Originally aired in the UK on 15th march 1988.
This episode is not based on a book by Colin Dexter but based on an idea by Colin Dexter.
I think this is Colin Dexter as the doctor near the end of the episode.
Directed by Peter Hammond
Screenplay by Charles Wood
Jag Rating (out of ten)
A survivor of a Japanese prisoner of war camp during the Second World War, Rev. Robson is still haunted by the savagery he suffered. One of these savage acts involved being crucified by nailing him through his hands and feet to a tree. His daughter, Dr. Jane Robson, cannot forgive the Japanese for their cruelty aimed at her father. Neither can Mrs Warbut who was in Singapore when the Japanese invaded.
A group of foreign students have arrived to attend a summer school at Lonsdale College and one of those is Japanese, Yukio Li. During a dinner to herald the arrival of the students Yukio Li becomes unwell and returns to his room.
Attending the dinner is Inspector Morse, a friend of Dr. Jane Robson, who had been asked to create a crossword for the students. The person who comes closest to completing the crossword wins a prize of a book. The winner is a German, Kurt Friedman who may not be all he seems.
During the dinner Yukio Li is found dead in his room. Inspector Morse being on at the scene takes charge. However, all Morse’s suspects have the perfect alibi; he was sitting in the same as they were when the murder happened.
You will already have gleaned from my rating above that this is not one of my favourite Morse episodes. I found it slow, meandering and rather dull. The episode never ignites as do other episodes. Much of the direction and photography was poor. It seemed to be trying too hard to be an ‘art’ film. It is in tone one of the darkest episodes of Morse. The tone was also brooding and almost Gothic and this I assume was to mirror the story it was telling. However, the director and photographer over-reach and in doing so the direction and photography get in the way of what could have been a good episode. There are numerous scenes shoot through glass. To signify what? Feelings of detachment? Fragility? Distance between characters especially Morse and Dr. Jane Robson? I also have a problem with the huge co-incidence that occurs in the episode involving Yukio Li and his nefarious activities.
The acting is what saves the episode with good turns by Anna Calder Marshall as Dr. Jane Robson and Robert Stephens as Sir Wilfred Mulrayne. There is good interaction between Morse and Lewis and in particular in a scene where Morse doubts his own deductions and needs Lewis’s input to help him clarify his thoughts. Though Lewis doesn’t say much you feel that Morse needs to not only hear himself say his thoughts out loud but needs to know if Lewis agrees or not. Morse trusts very few people other than Lewis with his internal thoughts.
Another scene which I enjoy is due to the interaction between Morse and Max. In particular are Max’s parting words, “Clear off.” Only a friend could say that and the recipient not be offended.
It is possible that the subject matter is a reason for my being underwhelmed by the episode. My uncle was in a Japanese Prisoner of War for I believe around two years. He never talked about it and my aunt, his wife, said that he was a very different person when he returned home. However, I have considered this argument before and I don’t believe that the above-mentioned is my reason for disliking the episode.
There are many familiar faces in the episode to the British viewer and possibly are also known to those outside the UK. There is Amanda Burton who plays Mirella Munghi and is probably most famous for the series Silent Witness.
Jack Ellis plays a sergeant in what may have been one of his first television appearances. He was in the series, Bad Girls villainous prison officer Jim Fenner.
Then there is Philip Middlemiss who plays Graham Daniels. He is well known to those who watch Coronation Street where he played bookie Des Barnes.
Derek Fowlds who plays Kurt Friedman is known as Bernard Woolley in the brilliant Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister and playing Oscar Blaketon in ITV police drama Heartbeat.
Amusingly Michael Goldie makes an appearance as a drunk as he did in the episode, Service of all the Dead.
(Sorry for the poor quality of the picture.)
A very noticeable continuity error occurs near the end of the episode. In the first photo below the bag is very definitely red,
But when Morse and Mrs Warbut exit the church, Morse can clearly be seen carrying a grey bag.
