Hello everyone and welcome to my review and overview of the Morse episode, Service of All the Dead. This was one of my first posts so it is not as comprehensive as my later posts. But, I am returning every so often to add more information to this post.
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Originally aired in the UK on 20th Januaray 1987.
Book Published in 1979
Colin Dexter can be spotted at 34m19s speaking to a student in the background while in the Foreground Morse talks to the archdeacon.
Directed by Peter Hammond.
Screenplay by Julian Mitchell.
Jag Rating (out of ten)
Please feel free to leave any comments. There is a link at the bottom of the page.
During a service of The Feast of the Conversion of St. Augustine at St. Oswalds the church warden is murdered by all intents and purposes by a local tramp, (in this day of political correctness I was wondering what term would the PC brigade prefer to the word ‘tramp’. I came up with Residentially Challenged). Anyway, Max, the pathologist informs Morse that the Church Warden was dead before he was stabbed with the letter opener that had been plunged into his chest. More deaths occur relating to the parishioners of St. Oswalds and Morse and Lewis look to solve the crime before there are no congregation left to attend St. Oswalds.
This is the third and last episode of the first series and as Morse tiptoes his way between the dead bodies he manages to attain his first kiss of the series.
Morse kisses Ruth Rawlinson. (Women around the country wish it was them being kissed by Morse).
A very good episode that not only cements many of Morse’s traits but also one feels he and Lewis forming a connection beyond Chief Inspector and Sergeant. Those traits are a fondness for the ladies, beer, a dislike of religion, his love of classical music and his dislike of any other types of music. When Ruth Rawlinson states what type of music she believes Morse listens to, i.e. Jazz, Morse simply replies, “Music.” Of course let us not forget the other trait that surfaces, acrophobia. When on the church roof Lewis asks Morse if he is alright. Morse replies, “I’m scared of bloody heights, you stupid sod.”
“I’m scared of bloody heights, you stupid sod.”
One outstanding feature of the episode is the way in which it is shot. Through almost the entire episode the characters are filmed reflected in mirrors or glass or other reflective surfaces. These ‘reflections’ become less frequent as the episode draws to its climax which I assume is an allusion to Morse and Lewis beginning to get closer to solving the case. The use of mirrors and glass could be a reference to the phrase ‘smoke and mirrors’ when discussing magic and illusion which is probably how Morse perceives religion. St. Oswalds was dark and lit mostly by candles which produce ‘smoke’ and had numerous mirrors and sections of glass. I know in the Jewish religion that mirrors are covered when someone dies but I am not aware of any similar custom within the Church of England. It all could simply be an allusion to Morse and Lewis not being able to see the suspects as they really are; never being able to see their true selves only the images they wish to reflect.
Their are a few literary flourishes in the episode. Firstly, Morse is talking to Lewis about the tramp that maybe implicated in the murder of the church warden while flipping through a copy of Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’. The tramp characters, Vladimir and Estragon, in Beckett’s play are probably the most famous tramps in English Literature.
Secondly, is the reference to ‘the curious incident of the dog in the night’. This is from the Sherlock Holmes story, ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’. (Correction. Thank you to Graham Barratt for pointing out my lazy assumption regarding the quote. As Graham pointed out the quote comes form the Sherlock story, Silver Blaze. Note to self do not write blog after the hours of midnight).
Overall it is a very good episode though I did think the body count was rather high and I wasn’t convinced that all the murders were necessary. However, the viewing figures were the highest of the first three episodes so that probably guaranteed a second series.
The acronym BWV that is shown at the end of all Johann Sebastian Bach compositions relates to the Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (Bach Works Catalogue). It’s the numbering system identifying compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach.
The first piece of music is played over the opening credits and the first scenes in the church. The piece is ‘Prelude and Fugue in A Minor, BWV 543‘ by the German Johann Sebastian Bach, (1685-1750). Bach is one of my favourites composers.
Next up we have Morse leaving a shop having bought a new cassette which he proceeds to play while on his way to the scene of the first murder. The piece is by the German composer Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) and is titled ‘Overture Euryanthe: Allegro marcato, con molto fuoco’.
I’m afraid there is no Youtube video of the Weber piece and the two that I found were unavailable in my country.
We are back in the church were we find the following piece of music being played and being accompanied by a choir. It is a beautiful piece by the Austrian composer Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) ‘Locus iste‘.
Thanks to one of my regular readers A.B. ( a big thank you as always A.B.) it has been pointed out I missed piece of music titled “Missa Brevis – Agnus Dei” at 00h24m20s by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594). Missa brevis is Latin for “short Mass”.
Next up we have another Bach piece being played in the church by Paul Morris. The music is called Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C, BMV 564.
Back in Morse’s house we find Morse lying on the settee thinking about Ruth Rawlinson. On his record player he is playing ‘Acte IV: Sola, Perduta abbandonata‘ from the Puccini opera ‘Manon Lescaut’. Puccini’s full name is Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini. Born: 1858 in Italy and died 1924.
The first piece of art we encounter is at 00h08m21s when Morse has just left examining the body of the first victim.
I have no idea regarding the artist but the subject matter is obviously Saint Sebastianan early Christian saint and martyr. More often than not he is depicted in art and literature tied to a post or tree and shot with arrows. In more recent times the Saint Sebastian is thought of as a “homosexual icon”. Many art critics have agreed that the homosexual subtext is perceptible in paintings since the Renaissance. This image could have been included to have the viewer believe that the episode had homosexual undertones in particular regarding the vicar Lionel Pawlin.
At 00h40m46s we find Morse on the telephone in his house hallway. Above him is a painting which for the moment I cannot identify. Modigliani was the obvious choice but it isn’t that. The problem is that I also cannot get a good look at it. I did quickly scan all the other episodes for a better look at the painting but to no avail.
A huge thank you to Nancy who has identified the above painting. It is Semi-Nude Girl, Reclining by Egon Schiele. Here is a better look at the painting.
