherewithal to put a copy of Victoria Hazlett’s exam paper under her mattress?

But let’s not point that spotlight of criticism too harshly at this episode as it’s many good and great points far outweigh its faults; the acting, the music, the romance and the debate of whether Morse and Emma made whoopee after their dinner date.

MUSIC

First up at the beginning of the episode we have the character Dinah Newberry singing ‘Laudate Dominum’ a Mozart aria from Vesperae Solemnes de Confessore.

The above piece of music is heard numerous times through the episode. The ‘voice of Dinah Newberry is the wonderful Janis Kelly. Who is she? She is the wonderful opera singer who not only sings many of the soprano pieces used in many of the Morse, Lewis and Endeavour series but also provides the voice for those actors playing singers.

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Janis Kelly

The Glasgow born actor and singer is the voice of Rosalind Stromming in the Endeavour Pilot episode. She is the voice in Endeavour singing from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, ‘Un bel de’ (One Beautiful Day).

In the  Endeavour pilot episode she is also the soprano voice at 27m42s singing ‘Signora, Ascolta’ from Puccini’s Turandot. (This piece can be found on the CD Inspector Morse Volume 2 also sung by Janis Kelly and used in the Morse episode ‘The Death of the Self’ first aired 25th march 1992. Yes guys, THAT episode).

Also from the Endeavour episode the soprano is Janis Kelly singing ‘Terzettino ‘Soave Sia Il Vento’ by Mozart. (This piece can be found on the CD Inspector Morse Volume 2 also sung by Janis and used in the Morse Episode ‘Happy Families’ first aired 11th march 1992)

Janis Kelly’s voice is also heard in the following episodes of Morse:

  • The Day of the Devil’ first aired 13th January 1993. She was the soprano voice singing ‘Adieu Notre Petite Table’ from Manon by Jules Massenet. This piece can be found on the CD Inspector Morse Volume 3).
  • The Death of the Self’ first aired 25th March 1992. Janis is the voice of Francis Barber’s character Nicole Burgess.
  • Cherubim and Seraphim’ first aired 15th April 1992. Janis is the soprano singing ‘Che Faro Senza Eurydice’ by Von Gluck. This piece can be found on the CD Inspector Morse Volume 2.
  • Absolute Conviction’ first aired on the 8th April 1992. Janis sings ‘Mitradi Quell’ Alma Ingrata by Mozart. This piece can be found on the CD Inspector Morse Volume 2.
  • Masonic Mysteries’ first aired on the 24th January 1990. Janis sings ‘Bei Mannern’ – Welche Liebe Fuhlen’ by Mozart from The Magic Flute. This piece can be found on the CD Inspector Morse Volume 3.
  • Promised Land’ first aired on the 27th march 1991. Janis sings ‘Hab’mir’s Gelobt’ from Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. This piece can be found on the CD Inspector Morse Volume 3.
  • Second Time Around’ first aired 20th February 1991. Janis Kelly sings ‘Senza Mamma’ from Suor Angelica by Puccini. This piece can be found on the CD Inspector Morse Vol. 1.

00h04m37s

The next piece of music is heard when  Morse and Lewis are driving to the scene of Dr. Hazlett’s death. Playing in the car is Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 7 in F Major.

00h18m01s

Laudate Dominum is heard again during the scene when Dinah Newberry is sitting in her room crying, eating ice cream and Irene is banging on her door.

00h25m36s

We return to Dinah Newberry’s room as Morse visits to talk to her. As before Laudate Dominum is playing.

00h51m52s

Laudate Dominum plays again as we see Morse at home and he phones Emma to ask about Dinah Newberry.

01h12m19s

Morse is at home entertaining his new love, Emma Pickford. While they sit in the garden music is playing. That music is Venetian Gondola Song (Opus 19, No. 6 in G Minor) by Mendelssohn.

Lastly, we have Bach’s ‘Well Tempered Clavier’ Book Two Prelude and Fugue in F sharp. This music occurs when Morse finds Boyd and then drives back to find out if Hilary Dobson has won the chaplaincy.

Interesting Quotes and Dialogue.

 

When visiting the PAX Group hostel Morse and Lewis conversation ends with the quotes below before Emma Pickford opens the door.