I have had two people write and say they believe the red item on the floor will be a cushion used in churches to kneel on.
The first piece of music is at the beginning of the episode.
This piece of music is scattered throughout the episode. It is a piece by English composer Edward Elgar (1857-1934). The music piece is called ‘The Dream of Gerontius, Op38, Pt II:I’. The libretto is based on a poem by Blessed John Henry Newman. The poem is about the prayer of a dying man, and angelic and demonic responses.
The complete poem can be found by clicking here. The page will open in a new window.
The piece of music used at the start of the episode starts at 22m25s. The extract used in the episode is sung by Dame Felicity Joan Palmer, DBE, an English mezzo-soprano. She plays the part of the Angel. The libretto of the extract is below;
There was a mortal, who is now above
In the mid-glory: he, when near to die,
Was given communion with the Crucified, –
Such that the Masters very wounds were stamped
Upon his flesh; and from the agony
Which thrilled through body and soul in that embrace,
Learn that the flame of the Everlasting Love
Doth burn ere it transform. . .
The next piece of music is being played in Morse’s car as he drives to cemetery. The piece is by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) and is called ‘St John Passion‘.
While Morse drives Jane to his house we hear a short extract from the Polish composer Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849). The piece is called ‘Opus 10, Piano Etude No’ 5‘.
While still in the car with Morse driving Jane to his house, Morse changes the tape from the above Chopin to Edward Elgar’s ‘Enigma Variations’.
Morse is sat at home contemplating the case or his relationship with Jane. He is listening to the German composer Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). The piece he is listening to is the ‘String Quartet No. 15′.
While Morse is talking to Mrs Warbut we hear the musical piece ‘De Jules Lemaitre’by the French composer Jehan Ariste Alain (1911-1940).
The last piece of music in this episode is played while Morse first talks to the young girl, Alex in Jane’s flat and continues as he drives her to the hospital to see Jane. It is another section of the first piece of music above, ‘The Dream of Gerontius, Op38, Pt II:I‘.
If you enjoy all the music from the Morse series I have collected all the pieces I have identified thus far and have created playlists on YouTube. On how to access these playlists please read the relevant post by clicking here.
The first scene is a shot of a statue outside the Bodleian Library.
The bronze statue is of William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, Chancellor of the University 1617-30, cast by Hubert Le Sueur to the design of Peter Paul Rubens. The inscriptions at the base of the statue testify to this. Le Sueur is also responsible for the statues of King Charles and Queen Henrietta Maria (King and Queen of England 1625-1649) St. John’s College (Canterbury Quad).
Le Sueur also created the bronze statute at Charing Cross in London of King Charles I Dunfermline Palace 1600 – Whitehall Palace 1649 King of England, 1625-1649.
There are many paintings on the walls of the dining hall where the foreign guests are having dinner with Morse at the top table. All literature and online sites state that the college is Brasenose but I have to disagree. Having looked at many, many photos of Brasenose and their paintings within their buildings I find it hard to come to the conclusion that it is Brasenose.
This painting is next to the television in the snooker room.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the Uniform of the Scots Guards, on ‘Imperial’ by the Scottish painter Leonard Boden (1911–1999).
Boden painted 19 portraits of members of the British Royal family, including ten of Queen Elizabeth II and five of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
Next we have a painting on the wall of Morse’s house which has been seen only slightly in previous episodes.
The print is called ‘Birds eye view of London as seen from a balloon, 1884‘.
It is by W. L. Wyllie and H. W. Brewer and is engraved from sketches taken by the engravers from a hot air balloon above London. A colour version is also available.
Our last painting is shown during the scene when Morse is talking to Mrs Warbut in the chapel.
The above painting is a reworking by somebody of Graham Sutherland‘s painting ‘The Crucifixion’, painted in 1946.
The above painting can be found at St Matthew’s in Northampton.