Thank you Nancy.
Next up is not a painting but an allusion to the wonderful paintings of Sir John Everett Millais. The scene I am referring to is where we see Brenda Josephs lying dead in a punt, (01h05m18s)
The scene I believe is in reference to Millais sublime painting ‘Ophelia‘.
The way in which Ophelia is posed in the picture, her open arms and upward gaze, is said to symbolise the traditional portrayal of saints or martyrs. Brenda is also posed in a similar way and this would correspond with the theme and content of the episode.
The next scene is when Morse is talking to the Church Warden at 01h10m55s.
Unfortunately this another one in which I cannot identify the painting. I am not a fan of art iconography so that doesn’t help. The subject is of course the Madonna and Child. I am keeping a folder of all the paintings I can’t identify in the hope I will eventually stumble upon an identification.
Thanks to Nancy who identified this etching in Morse’s house.
Thank you Nancy.
The title of the episode, ‘Service of all the Dead’ probably alludes to a poem by D.H. Lawrence with the same title and in another Lawrence poem, ‘All Souls’ the first line contains the words, ‘service of all the dead’.
SERVICE OF ALL THE DEAD
Between the avenues of cypresses,
All in their scarlet cloaks, and surplices
Of linen, go the chaunting choristers,
The priests in gold and black, the villagers.
And all along the path to the cemetery
The round, dark heads of men crowd silently
And black-scarved faces of women-folk, wistfully
Watch at the banner of death, and the mystery.
And at the foot of a grave a father stands
With sunken head, and forgotten, folded hands;
And at the foot of a grave a soman kneels
With pale shut face, and neither hears not feels
The coming of the chaunting choristers
Between the avenues of cypresses,
The silence of the many villagers,
The candle-flames beside the surplices.
They are chanting now the service of All the Dead
And the village folk outside in the burying ground
Listen – except those who strive with their dead,
Reaching out in anguish, yet unable quite to touch them:
Those villagers isolated at the grave
Where the candles burn in the daylight, and the painted wreaths
Are propped on end, there, where the mystery starts.
The naked candles burn on every grave.
On your grave, in England, the weeds grow.
But I am your naked candle burning,
And that is not your grave, in England,
The world is your grave.
And my naked body standing on your grave
Upright towards heaven is burning off to you
Its flame of life, now and always, till the end.
It is my offering to you; every day is All Souls’ Day.
I forget you, have forgotten you.
I am busy only at my burning,
I am busy only at my life.
But my feet are on your grave, planted.
And when I lift my face, it is a flame that goes up
To the other world, where you are now.
But I am not concerned with you.
I have forgotten you.
I am a naked candle burning on your grave.
Morse and Lewis are standing in the churchyard discussing what they witnessed while watching the church service. Lewis talks about putting the wine into a cup. Morse corrects him by telling him the ‘cup’ is called a chalice. Morse then says, “Poisoned chalice, indeed“.
The phrase ‘poisoned chalice‘ was first mentioned in Shakespeare‘s ‘Macbeth‘. It is from act one, scene seven;
“To plague th’ inventor: this even-handed justice
Commends the ingredients of our poisoned chalice
To our own lips.”
Lewis and Morse are discussing where the tramp Swanpole is while Morse flicks through a copy of Samuel Beckett‘s play ‘Waiting for Godot‘.
‘Waiting for Godot‘ involves two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, (both tramps) waiting endlessly for the arrival of someone named Godot who actually never turns up.
Next up is the scene where Morse and Lewis are searching through the diary of Harry Josephs, (01h09m30s). During there conversation is the reference to ‘the curious incident of the dog in the night’. This is from the Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes story, ‘The Adventure of Silver Blaze‘. Morse and the custody sergeant who is helping, almost quote verbatim the scene from the Holmes story;
Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”
Morse talks to the Archdeacon. (Colin Dexter can be seen talking to a girl).
Dorney Court, Dorney, Buckinghamshire. Where Ruth Rawlinson worked.
Merton College, Merton Street, Oxford. Where Morse interviews the Archdeacon.
The internal shots of the church are I believe St. Cross Church, St. Cross Road, Oxford. (St. Oswalds). However, the external shots are of the grounds of St Michael’s Church, High Street, Bray. When Lional Paulin leaps from the top of the church it gives a good view of the church tower.
Looking at the above photograph you will see on the side elevation a clock. If we look at the photo below we see the clock plus the other identifying parts like the arched double window above the clock. Below the clock is the small oblong shaped window and below that is a small statue.
Thank you to Peter Robins for identifying St Michael’s Church.
The Turf Tavern Pub, Bath Place, Oxford. (called the Green Man in the episode.
TIME – 1h 1m 55s and 1h 30m 52s
Thanks to Neil McLean for identifying this pub. It is the The Crown at Bray, High St, Bray, Maidenhead SL6 2AH.
Angela Morant as Ruth Rawlinson (Born 1941 – )
John Normington as Lionel Pawlin ( Born Jan 28th 137 – Died July 26th 2007)
Maurice O’Connell as Harry Josephs (Born 1939 – )
James Griffiths as Paul Morris (Born Unknown)
Judy Campbell as Mrs Rawlinson (Born 31 May 1916 – 6 June 2004)
Michael Horden as Dr. Starkie (Born 3 October 1911 – 2 May 1995)
Norman Jones as Chief Inspector Bell (B. June 16th, 1932 – D.April 23rd 2013)
Chrissy Iddon as Brenda Josephs (Born Unknown)
Michael Fenner as Detective Constable Mitchell ( http://www.michaelfenner.com/ )
Karl Francis as Taffy (Born 1st April 1942 – ) http://karlfrancis.com/index.html
Michael Goldie as Jimmy (Born 1927 – August 27, 2013)
Bill Moody as Police Sergeant (Born 1949 – June 8th 2012)
Gina McKee as the girl on the bookies. (Born April 14, 1964 – )
Harold Innocent as the Archdeacon (April 18, 1935 – September 12, 1993)
(The times are set as hh/mm/ss, i.e. hours, minutes and seconds).
