Inspector Morse (Volume 5: The Last Enemy / Deceived by Flight) Review
This DVD set comprises two more discs and two more episodes of Inspector Morse, the vastly popular British detective series that was first aired in the late 80s. The show needs very little introduction, as it quickly became one of the best-loved and cherished British TV shows. (As I write this, there are reviews of two other Morse double-disc titles available on DVD Times – Volume 1 and Volume 3 – if you are looking for more background.)
The show centres around Morse (John Thaw) himself, a more refined and educated policeman than is often shown on TV. He's an intellectual who can appreciate classical music and good beer while filling out crossword puzzles and making bumbling attempts to connect with the opposite sex. Added to this model is the young, up and coming detective, Sergeant Lewis (Kevin Whately) – a dedicated family man and designed to be a perfect foil and friend for Morse. The relationship between these two is central to the success of the series... it allows exposition and also a good amount of character development, not least because each episode is almost 2 hours long so plots don't have to be rushed, nor crimes solved in minutes.
Another stand-out quality of Morse is that of the acting. Everyone does a grand job, especially Thaw and Whately, who really grew into their roles and allowed every nuance of glance or conversation to become real and often very amusing too. The guest stars in each episode almost always live up to this high standard of acting quality, making the show a pleasure to watch.
This is the fifth volume of double-DVD Morse releases, and one aspect that links both of the included episodes is their incorporation of Doctor Grayling Russell (Amanda Hillwood), a pathologist that befriends Morse and Lewis... and a potential romantic interest for Morse that he falteringly attempts to cultivate.
The Last Enemy
Guest stars: Barry Foster
The headless torso of a man is found in one of the Oxford rivers, kickstarting this episode which also sees Morse plagued by an excruciating toothache. At the same time, Sir Alex Reece, Master of Beaumont College, calls Morse in to help him find Dr Kerridge (his Vice-Master). Academic rivalries lie deep in the heart of the case, which sees Morse travelling to London, visiting the Home Office and even getting his tooth sorted out. Of course, he also manages to find time to invite Dr Russell, the pathologist, for a beer...
Deceived by Flight
Guest stars: Sharon MaughanScreenplay: Anthony Minghella
An old friend of Morse's, Anthony Donn, gets in touch out of the blue and the two men meet up for chips in the Botanical Gardens of Oxford. Very little information is exchanged, but soon afterwards Donn is found dead in an apparent suicide. Morse suspects foul play and sets out to investigate. However in a truly amusing moment (and one you don't generally get to see in detective shows), Lewis informs Morse that he's on leave – leaving Morse seemingly on his own in solving this crime.
Morse encounters old friends, bitterness and deception, as well as a quick lesson in the rules of cricket. We learn of his nickname at college, Pagan, given to him when he had refused to divulge his real Christian name. In the end, poor Lewis is cajoled into postponing his leave and ends up going undercover on the case. (And it goes without saying that this leads to some more great moments between the two main stars of the show.) Finally, not one but two women – neither of them Dr Russell – distract Morse from his crime-solving, but eventually he manages to get back on track!
These Morse discs are presented in the original 4:3 format, hardly a shock for a television show from the 1980s. The transfer is adequate but in no way a stand-out... the age of these programmes is quite apparent as you watch them. The picture can be a little grainy at times, but at least it's not distractingly so in the case of these two episodes.
The audio on these discs has been recorded in Dolby Digital 2.0 and again, it is adequate for this presentation. There doesn't seem to be any stereo directionality in the audio, but this isn't particularly surprising when you bear in mind that Inspector Morse is a detective series and as such is primarily dialogue-driven with the occasional action scene thrown in. The sound on these discs does do a good job of filling the front soundstage, and the dialogue itself is always crisp and comprehensible. There is little in the way of incidental music.
The menus on these discs are very basic, but they get the job done. Essentially the main menu features a moving background accompanied by a loop of the Inspector Morse theme music. The scene selection menu is static, the subtitles is a toggle option, and I'm afraid that the only special features these DVDs include are photo galleries attached to each episode, containing a selection of twenty still images from each programme.
A couple more solid Morse episodes here, definitely enjoyable to watch – with the second winning out just slightly in my own preferences. (Of course, the screenplay for that one was written by Anthony Minghella of The Talented Mr Ripley fame, so I'm probably biased.) The video and audio quality are fine (albeit not spectacular), but the show is the main thing here – and the writing and acting both bear up well under scrutiny.