The following quote is said by Sir Wilfred Mulryne during his talk to the foreign students after their dinner.
“Sub pallio sordido sapientia” translated as “Wisdom is often hidden under a shabby cloak.” A Quote by Statius Caecilius, also known as Caecilius Statius (c. 220 BC – c. 166 BC) a Roman comic poet.
Morse says to Lewis, “The most suspicious thing of all is an excellent alibi.” I wonder if the screenplay writer Charles Wood was paraphrasing the crime writer Robert Barnard who wrote in his novel ‘At Death’s Door‘, “They say it’s the ones with the perfect alibis that are the most suspicious“. Like Colin Dexter, Robert Barnard was a British crime writer and recipient of the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award. Both writers were also included in the crime anthology ‘The Detection Collection‘.
Less than a minute. The elderly man and Jane are in a chapel. It is Exeter College Chapel.
Morse then meets Jane and her father in the grounds of Exeter College.
(Sorry for the poor screenshot).
The tour bus stops in Radcliffe Square outside Brasenose College. Brasenose stands in for Lonsdale College.
The tour group and Morse have dinner. I have read it mentioned that this is Brasenose College Dining Hall. But it isn’t.
This is Brasenose College Dining Hall. It hasn’t changed in decades.
Morse finds Mrs Warbut in a chapel.
This is Exeter College Chapel.
Morse and Sir Wilfred Mulryne walk and talk.
This again is Exeter College.
The Pub is The Turf Tavern.
Rev Robson played by Llewellyn Rees ( Born June 18, 1901 – Died January 7, 1994)
Gardener played by Basienka Blake (Born Unknown but here is her webpage; http://www.sainou.com/basienka-blake/
Yukio Li played by Eiji Kusuhara (Born on January 2, 1947 – Died died of cancer aged 63)
Heidi Vettinger played by Ellis Van Maarsereen (Born 29th August 1962 – )
Graham Daniels played by Philip Middlemiss (Born June 19, 1963 – )
Mrs Warbut played by Avis Bunnage (born April 22, 1923 – died October 4, 1990)
Ralph Thomas played by Tim Barker (details unknown)
Kurt Friedman/Michael Robson played by Derek Fowlds (Born September 2, 1937 – )
Mirella Munghi played by Amanda Burton (Born October 10, 1956 – )
Sir Wilfred Mulrayne played by Robert Stephens. (Born July 14, 1931 – November 12, 1995)
Dr. Jane Robson played by Anna Calder-Marshall (Born January 11, 1947 – )
Max played by Peter Woodthrope (Born September 25, 1931 – Died August 12, 2004)
Chief Supt. Dewar played by Robert Lang (Born September 24, 1934 – Died November 6, 2004)
Male Swedish Student played by Ian McCurrach (Born (born c. 1960 )
Chief Supt. Dewar’s bagman played by Gordon Kennedy (Born February 22, 1958 – )
Alex Robson played by Blue Macaskill (Born born in Glasgow, Strathclyde, Scotland )
Policewoman played by Elizabeth Kettle (Born – Unknown )
Police Sergeant played by Jack Ellis (Born June 4, 1955 – )
I enjoyed reading your very informative entry. (I saw this episode today and I was looking for the original novel.) Just wondering why the Japanese guy is called Li? It is not a Japanese name. It sounds Korean or Chinese. Korea and Taiwan were parts of Japan during the WWII, but not anymore…
Thank you so much for your kind comment. That’s very interesting regarding the name Li, something I wasn’t aware of.
You might not like this episode much because it is hard to follow and, in various respects, doesn’t make ever sense. I got totally confused over the real bad guy, fake bad buy, real bad guy merry-go-round. Also, the concept that the conspirators went to so much trouble to get Morse to witness the charade is hard to credit. The fake German who is really Jane’s brother makes limited sense as well. And, Morse’s insights along the way seem to descend from nowhere — there’s no basis for his figuring things out other than his being Morse — and thus brilliant. I was very sad about the little Robson daughter at the end.