I hope you enjoyed the post. take care.
My home town very good
The reference to ‘the curious incident of the dog in the night’ is from the Sherlock Holmes story _Silver Blaze_, not _The Hound of the Baskerville’s_
Hi Daniel. If you had read a bit further on you will see I rectified the mistake.
The opening organ music is the Prelude from J.S. Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 543.
Thanks David, I have updated the post.
_Euryanthe_ is by Weber (Böhm is a conductor).
When Morse revisits the church during the high mass, the choir is singing the Anton Bruckner motet Locus iste. I went looking for the name of the piece because I knew I’d sung it, but I couldn’t quite place it, and found your site in the process!
Hi Michelle. Thanks for commenting and the identification of the musical piece.
The more I watch this episode the more it becomes one of my favourites. I think the storyline between Ruth Rawlinson and Morse really draws me in, I feel he truly falls in love with this naive and vulnerable woman and I think it’s all very sad. Such a brutal story too with the killing of the child and her elderly mother ending up in a home. There is a real atmosphere to the filming, like many of the early episodes I suppose.
Hello, Natalie! I share your admiration for this episode (I can’t remember how many times I’ve watched it, both alone and with my students 🙈): I even think that it’s superior to the much-lauded “Masonic Mysteries”. BTW why don’t we see Ruth after serving her time in any of the following series? Which of Morse’s women would you have liked to see resurface 👻 and in which _Morse_ episode?
I always half expected Ruth might have made an appearance in the Lewis series.
“I always half expected Ruth might have made an appearance in the Lewis series”.
Or, even better, in a later _Morse_ episode: e.g., during the finale of “The Remorseful Day”😉
I think that the reappearance of some _Morse_ characters, rather than only its actors, in _Lewis_ would have improved the quality of the latter series. But (not having watched any _Lewis_ episode more than once and not having yet watched Series 9) perhaps one or two _Morse_ characters (other than the regulars) reappear there?
I wish there had been more scenes with Chrissy Iddon I think she looked lovely!
Gina McKee (playing the Punk girl at the bookie’s) has gone on to have quite the career (Borgias, etc) but for our purposes here I feel it should be mentioned she played Diane Turnbull in the LEWIS episode “Old School Ties” (2007).
Hi Samb. I have done a post with a video of all the actors who appeared in Morse and then appeared in Lewis or Endeavour; https://morseandlewisandendeavour.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/actors-who-appeared-in-morse-and-then-appeared-in-lewis-or-endeavour-second-attempt/
I see that you have (of course). Most excellent archiving!
Judy Campbell was Jane Birkin’s mother!
Chrissy Iddon was born in 1947, not sure if she is still acting.
Chrissy Iddon hasn’t acted since 1991 according to IMDB. However, IMDB does mention theatre work so she could be involved in that.
Despite having watched A Service For All The Dead several times it is not clear to me how Brenda Josephs died. I don’t think we see how she came to a soggy end in the film? Did she commit suicide and if so why or was she murdered by jealous husband Harry?
Hi Paul. How she died is never made clear. She was murdered by Harry Josephs. It is a complicated episode with far, far too many deaths.
Thank you Chris, my sentiments entirely! Love the blog.
Reminded me of Dalziel and Pascoe episode where I had to write down and count up everyone who died – although I know I counted 10 deaths in one Endeavour series finale. I think it was the one where Thursday got shot.
One of several things that doesn’t make sense – for all I could understand of the story when the real Harry Josephs appeared it might as well have been written in Bulgarian!
The compositions of Johann Sebastian Bach: Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis: **BWV**
not: BWM; BMV (2 times)
Hi Chris, your post above: At 00h40m46s we find Morse on the telephone in his house hallway. Above him is a painting which for the moment I cannot identify.
Did you happen to see a closer shot of the art in The Silent World of Nicolas Quinn? about 11 minutes 30 seconds into the episode, Morse is on the phone. the view of the art is not focused but it’s the closest I’ve seen of it from the early episodes. She’s reminds me of a dancer or flapper woman from the teens or 1920’s with her bobbed hair, tiny gold top, pale skin and black skirt.
Hi Kat. Unfortunately, I have never managed to identify that painting.
Besides the Semi-Nude Girl, Reclining by Egon Schiele which hangs on wall at back of hallway, I also found/identified the two Egyptian drawings which are in Morse’s living room. One is Sphinx and Great Pyramid of Giza from book Description of Egypt. The other is Pyramid Sketch from 1798. I wish I could figure out to attach or email you the images.
Hi Nancy. Thank you for the identification of the painting in the hallway. I have added the information into my post. Nancy, have I mentioned the pyramid paintings in one of my reviews? If I have can you let me know which one. Thank you.
A very dark episode, with one of (I believe) only two child murders in the series. The photography, however, is beautiful and atmospheric, particularly inside the church. The montage wherein all the tramps drinking on the street are intercut with the church communion is quite clever and sadly touching.
Good catch on the St. Sebastian painting. However, the speculation about Rev. Pawlen in this episode was, as I recall, to do with pedophilia and not homosexuality… a very important distinction. (Although I suppose a priest could have been blackmailed for either one, especially in those days.)
Hi Chris, I am rewatching the Morse episodes (isolation does have its positive side) and I think it is in this episode when Morse tells Lewis to get information from someone. Lewis questions if he will tell him what he wants to know and Morse says “it’s ok, He drinks in my pub.” I am just wondering if Morse does have a favorite pub because we know, thanks to you, that there are many pubs he goes to. Does he have “his pub?” A favorite one?
Hi Kathleen. I don’t remember him specifying a favoirite pub. I also don’t remember him favouring a pub in the novels.