MORSE: “I reckon we’re seeing a particularly Oxford view of things. Extreme images. God as a prissy old don nit-picking his way through the liturgy versus God as a muscular Girl Guide”

The attractive Emma Pickford opens the door. Morse tries to compose himself and he and Lewis are invited in. Lewis then gives his punchline;

LEWIS: – “Dib dib dib sir”. ( A reference to Morse’s mention of Girl Guides).

Of course it would be more appropriate to spell the words Dyb Dyb Dyb as the quote is referring to the Scout phrase Do Your Best.

—-o—-

When Morse has finished interrogating Lance Mandeville at the police station, Lance Mandeville says to Morse that he hopes God will forgive him (forgive Morse that is). Morse replies;

MORSE – “I don’t think your God would have any truck with the likes of me. At least, I hope he wouldn’t.”

—-o—-

At 39 minutes and 30 seconds we see Hilary Dobson sitting with Emma Pickford.

I believe Hilary’s T-Shirt has the words, ‘God is an equal opportunity employer.’

Literary References

00h08m59s

As Victoria Hazlett’s body is taken out of the college building the Rev Boyd shouts out “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft“.

No surprise that this quote is from the Bible: Samuel 15:22 and 15:23 (King James Version).

At 22 minutes and 25 seconds Morse says, “For some we loved, the loveliest and the best“. This is from The Rubaiyat By Omar Khayyam. The quote is from verse 22 (there are over 100 versus). The full verse is;

‘For some we loved, the loveliest and the best
That from his Vintage rolling Time hath prest,
Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before,
And one by one crept silently to rest’.

01h00m26s

Hilary and Emma are discussing the revelations of what was found at Rev Boyd’s home. Emma also asks about Dinah. Hilary replies that she will turn up one day in her all “too too solid flesh.”

This quote is from Hamlet and spoken by him.

Hamlet Act 1 Scene 2:
O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d
His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!

01h27m00s

When Morse tracks down the Rev Boyd he says to him that it is ironic that he is now surrounded by women. Boyd replies;

BOYD: “Devour thy living with harlots”.

No surprise that this quote comes from the Bible, Luke 15:30 The King James version;

“But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.”

ART

00h16m24s

Morse is walking through the chapel Lance Mandeville when he then walks over to a painting on the wall.

This painting is called St James of Compestella and was painted by El Greco.

00h38m36s

Morse and Lewis are discussing the case in their office in the police station. Behind Morse is a poster advertising Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.

Below is a version of that poster.

Below is a reproduction of the painting used on the poster.

It was painted by Jean-Honore Fragonard in 1767 and the painting is called The Swing.

00h52m01s

Up next we are in Morse’s house. This is the same scene mentioned above in the music section where he phones Emma. In Morse’s hall is a print.

It is obviously a print of a painting by Claude Monet. It is one of the many paintings created by Monet of water lilies in his garden at Giverny. Which one the above print is I cannot say for sure. Monet painted a series of 250 paintings of water lilies between 1840–1926.

 

 Interesting and favourite scenes.

I’m going to start by repeating a scene I talked about above;

Next is a lovely scene with Morse making his move on Emma Pickford;

Lewis and his favourite cigar smoking clergywoman.

MISCELLANEOUS

John Thaw and Zoë Wanamaker worked together in the 1984 revival of Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ and Ms Wanamaker won an Olivier Award for ‘Actress of the Year in a Revival’. John Thaw played the role of Sir Toby Belch.

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John Thaw as Sir Toby Belch and Zoë Wanamaker as Viola. (Photo copyright of John Caird)

In the same production there were a few actors who have appeared in episodes of Morse. Firstly there was Gemma Jones who played Anne Staveley in the first Morse episode, ‘The Dead of Jericho’.

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Gemma Jones as Anne Staveley in the first Morse episode, ‘The Dead of Jericho’.

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Gemma Jones and John Thaw in Twelfth Night. (Photo copyright of John Caird)

Also appearing the 1984 production of ‘Twelfth Night’ alongside John Thaw was Daniel Massey.

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Daniel Massey as Anthony Donn in ‘Deceived by Flight’. (Season 3 | Episode 3)

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Daniel Massey and John Thaw in Twelfth Night. (Photo copyright of John Caird)

—-o—-

In this episode Mrs Val Lewis makes her second appearance played by Maureen Bennet. Maurenn Bennet would play Val Lewis four times in total.

