Inspector Morse (Volume 1: The Dead of Jericho / The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn) Review
Inspector Morse was first aired on British television in 1987, adapted from the series of best-selling books by Colin Dexter. The TV adaptations brought Morse and Lewis before a wider audience and they were quickly adopted into popular culture. It's no surprise, therefore, that the show has received a DVD release – in this instance, in 2-episode volumes. (There has been a previous release of the first episode on its own.) This review looks at the first volume in the series; future volumes will also be reviewed on the site.
One of the nice features of Inspector Morse episodes is their length (approximately 1 hour 45 mins each), which always made them a little more meaty than many other dramatic shows airing on television during the same period. It also made watching them more of a weekly event, but the downside of this is that there are only two episodes included in each DVD 'volume'. The first volume is made up of the episodes The Dead of Jericho and The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn.
The Dead of Jericho
Guest stars: Patrick Troughton
Now, obviously there can't be too detailed a plot summary for any mystery – after all, I wouldn't want to ruin the whole thing for you. But there are some interesting points to be made that won't spoil anything. First of all, it's worth noting that this was the very first Inspector Morse episode, scripted by Anthony Minghella (The English Patient, The Talented Mr Ripley, among others). As such, it immediately introduces us to certain recurrent themes and also gives us a very quick insight into who this Morse guy is. We see the Jaguar, we discover Morse's love of good beer and classical music, and we are introduced to his sometimes grouchy but nevertheless effective style.
This particular plot also shows us Morse falling just a little in love with a woman shortly to be found dead. Morse suspects murder and sets out to solve the case, joined by Sergeant Lewis, in what turns out to be the start of a lasting partnership. The Jericho of the title is actually an area of Oxford, for anyone wondering about that reference.
I'm pretty sure it's not the best episode I've ever seen of the series, but it sets things up nicely. The cast gel well, despite this being their first outing together and it does leave you with a sense that this might well be a show worth following.
The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn
Guest stars: Roger Lloyd Pack
Our duo of detectives are now established most definitely as a team and recurring series themes continue to develop, though I don't remember ever seeing Morse in his own home as much as I did while watching these two episodes.
Nicholas Quinn is a member of an examination syndicate where he has worked for three months. He's deaf. When he is discovered dead in his home, Morse and Lewis have to start sifting the clues and matching them with a killer. When they discover that someone is selling the examination secrets, the case takes a few new turns.
This episode picks up the pace a little and makes enjoyable watching, seeing Lewis and Morse pit their brains against the various personal agendas of the syndicate members as they untangle the intrigue and eventually solve the crime. (Sorry, maybe I shouldn't give that away!)
The video quality of the two episodes is somewhat different, with the second showing a marked improvement over the first. The Dead of Jericho suffers from a serious graininess problem, with soft colours which are obvious from the start. This may well be a problem with the masters available and the fact that it's the first ever episode, because The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn really looks quite a lot better. The colours are sharper and although it's still a little grainy, it's nothing like as bad as the previous episode, which was certainly a relief after wondering if that background grit was going to be a permanent feature. Of course, these episodes are over a decade old, so perhaps this is the best one can expect.
The sound is in particularly unremarkable stereo – again no big surprise given the age of the show and the fact that it was made for television and not the big screen. Despite there being only a handful of moments where stereo separation actually came into play, the audio was very clear and the soundtrack pieces didn't encroach on the spoken dialogue.
Each disc comes with a photo gallery and scene access – fairly limited special features, it's true. Then again, with many volumes to release, the extras for these specific episodes simply may not have been available at the time (or deemed worth adding), so the pleasant menus and photo gallery are sufficient.
Because it includes the first episode, this set is definitely of interest to serious Inspector Morse fans. The episodes are eminently watchable, though how many times they bear re-watching may depend on the depth of your love for this show, its characters and actors. It does represent a good introduction to a television drama that became something of a primetime fixture in the broadcast TV schedule. If you like Morse, you'll like these.