Kathleen, I am rewatching all the episodes now (after not seeing them in a long time), and in at least 2 of the first 3 I have noticed a spoken reference to Morse’s favorite pub, where he prefers to go, where they have the kind of beer he likes. I don’t know if they identified it by name or even showed him at it, because I wasn’t paying attention, but I expect that it would be one of the pubs they showed him drinking at (possibly where he once took the Anne lady who lived in Jericho, who may have said, “Why did you bring me here?” or “Now I know why you brought me here.”)
Was it possibly the pub where Lewis was buying the first round and the bartender said, “It’ll be 1 pound 98” and Lewis made a face? I wondered why he made a face because 99 pence for a pint in a popular pub in the perenially-expensive town of Oxford doesn’t sound too bad, even for the late 80s?
As an aside, when Morse and Lewis were in the cold, empty Jericho pub where there appeared to be a bored prostitute hanging around, I could just sense the sticky table and floor, smell the stale cigarette smoke lingering in the air and coating the walls, and feel the shifty eyes upon my back. I couldn’t help but think, “Oh man, I hope I don’t have to use the bathroom here; I think I’ll just ‘hold it’.”
Hi G. Green,
Ha Ha Ha! My thoughts exactly about that pub! No matter the urgency, some times you just have to hold it!! A rather sleazy place and not up to Morse’s standards I would have thought. I have no idea what a pint would cost in a pub, I do know that where I live in Naples, Fl. a cocktail runs about a ridiculous $9.00-$11 so I imagine a glass of beer would be less than that here depending if it were a “craft” beer (la-di-da) – except maybe for happy hour when you get it half price or two for one.
And speaking of holding it, have been holding off rewatching the Morse series (my go to comfort shows) again (I have the DVD’s) because I know Chris will be streaming them soon.
Far from being an expert, but in the novel Last Bus to Woodstock Morse asks a person out on a date. And, in my world, if you ask a lady out you´ll take her to some nice place and somewhere you know is good. In the novel they´re going to the Bird and Baby, which we all know is the pub the Eagle and Child. That doesn´t mean it is his favourite pub, but at least a pub he likes.
the scenes inside the church may well have been St Cross Oxford, but the outside scenes are surely St Michael Bray. At around 10:20 Ruth is seen setting off on her bike to go under the Lych Gate https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1117492 https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/601041 shows it from the church side.
My gt-aunt lived in Lych Gate Cottage on the other side for many years.
Hi Peter. Sorry I have taken so long to reply. I have looking at the episode again and you’re right not only in regard to Lych Gate but I believe my identification of the church is wrong. I believe the church used as an external location is St Michael’s Church, Bray. The internal shots I believe are St Cross, Oxford but I will have to try and verify that. Thank you Peter for the information. I will it to the post.
I believe the film crew were based at Bray Studios, so it’s not surprising they filmed various places in the area, pretending to be in Oxford.
I found the way Morse slobbers all over Ruth Rawlinson pathetic. To make matters worse, he lies under oath for her at the inquest. The whole premise of the episode, while interesting, is totally unrealistic.
I did not like Morse’s behavior with Ruth either. We know he was lonely but to fawn over her that way seemed out of character for him and a bit cringe-worthy. She used him as do most of the women he fancies in his investigations but she was the only one he lied for that I can recall. And he did so even though he knew she was with Harry from whom she wanted money. And she must have been aware that Harry was the one killing all the witnesses yet she did nothing. I can see no redeemable quality of hers to justify his lying or his affections. She was just as guilty in the murder scheme as the rest; they did it because they liked Lionel, she did it because Lionel had given her money and she felt she owed him. Her mother was a selfish person putting undue pressure on Ruth to get money to send her away but that is no excuse to be an accomplice to murder. When you compare Ruth’s type to Adele’s (in later episode) with whom he really did fall for,, you might wonder what ever attracted him to Ruth in the first place.
On another issue, I think Brenda Josephs killed herself (Ophelia-like) and not Harry because Harry killed her lover.
Excellent analysis, Kathleen, I agree with all your (very well made) points. I found Ruth repulsive and I found Morse’s attitude reprehensible. Endevour would have never done what Morse did 🙂
Thank you, Adrian. I agree about Endeavour.
It’s beyond my comprehension how anybody could protect someone whose actions had led to a child being murdered. It was hardly like Ruth hadn’t been warned how dangerous Harry was; that she stayed with him despite it and the highly principled Morse was sympathetic rather than disgusted beggars belief!
I will be sending off two sets of comments, one after the other, just to break things up, somewhat.
Having read the interesting discussion, and erstwhile contributions between Adrian and Kathleen above, regarding this Morse episode, may I slightly disagree with your analysis. I say slightly, because I agree with you on one issue, that “Service of All the Dead”, is a relatively unrealistic story. There are far too many elaborate murders, in such a short space of time, for it to have a strong feeling of authenticity. Undoubtedly, it is one of the most bloodthirsty Inspector Morse episodes, with a very high body count of six deaths, and almost seven, if Morse had not been twice rescued by Lewis, first from the falling Lionel Pawlen, and then from Harry Josephs on the church tower. This very high death rate, was unusual for the original Morse series, unlike the modern day prequel, “Endeavour”, which recently, has had an absurdly, high number of murders per episode.
Otherwise, I believe this final episode of the first series, was a very interesting addition to the Morse canon. It has its flaws, and there are some other unrealistic elements, in relation to its plot, more of which, I will mention later. However, many ingredients make it very watchable, and it has a number of what I would call “fundamentals”, that later episodes also contained, which helped make Inspector Morse, a great show.
These are the fundamentals, that I thought were present in “Service of All the Dead”. They are; humour, pub scenes, a complex murder plot, with lots of twists and turns, crosswords and anagrams, Morse being unlucky in love, and lovely scenic filming locations.