Hi Charles. I fully understand the episode and followed it rather easily. I just didn’t like the episode.
I didn’t like it either and neither did my husband. Muddled plot with very unbelievable ending with the unraveling of the entire episode presented in about 2.5 minutes. Far too many plot convolutions, with none of them very convincing. Poor photography that aimed at artiness and attained murkiness. I give it three Jaguars, tops.
My wife and I have watched this episode twice and still don’t fully understand it. Maybe we are very stupid, but can’t say we enjoyed it very much.
It is a rather convoluted plot and you’re not the first and won’t be the last who doesn’t fully understand it. I always believe that if you don’t enjoy a film or TV show or book you are less likely to give it as much attention as you would to something you enjoy. That I believe is just human nature. Thank you for commenting and I hope you like the rest of my blog.
Hello! Any idea about what tape Morse is playing in the car before he swaps for Elgar? At about 52 min. Really liked that one. 🙂 Thanks for this lovely website!
Hi and welcome to my blog. Regarding the music, I believe it’s Chopin. One of his Études, Op. 10, No. 5. I think it’s the one known as the ‘black keys Étude as the right hand plays only the black keys on the piano. I hope this helps. Thank you for your lovely compliment.
What is the song at the very end of the episode
Hi Dave. That piece is by Elgar. It’s called The Dream of Gerontius, Op:38. 🙂
I must be daft…can someone please tell me who committed the murders? This entire episode was very confusing for this ol’ boy.
Yukio Li. Sounds crazy but Jane Robson, her brother (the fake German), and her nephew (Graham Daniels) all conspired to torture/embarrass/humiliate Yukio Li to avenge some of the atrocities forced on their father by Yukio’s father. They had another young Japanese man watching the kidnapped Yukio. Somehow, Yukio broke free and killed his captor then assumed his identity. It appears that none of them really knew what their accomplice looked like or what Yukio looked like. Then Yukio killed nephew Graham, brother Michael, and attempted to kill Jane. Yukio was killed by Mrs. Warbut. A study in revenge gone wrong.
Thank you for all your research and helpful information as to places, music, etc. I, too, found this episode unsatisfactory. One thing is puzzling me – annoying me, actually : why was it called the settLing sun, as opposed to the far more likely ‘setting’ sun? Do you suppose that it was a typo by whoever put the main title on the screen as the episode was starting?
Hi Kenneth. I have always thought that the word settling has been used in the context of ‘settling’ scores.
That is a helpful way of looking at it! The expression does not sit comfortably with me. I’m glad it’s not one of Dexter’s : I can’t imagine his ever having written that title!
Perhaps does the sun refer to the sun in the middle of the Japanese flag?
And, “sun” is a homophone of “son”. Think of Yukio Li.
(Sorry, as I am German, my English is limited!)
I only begin to watch the Morse films, and always after watching one, I consult your blog. Thank you very much for sharing all the precious information. I really love Morse.
Thank you for posting links to and information about the music that was used in the episode. I’ve never been an opera fan but since finding Inspector Morse last week (I’m an American binge-watching on Britbox) I’ve taken an interest.
I wanted to like this episode, but totally did not. I couldn’t understand how Jane was treating Morse and her surliness. Why would he ever be spending time with her? Max in the bathroom in front of everybody! Japanese doppelgängers and no one can recognize them? Just yuck.
There were several racist hints (at least two) to the identity crisis of Yukio Li, namely “They all look the same” or “Do they all look the same?” or words to that effect.
It is, I’m fairly sure, a Hassock not a bag under Mrs Warbut. It would have been very uncomfortable for her to kneel without one and we could not see her bag hidden behind her in that scene so I don’t believe a discontinuity occurred. The filming reminded me of a an old Maigret, unnervingly slow at first which set the mood appropriately in my opinion.