– Greeks Bearing Gifts (1991)
– Who Killed Harry Field? (1991)
– Fat Chance (1991)
– Service of All the Dead (1987)

maureen bennett

Maureen Bennett

For the first time there are no actors who would appear later in either the Lewis or Endeavour series.

—-o—-

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I liked the poster on the wall behind Morse’s desk. It is a poster of Mozart’s ‘Marriage of Figaro’. I tried to find one but the closest I could find was the one below.

Figaro-Poster

(Postscript 19/07/2016) A follower of my blog, nyannayon, commented that the painting that is used in the poster to advertise the opera is by Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s and is called ‘The Swing’. The painting is available as a poster in many shops on the internet.

I think for the first time in the series we get to view Morse’s garden to the side of his house.

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Speaking of Morse’s house, I noticed that he had quite a collection of Penguin paperbacks.

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Penguin books had a colour coding system for the books; The colour schemes included: orange and white for general fiction, green and white for crime fiction, cerise and white for travel and adventure, dark blue and white for biographies, yellow and white for miscellaneous, red and white for drama; and the rarer purple and white for essays and belles letters and grey and white for world affairs.

As you can see behind Morse in the picture above he had quite a collection of different penguin genres. Interestingly there is a P.D. James novel to the left of the Penguins. P.D. James is of course famous for the detective novels with the character, Adam Dalgliesh.

LOCATIONS

New College, Oxford is a stand in for St Saviours.

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St Saviours, a Scene from Fat Chance when Morse learns that Emma has been lying him.

New_College,_Oxford_(Pic_1)

New College, Oxford OX1 3BN.

new college

—-o—-

Next is the Think Thin health Spa where Dinah attacks Freddy Galt;

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Think Thin Health Spa

In reality the building is actually a school. Heath Mount School to be exact. It is to be found on the Woodhall Park Estate,

heath mount school

Heath Mount School, Wood Hall Park, Watton-at-Stone, Hertford, Hertfordshire SG14 3NG.

heath mount school2

—-o—-

Next is the location of the scene where Dinah Newberry accosts Dr. Briardale’s assistant, Judy.

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This building is actually the Heinz Wolff Building, Brunel University in Uxbridge.

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Heinz Wolff building, Brunel University, Uxbridge,

—-o—-

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Queen’s Lane where Morse has parked his car.

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Where Morse and Lewis walk to after leaving the car. Supposed to be the entrance to St. Saviours.

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quenns lane

—-o—-

Nuffield College, New Inn Hall Street, Oxford also stands in for St. Saviours.

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Emma Pickford (Zoe Wannamaker) and Hilary Dobson (Maggie O’Neill) 

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nuffield-college2

—-o—-

Next up is the location where Morse and Lewis discuss the case in particular Mrs Gardam. Took me a while to find this but i’m sure it is correct.

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So, the above scenes are located on the B5378 near Shenleybury House.

shenley

shenley2

—-o—-

This episode includes one of the nine pubs I can’t locate in the Morse series.

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UPDATE 30/09/2016: 

The above has now been identified thanks to blog reader, Victor Hall. Victor very kindly wrote to let me know that the above pub was The Blue Anchor situated at the bottom of Fishpool St. St. Albans, Hertfordshire. The scene was filmed in the rear beer garden. Sadly this pub is no more and due to be converted to a residential dwelling.

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st-albans-blue-anchor

blue-anchor-pub

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Sad that it can no longer to visited as a Morse pub location but at least it is another pub located from the Morse series. A huge thank you to Victor.

————–

The next location is as annoying as the above location as I have tried looking for it for so many hours but to no avail. It is where the PAX Group Hostel for women is located.

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We see the above street sign outside the hostel but there is no Napier Street in Oxford. There is a Napier Road but it’s not the location. You can see more of the location in the clip above that shows Lewis and Morse visiting the hostel.

—-o—-

CAST

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Maurice Denham as Lance Mandeviulle. (Born: December 23, 1909. Died: July 24, 2002)

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Zoë Wanamaker as Emma Pickford (Born: May 13, 1949). 