To further expand, there is plenty of humour in this episode, between Morse and Lewis, but also between Morse and the pathologist, Max. The well known authority on the Morse series, David Bishop, in his book, “The Complete Inspector Morse”, said that, “Morse’s interplay with Max is one of the episode’s great joys”.
There are various pub scenes with Morse and Lewis, in fact the episode is overflowing with alcohol. Morse quotes a memorable line whilst in the pub, when discussing possible theories, related to the police investigation, “I’m not supposing anything until I’ve had at least two pints of beer”. Communion wine, consumed during the church service, at the beginning of the episode, played an important part in the plot. The first murder was partly committed, through the wine being overly laced with morphine, and I will talk a little more about this issue, very soon. Finally, as the case drew to a close, the detective duo visited another pub. Naturally, Lewis has to pay, but unfortunately, Morse is struggling to swallow, after nearly being strangled, and he is rather annoyed about that, because the beer is so good.
There is a fairly complex plot, typical of many episodes in the Morse universe, and I found it a riveting tale. It certainly keeps you guessing until the end, and probably guessing wrongly, because the first person we thought was murdered in the church, actually turns out to be the mass murderer, of several other churchgoing members, that occurred later in the episode.
In summary, the vicar and his loyal church congregation, deliberately falsified the body of the first victim, deceitfully identifying the body as Harry Josephs, rather than the vicar’s brother, the vagrant, Simon Pawlen. The murder victim, Simon, was given communion wine, mixed with morphine, so it would be easier to swap his clothes with Harry Josephs’. In fact though, far too much morphine had been added to the wine, because Max discovered, there was such a large quantity, indeed, enough to kill an elephant, in the dead man’s stomach. As a consequence, Simon was as good as dead, before Harry completed the brutal murder, with the stabbing.
As I said earlier, there are some unrealistic elements in this episode. For instance, the plot I have just been discussing, the deliberate misidentification of the first body, and the events that followed, could be seen as unrealistic. That is because, it is dubious how long this deceitful act, could hoodwink the police, and be seen as plausible. Even though, this episode was first broadcast in 1987, I would have thought dental records, forensic pathology, and DNA evidence, even back then, would have revealed the true identity sooner. I could be wrong, as I am not a scientist, and of course, if the real identity had been spotted earlier, that would have rather too quickly, spoiled, an enjoyable story.
Crosswords and anagrams are present in this Morse investigation. The police discover the vagrant was known as Swanny, short for Swanpole, and they initially thought, he had committed the first murder, before promptly disappearing. Eventually, on seeing a crossword, Morse realises Swanpole is an anagram of S O Pawlen, the true name and initials of the vicar’s brother. This further helped Morse and Lewis in their investigation, as they realised, in order to crack the case, it would be important, to look into the family history, of the vicar and his brother, and their relationship with each other.
Morse being unlucky in love, is very much exemplified by this episode. Morse has his first kiss of the entire series, as this time he falls for Ruth Rawlinson, who in many ways, is the murderer’s accomplice. I will speak more about this matter, in my next comment below. Finally, there are some lovely scenic filming locations portrayed in this episode, in and outside of Oxford, with the views from the church tower, very prominent.
Regarding your comments, Adrian and Kathleen, about Ruth’s behaviour and role in the murders, I cannot excuse or mitigate her actions, in any way, in this story, but I believe there are explanations as to why she acted, as she did. We can be black and white about it, if you wish, and say Ruth was totally wrong, and I would agree. However, I believe there are some shades of grey, to provide a more nuanced answer. I will thus try to analyse, the decisions she made, from her point of view, or perspective.
I believe there are possible reasons, I can deduce, that explain why Ruth made those poor errors of judgement. To further explore upon those reasons, the vicar had lots of money, and he was being blackmailed scurrilously, by his vagrant brother, with malicious and unfounded allegations. This had occurred previously, in fact the vicar had, at some point in the past, been forced to move parish, because of the pernicious rumours, created by his brother. It thus, clearly threatened his reputation. In addition, the vicar had apparently helped his closest friends before, from the present church he was serving, by being generous with his money towards them. He therefore, finally came to the conclusion, because of his brother’s persistent and nefarious blackmailing, to pay a handsome sum of money, to each of his most loyal churchgoing helpers and members, as part of a conspiracy, to kill his brother, and to cover up that crime, by pretending somebody else had been killed.
I would thus, consider, one reason why Ruth took part in this murder conspiracy, was loyalty to the vicar, as after all, he had benevolently and kindly helped her before, and he was now paying her a large amount of money, to be a part of his murder conspiracy. Secondly, as a direct result of the financial reward from the vicar, and because of the love she had, for her mother, she wanted to use that money, to pay for her mother to go abroad, and to have the best possible treatment, for her arthritis.
However, another one of the vicar’s conspirators, her lover Harry Josephs, who had helped murder Simon Pawlen, and then disguise the body of the vagrant, with his own clothes, had then proceeded to go on a killing spree, of the other members of the conspiracy. This begs the question, why didn’t Ruth inform the police, about Harry, as she must have known, he had become a mass murderer, of her other friends?
My answer to this would be, on top of the two reasons already given, loyalty to the vicar, and the love for her mother, which meant she wanted to keep the Vicar’s money, I would add a third reason, fear of Harry Josephs. To be honest, I’m not entirely convinced by this third explanation, as she had ample opportunity, in her moments with Morse, to tell him, the shocking truth about Harry. Nonetheless, possibly the more murders he committed, the more scared, she became. She perhaps, had an irrational fear, that if she informed the police about Harry, in other words, if she grassed him up, she would be harmed, or killed by him. Having said all of that, if she had told Morse, about Harry, and also told Morse where to find him, and even if Harry could not then be found, I suspect the police, could have protected Ruth. As a result, I am not altogether persuaded, Ruth’s fear of Harry, was a huge factor in her thinking, but it is a “possible” factor.