That is an excellent observation. I didn’t think of the item being a Hassock. I will add that info to the post. Thank you for your comment.
I always find this episode interesting because of the connection to the war and the way perceptions of time change with age. The war seemed like ancient history to me during the Falklands, yet that conflict seems almost recent despite now being the same time ago, 37 years.
I agree that setting Li up as a dealer was contrived when he actually was one – more convincing to have Mulryne tell them, surely. And most of those involved were on the same staircase, bit of a giveaway.
I very much enjoy the photography – the DP likes to use coloured light and shoot reflections, as in several other episodes. The grim Gothic tone reminds me of Service of all the Dead, another favourite.
I now find that in addition to the mysteries the perspective of time adds a strong sense of nostalgia for me and almost makes them seem parodic, as if they’re period dramas. Additionally the complete lack of political correctness lends the acting an almost caricatured tone, as if directed by Mike Leigh. Mrs. Warbut and the porter are particularly good; Mavis Bunnage was a great character actress and her speech in the church is very powerful.
BTW, it’s Lunghi not Munghi.
Thanks for your hard work, especially on the music, locations and art.
Thank you for all your observations and research: fascinating. I’m puzzled that Brasenose is noted as the only setting. At least some scenes (e.g., in the chapel) were filmed at Exeter, weren’t they? At least I thought I recognized Exeter from my own summer school course there many years ago!
Exeter was certainly used as a location. The episode was one of my first reviews when I started the website many years ago. The reviews then are not as comprehensive as the newer ones. However, I am planning to return to the early reviews and update them.
Your work is indeed a labor of love, and I appreciate the comprehensive approach you take to cast, music, literary allusions and filming locations. Thank you!!
Thank you for your detailed reviews on all Morse episodes! You may also wish to know that Hertford College was used quite a bit in this episode too. Having studied there as an undergraduate it was great to recognise some familiar haunts. Specifically you can see the spiral staircase up to the hall (seen near the start of the episode), various shots of ‘New Buildings’ quad (including staircase 3, where Dr Robson’s room is) and the ‘octagon’. I look forward to continuing to read your reviews as I work my way through the series.
Thank you Tom. Unfortunately my early reviews are not as comprehensive as my recent reviews. When I get time I will revisit the early reviews and improve them.
It’s neat to find this website, and I must thank you for diligently cataloging the art, literature, and music used throughout the films! As far as this episode goes, I think my difficulties revolve around the story, which is not terribly convoluted (to me) but is somewhat implausible. Also, lots of unlikable characters–Anna Calder-Marshall has a particularly thankless part, and her very committed performance may make the audience as uncomfortable as Morse is around the character!
The plot retreads the central device from “Service of All the Dead”, where the presumed first victim is actually the main killer eliminating participants in the initial conspiracy, with a backdrop of revenge for WWII war crimes. The drug dealing part further stretches credulity and was really an unnecessary complication. The overall effect is a story that’s both implausible and quite depressing, even by Morse standards, and thus difficult to fully invest in.
I wonder what the episode looked like when it was first broadcast, because the film/picture quality on DVD seems to have suffered more than most other episodes. Possibly this is also to do with some unusually dark lighting and lots of bold, saturated colors throughout the episode. However, I have no issue with the direction and photography generally. I’ll allow that it’s probably the weakest of Peter Hammond’s three episodes (the other two being “Service of all the Dead” and “Sins of the Fathers”, but I quite enjoy most of his mirror shots and other touches in all his episodes.
One of your screenshots happens to exemplify this: a reflection in the church window is used to create the illusion of Mrs. Warbut kneeling at the feet of an enormous crucified Christ. A fairly appropriate touch for that scene, I thought. You’d have to go almost moment by moment to determine why each shot is designed as it is. I can see how it’s just distracting for some viewers, but for me it usually adds interest rather than pulling me out of the film.