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Maggie O Neill as Hilary Dobson. (Born: November 15, 1962)

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Kenneth Haigh as Freddy Galt (Born: March 25, 1931)

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Peggy Mount as a Nun. (Born: May 2, 1915, Died: November 13, 2001)

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David Gant as Geoffrey Boyd. (Born: 1943)

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Julian Gartside as Desmond Kelly. (born in April 1958)

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Caroline Ryder as Dinah Newberry. (Unknown birth date)

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Sarah Carpenter as Victoria Hazlett. (Unknown birthdate)

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Una Brandon Jones as Nadine Stacy. (Born: April 24, 1916, Died: 2010)

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Arbel Jones as Jane Barnes (Birthdate unknown)

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Nicholas Selby as Dr. Corder (Born: September 13, 1925, Died: September 14, 2010)

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Eileen Dunwoodie as Mrs Gardam (Birthdate unknown)

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Tilly Vosburgh as Irene Saunders. (Born: December 17, 1960)

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Alan Starkey as Rowlands. (Birthdate unknown. Died in 2003)

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Ben Onwukwe as Doctor. (Born: August 21, 1957)

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William Roberts as Hank Briardale. (Born: October 18, 1943)

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Dorothea Alexander as Mrs Hulme. (Birthdate Unknown)

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Badi Uzzaman as Chip Van Owner. (Born: March 8, 1939, Died: June 14, 2011)

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Josephine Welcome as Judy. (Birthdate Unknown)

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James Grout as Chief Superintendent Strange. (1927–2012)

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Maureen Bennett as Val Lewis. (Birthdate Unknown)

So folks that is all for this review. I hope you enjoyed it and it will help your enjoyment of the episode when you next watch it.

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14 comments

  1. Hello, Chris.
    Doesn’t Mrs Lewis (played by Maureen Bennett?) also appear in “Masonic Mysteries”? Perhaps you mean this episode rather than “Service of all the Dead”, where Bennett plays the minor role of “Wife” but not Lewis’s?

    Like

  2. Excellent review, thanks– lots of interesting detail.

    I actually thought that this was a very good episode. I liked the excellent acting and the variety of eccentric characters, such as Dinah, Hilary, Mrs Gardam and the crabby priests. As usual, I had to watch the episode twice before it all clicked together for me (and even then, I needed to go back and re-watch certain scenes– one must really pay close attention to every line and scene when watching Morse.) I think it’s perfectly fair that sometimes a suspicious death turns out to be accidental, especially when other suspicious events (the bike-tampering and the burglary) are present and need to be explained in course.

    When Morse first met Emma, I was rather confused by his big reaction; I thought maybe he knew her. I didn’t realize that he just found her attractive.

    The relation between the two key groups (the weight-loss people and the high church feminists) was unclear to me at first viewing but then it eventually made sense. Morse does not let a case go until it makes sense.

    All told, I thought it was a satisfying puzzle for the mind, with memorable characters, wonderful music for the ear and beautiful architecture for the eye. This is why I like the series.

    Alan Filipski

    Like

  3. I was surprised to find out that was Morse’s garden in the scene with Zoe. Why then, I wonder, does he bother to order a dozen roses for his date with her if his garden is obviously full of them?

    Like

  4. Just re-watched this story…I wondered about the roses. he bought, I assumed they were indoors in a vase.!..was it Emmas garden…or Morses.? Also, when you see them next morning, she is in her dressing gown…….More than just friends…?!…I wonder if he ever saw her again….they made a nice pair, despite her shall we say a white lie……

    Like

  5. I am so impressed with this whole project – all the photos, clips, notes on music and actors, behind the scenes revelations!

    For anyone who likes British comedy, if you haven’t seen Zoe Wanamaker in My Family (the comedy series, not the movie), you are missing a well-written, sharp, fast-moving and very funny show!

    Like

  6. On a minor point, it really annoyed me that an Anglican priest was dressed as a Catholic cardinal. Another side note, women weren’t ordained in the Church of England until 1994, although perhaps the show writers were trying to draw attention to the idea of female priests.

    Like

  7. Excellent research! For some reason I always wanted to know the location of the chip van scene…not sure why, just always liked the starving Lewis ordering the double chips…nonetheless, feel free to inform a stateside fan who can only visit once a decade or so where that may have been. And thanks again for the excellent information!

    Like

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