In relation, to Morse’s behaviour in this episode, and particularly his relationship with Ruth, how can that be understood? Personally, I did not think Morse slobbered all over Ruth, I thought he had genuine feelings for her. Furthermore, she appeared to be the only credible witness, at the scene of the first murder. She was the one, who formally identified the body, and she almost acted as the kind of spokesperson, for the vicar, and his loyal congregration. Although, Morse was attracted to her, I felt he still remained, relatively professional, in his dealings with her. I could be wrong, but didn’t he ask her on a few occasions, if there was anything else, she wanted to tell him. As if he knew, she was holding something back. What I am saying is, despite taking a fancy to her, Morse’s inquisitive, detective-like brain was still working away, and I do not believe he ever thought, she was totally innocent, and in the clear.
In spite of all that, I was still surprised, Morse lied for Ruth in court, which was the key, to her being granted, a shorter spell in prison. However, Morse clearly realised, the invidious and difficult position, Ruth had found herself in. She was torn between, hoping to keep the vicar’s money, because she loved her mother, and wanted the best possible healthcare and treatment for her, against the terrible state of affairs that was happening around her, with her lover Harry, killing off, all and sundry. She obviously chose, the very wrong, course of action. Yet, Morse understood, I assume, that in certain situations, it can be easier for an individual, to succumb to the wrong decision, and it can be harder, to make the right decision. In addition, perhaps, Morse’s strong feelings for Ruth, also caused him, to lie for her, in court.
Finally, I noticed that you both thought, Adrian and Kathleen, that the younger Morse, “Endeavour”, would not have chosen to take judgements of a similar kind, to those made by the older Morse, in this episode. In fact, having watched this year’s recent series of Endeavour, I am sorry to say, I have to disagree with you there. I considered Endeavour’s behaviour in the latest series, not to be that much better than the older Morse’s, in the episode, I have just been discussing.
For example, at the end of the first episode of this year’s series of Endeavour, Morse finds out his new friend Ludo, is married to the woman, that Morse himself, had started a relationship with previously, in Venice. Anway, for the majority of this latest Endeavour season, we had to endure Morse inveilged in a peculiar three-way relationship. You had to suspend disbelief, as Morse eventually succumbed to pressure by Violetta, and continued his affair with her, in Oxford. While at the same time, he uncharacteristically accepted many visits by her husband, Ludo, into his house. This was particularly odd, as we know Morse is such a private person, and thus, to welcome a complete stranger, with open arms, into his life and home, did not make much sense at all.
Ultimately, Morse at last realised his mistakes, and the penny finally dropped in the second half of the series finale, “Zenana”. Ludo and Violetta were responsible for a large number of ridiculous sounding deaths, purposely made to look like “mystifying accidents”, that occurred across the country, in locations far beyond Oxfordshire. These murders had all been committed, in order to enhance their life insurance swindle.
That was my view of the most recent, and sadly poor series of Endeavour. The younger Morse made a series of poor decisions. These obviously included, having a relationship with a married woman, and staying friendly with her husband. Above all, though, because he was perhaps enjoying himself, too much with Violetta, he was not using his detective skills, appropriately. Ultimately, he was not quick enough, to realise the crimes Ludo and Violetta were carrying out, and it thus allowed them, to get away with their murderous scam, for far too long.
To finalise, when I last spoke to you Adrian, you kindly told me, you were a mathmatician, and that you try to regularly watch, Morse, Lewis and Endeavour, with your wife. You also said, you would like to “meet me” again, on the next one. I had no idea, it would be the very “next” Inspector Morse episode! Anyway, to tell you a little bit, about myself, I have a degree in Modern History and Politics, from the University of Essex. Unfortunately, I have not, as yet, started a career. I live with my mother, older sister, and brother-in-law, in Clacton-on-sea, Essex, in the south east of England, in the UK. I just wondered, as the Morse universe, has so many fans from all over the world, and Chris’s excellent website, attracts comments, from many of these people, is it fine with you, if I ask, what is your nationality, Adrian?
I think age tends to loosen us up a bit, relax the grip we have on idealism, and soften our steps on the perfectly straight path we might follow when younger. So while a younger Morse might not dream of straying from the law and lying in court, an older Morse might, having been “around the block a few times” and having become cynical. But when it comes to women and romantic liaisons, I don’t think there is much difference between a young Morse and an older one!
Good luck in your future endeavors 🙂
Very well written!
I missed your new post, it is very “fresh”, only 3 days old and the website doesn’t always notify me on new posts (this must be a subtle software bug). Anyways, I am American.
Thank you Kathleen, for taking the time to read my comments, and for replying so quickly. I very much agree with what you have just said, and thanks for your kind regards. Anyway, that is all for now, and all my best wishes to you.
Reading the second last paragraph I partially agree with you, James. Of course the part when Endeavour finds out Violetta was married and still continues the relationship doesn’t give him any credit. But at least he didn’t know from the beginning when they met she was married.
But I don’t think it’s fair to say that the crimes committed by Ludo/Violetta were not solved fast enough due to Endeavour’s relationship with her. He was the only police who saw the connection with the crimes and realised something were wrong.
All the other policemen did what you might call a sloppy police work and took the easiest way out when they put the cases in the drawer. And, it hurts to say, Thursday was one of them.
@Bo – Endeavour does tell her on more than one occasion that he doesn’t want to continue seeing her so he had some conscience about it.
Thanks for reading my comments, Bo. You are probably right about Endeavour, perhaps I was a little too harsh in my judgement about him, not solving the case quickly enough, regarding Ludo and Violetta’s crimes. As you say, Endeavour’s colleagues, unfortunately, particularly, Thursday, were hardly interested in the investigation, whereas at least Morse, always remained curious about the mysterious accidental deaths. If there is anyone to blame, then regrettably, that would be Thursday, rather than Endeavour, and you are correct to pull me up over that. Thank you for responding to my comments Bo, and all the best to you.