I watched this this morning, it is my least liked episode for many of the reasons above. The dark style was present across the whole episode, and though there were a couple of times it was effective most of it seemed style over substance.
The other reason why I don’t like this one is none of the characters seemed pleasant so you didn’t feel sorry for anyone. Particularly Jane, seemed cold even at the beginning.
Though I understood the plot, it didn’t really make a lot of sense, too convoluted
Settling of the sun and the wench is dead are the only two episodes I dislike as far as storylines. The acting and of course Morse and Lewis together make up for the poor plots. Deadly Slumber is one of my favorite episodes as well, Chris. I love the episodes when Morse shows his empathy and understanding for those people who ordinarily wouldn’t do such things.
Thank you for all the information you present on this episode I was very struck by how no one in the story thought anything of the racism evinced by many of the characters. Different times. But what puzzled me was that it was unclear that Jane would be prosecuted for her part in the conspiracy. While she didn’t intend to murder Yukio Li, she did intend to do him harm. If she goes to prison, though, what happens to her niece, who seems totally alone in the world except for her aunt? The question of the fate of both aunt and niece seem unresolved at the end, unless I missed something.
For the protagonists the behaviour towards the Japanese wasn’t seen as racist because of what his family had done. Morse picked up on the antipathy in general though when he said that no-one felt sorry for him even before the drugs was known about.
No you didn’t miss anything about the fate of Jane. In theory she should be charged – similar to the lady in Service for all the Dead – but no hint of anything going to happen.
To be fair, this episode hasn’t aged as well as some of the others. The topics of racism and war crimes remain highly important, but the handling of them would likely seem a bit clumsy by today’s standards. Don’t forget: this episode is over 30 years old, and WWII was still within the living recollection of anyone over, say, 45 years old at the time. Memories were much more immediate and tangible, less distant.
For instance, I don’t know if (British) English usage is different, but in America, even referring to an individual as “the Japanese” would sound peculiar–or, at best, antiquated– nowadays. That said, the attitudes of the characters ring true insofar as they reflect prejudices not uncommon people directly affected by the trauma of the War.
Being American, my cultural experience is somewhat different but not detached. My mother remembers the prejudices many of her parents’ generation harbored against Japanese Americans (my late grandparents being children of the Depression and then the War). In that regard, the episode simply depicts uncomfortable realities of a previous era, and while the characters aren’t always pleasant, they are usually acting believably in the context of their experiences and beliefs.
Actually, I suspect the episode was trying to be somewhat progressive for its time and place, pointing up the hollow futility of revenge and unfairness of racial profiling. However, this topical aspect does date the production, leaving one to wonder how differently this story would be produced today.
Given these themes, it’s true that “The Settling of the Sun” doesn’t leave a clear happy ending. As Bette said, one particularly worries for the young girl, Jane’s niece, and the consequences for Jane herself remain ambiguous. At the same time, of the two main murderers, one was himself killed and the other (we are told) is likely to be shown lenience as she killed only in defense, keeping someone else from being murdered in cold blood.
If the viewer is left with ambivalence at the conclusion, I suspect that’s intentional. When Morse asks, rhetorically, who will take revenge for the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this is to leave us mindful of the grave dangers of a potential cycle of vengeance. Imho, the takeaway here is that deep wounds heal very slowly, if at all.
It’s sobering, if not downright depressing, but also a truthful lack of resolution.
As another American, Ian, I heartily agree with you. Your comment is so well thought out and written. Taken in context to the time frame it absolutely rings true. Although I’ve read much about WWII from Europe’s perspective I can not imagine what it was like to actually have the war brought home or the dire straits Britain found itself in, in the beginning, with no support. My grandparents emigrated to the US before the war and had siblings and friends called to war in the Pacific and Europe. An uncle even suffered through the Bataan Death March. Another was a Japanese prisoner of war. Yes, those experiences died hard but we, as second generation children in the US, were not taught that hate or prejudice. I guess, because my parents, as Italian-Americans, knew what that hate could do and experienced much of that themselves ( Italy being axis country). “C’e un tempo per perdonare” (“There is a time to forgive”) my grandmother used to say. That is not to say that I can’t understand how others, who perhaps suffered more, with lasting effects, could harbor such resentment so soon after the fact.