Hi again, James. It’s always inspiring to read someone with an energetic pen. Keep up your good work and your inspiration. Take care, you and your loved ones.
Thank you, Bo, for your very kind comments. Hope you keep safe and well.
Thank you Adrian, for your compliments, and for taking the time to read my comments, so quickly, after seeing my little message earlier today. Thanks also for kindly telling me you are American, and it is great to learn, that so many of our American friends, are great fans of Morse, Lewis and Endeavour.
I watch relatively little TV but here is my schedule:
Monaday “Silent Witness” 1hr
Tuesday: “Lewis” 1.5 hr
Wednesday : Midsomer Murders” 1.5 hr
Thursday: “Foyle’s War” overlapped with “Vera” 1.5 hrs (don’t ask how I do it, it is crazy)
Friday: “Inspector Morse” 1.5 hrs + “Endeavour” 1.5 hrs
Sat/Sun : nothing
What kind of TV watcher am I? 🙂
Hi Adrian. Thanks for kindly telling me, the TV programmes you like to watch. I also enjoy, many of the shows you have mentioned above. My favourite detective dramas, in no particular order, alongside Morse, Lewis and Endeavour, are; A Touch of Frost, Foyle’s War, Inspector George Gently, Vera, The Sweeney, (of course, starring a younger John Thaw, where he first became famous), New Tricks and Midsomer Murders. It is great to hear that someone like yourself, all the way from the USA, is a fan of British crime drama. I have to say, my schedule for watching some of these interesting shows every week, is not quite so well planned in advanced as yours is, I wish it was! Hope you enjoy watching them, this week, and it certainly beats listening to the depressing news, every day, as we live through these uncertain times.
I highly recommend an American show , “Person of Interest”. In my book, it is the all time best. If you have a chance, please watch it. On a different note, I am a volunteer in helping with the covid crisis (I have a very low medical license) and I do not listen to the news, ever. In the times of Walter Cronkite, people reported the news, today, they manufacture them.
I apologize, I noticed a spelling mistake, that I just made. There is no need for the extra “d”, I accidentally added. I should have said “planned in advance”, not “advanced”.
Oh, one more things, I live the interplay between the characters of “New Tricks”, it is rare that you have a show where all the characters are so likeable. Even the chief superintendent….
HI Adrian. Thanks for the reply. That is very noble of you, Adrian, to volunteer to help those less fortunate than yourself, and I hope you stay safe and well, during this terrible virus pandemic. Thank you for the recommendation, I was not aware of the US programme you mentioned. Looking it up on IMDB, it sounds very interesting, it appears to be more than a just a detective show, with the CIA, police departments, and artifical intelligence, all invoved. I will have to look out for it, at some point in the future, thanks. Pleased to hear, you enjoy New Tricks, and I agree with you, it is refreshing to see a team of four individual detectives, who get on so well with each other, given that as you say, one of them is a superintendent. It makes a change from the usual setup, the pairing of an inspector with a sergeant, which generally leads to just occasional meetings with the superintendent, who is often then portrayed, as slightly aloof, or overly ambitious. Finally, I like your little quotation about the news, very true, as these days at times, it does seem as if journalists, want to make the news, rather than just report it. That is all for now. Thank you, and all the best.
There are few programmes which get everything right in the first series and Morse is a prime example. To start with there are virtually no scenes at the station or around Oxford itself, leading to a lack of location cohesion or realism. The empty pub looks more like a grotty social club at the end of the evening with the landlord and landlady in their own TV world. Then there’s the almost cartoon characterisation of the obnoxious DI Bell and Morse himself.
It’s somewhat fitting this was the series’ last episode, suggesting as it does much better is to come in the second run. However, little could be done worse in one of the barmiest crime drama episodes I’ve ever seen.
To start with, realism immediately went out of the window – or about the hundred of them the director was obsessed with filming. A group killing only works in the context of everyone having a reason to hate or fear the person they target. In this case that only applied to one of the five conspirators. How likely is it four people – and Christian ones at that – would agree to the slaughter of a stranger for their own financial gain? As for making up a religious feast, that was always going to be exposed by simply referring to a book. Surely the group would have held a service on an actual holy day and just not publicised it?
It was also ridiculous two of the group basically set themselves up as sitting ducks. If somebody can murder without motive, surely they can murder with the one of being cuckolded? And on the subject of that, how did Harry get to Brenda on the river and kill her? Quite frankly I don’t care about the artistic arrangement of a corpse when I don’t know how it became one!
I didn’t appreciate being literally left in the dark by one church scene and thought the direction overall was dreadful. I found myself longing to take a sledgehammer to the next glass pane, reflective surface or mirror I saw after less than ten minutes. The slow motion falls from the tower were more Midsomer than Morse and had me creased up with laughter. But at least Midsomer’s in on the joke and doesn’t expect to be taken seriously like this did with literary, artistic and religious references.
The staggering body count left little time or space for characterisation but this wasn’t the loss it should have been.
First and foremost was the main flaw in Morse throughout the first series – being far more focused on a woman than the job. He was even prepared to risk the latter by kissing Ruth while she was still a suspect and then committing perjury when she was a confirmed offender. His protection of her baffled me since her protection of a murderer had led to other people being killed, among them a child. I couldn’t imagine love being that blind even to Ruth who seemed to do everything she could to be a victim of domination and greatly annoyed me!
The plot got completely lost in a fog of denseness towards the end and the hurried explanation was hardly enough to lift it, either. I do like being made to think by programmes but not made more bamboozled than by the old 3-2-1 riddles!
Being a Christian and being a hypocrite are not mutually exclusive. Fear and Hate are only two motives for killing. There are many and at the top of that list is money. Groups of people have conspired and killed for that and less. They did it for the money, Harry for revenge. I believe Brenda killed herself when she found out that Paul was dead.
Was there something in the boat she could have killed herself with, then – will have to look at that. I agree that sadly there are hypocrites in any church but it’s a bit hard to believe you’d get that much greed and conniving within a congregation, particularly in the C of E which was dwindling even in the 80s. Well, that congregation dwindled a whole lot more pretty quickly, didn’t it!
I was laughing at the vicar sailing through the air, but I don’t think I was meant to!
In response to Sarah Morgan’s comments, firstly, thank you for joining in the discussion about this episode. You are very welcome, of course, to form your own opinion and interpretation of “Service of All the Dead”. I wrote extensively on the subject, further above, although, I do not know whether you have read my comments. I tried to explain why Ruth, chose the very wrong course of action, and the reasons why Morse decided to surprisingly lie for her, in court. I was not altogether convinced, that there were satisfactory explanations behind Ruth and Morse’s decisions, but there were possible factors, I deduced, behind these poor decisions.
In essence, it would have made more sense, and the episode would have been more realistic, if there had been less murders. After the initial murder, disguised as somebody else’s body, there should perhaps, have only been one further murder or suicide, and then the whole story would have seemed, a little less ridiculous. The more murders there were, it became more difficult, to understand why Ruth was protecting her lover, Harry Josephs.
Regarding, the vicar and his group of conspirators inventing their own holy day, for when the first murder was committed, I assume they did this, because if they had chosen an actual Christian holy day, even without publicising it, there would have been more chance of people, particularly on a religious day, popping in out of the church, and witnessing the murder, and the disguise of the body. The vicar only wanted his trusted group of friends, he had paid, and no-one else in the church, on the day of the first murder, in order for them to take part, and be witness, to this murder and conspiracy. Having said that, I suspect of course, that anyone is free to walk into a church, even on a non-holy day, so this plan could still have gone awry.
That is all for now, thank you and goodbye.
Hi James, I think you do have a good point about how scheduling the murder on an official church holiday would have too many people at the service to witness.
Thanks Kathleen. Another possible reason why the vicar did not choose to have his “special service”, on an official church holiday, is because, the vicar’s job must be at its busiest on a religious holy day, with I presume, numerous services, being held during the day. As a consequence, it would be difficult to squeeze in, during a religious bank holiday, the made up and horrific service, that of course, led to the death of the vicar’s brother, who was the vagrant, Simon Pawlen. That is all for now, thank you and goodbye.
It is wonderful to see you, Kathleen, Sarah and others having a great debate over this episode. It warms my heart to see my website would be utilised as a forum for debate. Thank you all.
I thank you, Chris, for providing such a great forum for us. I really enjoy reading and responding to other opinions and thoughts, not to mention all your great reviews as well. Everyone’s input seems to provide different slants to all the Morse, Endeavour and Lewis episodes. I must say that finding your website and discovering the Morse Universe has been such an enjoyment for me!
Life imitates art. Highly amusing to see on recent Episcopal Ordo Kalendars that the invented holy day appears (May 5th). Episcopalians love their PBS.
Thank you for your very informative website.
You are very welcome Oonagh. Welcome to my website.
Why does Morse not shout to Lewis when he leaves the church at the end? Regardless of where the culprit was, in the tower or running away, Ruth was injured inside and surely he could have spared a minute to radio for help for her? The roof scene in Fugue may have been inspired by the roof of church confrontation here. The fall is comical though I agree.
Thank you, Chris, for this wonderful website. I read your in depth analysis after each episode, and your hard work always impresses me. I think that there is a reason for the passion related to this episode-it’s very different from the Morse that most of us know and love. Does Morse fall for women? Yes, but not like this. I also agree with the writer who found the lack of “location cohesion” a bit unsettling. I did not enjoy this episode because it did not feel like Morse or Lewis. It seems like the show was still trying to find itself, and fortunately for us, they did do that. With all that being said, I would still choose season 1 Morse over most television shows. Keep up the amazing work Chris!
This is one of my favourite episodes, although I was initially annoyed by it. The strange style of shooting the scenes – with mirrors, glass, reflections, intense light, shade and colours – is an acquired taste, and I got used to it after about 4 viewings. Less well done are the equally strange very close-up shots, in which the camera zooms in on a small detail of a face or hand, instead of showing the whole scene normally.
One thing I don’t like in this episode – and this probably originates from the original book, without enough modernisation or adaption – are the multiple casually homophobic references and the old-fashioned conflation of homosexuality with paedophilia. Morse’s comment to Dr Starkie about “boys will be boys”, and Dr Starkie’s disgusted reaction to it, both seem to assume that the viewer is homophobic.
Another odd thing is that Harold Innocent, as the Archdeacon, is missing from the final credits. I don’t know enough about film/TV production to know if there is any significance or meaning in this omission.
The framed etching Semi-Nude Girl, Reclining on Morse’s hallway wall is by Egon Schiele.
Re your comment ‘scene where Morse and Lewis are searching through the diary of Harry Josephs’ I believe the diary belongs to Brenda Joseph
Thank you Paul I will have a look at the episode again.
What I noticed on that was when they were looking at the diary it was August 1987 yet the tax disc on Morse’s car was only valid to the end of May.
Hi Chris. As someone who lived in Oxford during many of the years when Morse was filmed I really enjoy your detective work on each episode. I’m watching them all again now. Just wanted to say I’m surprised no-one mentioned this episode’s nod to Hitchcock’s Vertigo final scene in the bell tower. I immediately thought of it when I saw Morse struggle up the stairs.
Good, moody episode, this. I was convinced the vicar was going to be a nonce, but as ever with Morse, it’s always way more complicated. I liked the Ophelia reference.
Does anyone else think that the plot line of one brother being in a public position of some standing and the other brother being a tramp, and a possible threat to the other’s reputation, may be deliberately referenced in the latest Endeavour episode “Uniform”?
@David It might be!
In this episode how does Lewis get back into the church to save Morse on the roof when the killer says to Ruth with Morse listening he has locked the church door?
It has puzzled me for years….