Thanks for your kind and thoughtful reply, Kathleen. I can’t add much to your touching words.
This episode often gets lower marks from fans, maybe because of its difficult subject matter and the admittedly idiosyncratic camera work used throughout. While I see how the tone is different from many other episodes, I do think some of the opprobrium is unwarranted–if understandable in view of the consistent high quality of the Morse films.
We all have our opinions and favorites, but regardless of precisely how one may rank the episodes, even a “lesser” Morse episode is still relatively high quality TV. On top of its convoluted plotting, the basic premise of “The Settling of the Sun” may seem even more improbable to viewers today. In some ways, that’s a reassuring sign of society making progress and moving on from old traumas. But it does say something about the ways in which we both remember and forget the past.
The Irish folk songwriter and peace activist Tommy Sands has this lyric: “Don’t sing songs of the wrongs we have suffered until first we can hear of the wrongs we have done, and together we’ll write a new song for tomorrow. It’s only then that our day will come.” Stirring words, if a struggle to live by.
Ian, Stirring and beautiful words indeed. I love that sentiment and yes, it seems to be a struggle for all people to live by, sadly. I’ve read Irish history, particularly their struggles, and have visited Ireland. Despite my name, I have no Irish ancestry (My father just liked the name as a conversion from the Italian Caterina) but ancestry isn’t needed to understand and empathize with all struggles for justice. And you are so right, the weakest episode of Morse is better than anything else on TV these days. Watching it truly gives me comfort as his character still envelops the moralistic and chivalrous ways of days past. As he said to Lewis in one episode, “It’s about the important things in life.”
Adding on to what was previously said, I do think for it’s time and from a Western perspective the subject was handled ‘well’. But as time shifts we (hopefully) handle topics with more nuance and depth. Racism in various ways is handled much better in Endeavour and we see young Morse as sympathetic and sophisticated in his understanding of diverse people.
I watched most, and perhaps all, of the Inspector Morse episodes when they originally were broadcast in the States decades ago—and that in the days before subtitles and before DVRs that enabled one to rewind to catch difficult plot points and incomprehensible (to American ears) asides and throwaway lines. (Oftentimes, as in this episode, the resolution to a mystery comes from Morse’s lips in the last few minutes with no explanation about how he arrived at his conclusions and with plot points so convoluted that they’re difficult to comprehend without rewinding and reviewing!)
What I found very strange in watching this episode—in addition to all the points touched upon by the commenters above—was how stilted the dialogue often seemed, especially towards the beginning, almost as if the dialogue were a translation from some other language or as if the actors were allowed to improvise lines at a somewhat catatonic pace (or perhaps I should say “Swedish art film” pace) while the camera kept rolling.
I very much appreciated this blog, which I landed on for the first time only today. I was rather proud of myself for recognizing a movement from Beethoven’s A-minor String Quartet and of course the Chopin “Black Key Etude” (easy enough, since I had a Bachelor of Music degree in Piano), but I never would have recognized the Elgar pieces though I’d heard them decades ago (and—sorry—didn’t trouble to do so again).
I’m enjoying watching the Morse episodes again—this time with far more hope of understanding them than I had decades ago. And for that I appreciate both my DVR and this blog!
Jack Ellis went on to play Rex Griffon in the Lewis pilot episode.
Great commentary. Terrible episode. At times it looked like an Italian horror movie from 2 decades earlier.
Some very good acting Stephens & some not so good Calder-Marshall.
The question I have has to do with the very odd doll that the girl Alex is carrying at the end. It looks like a monk or old man of some kind. Does anyone know what it is?
As observed by others, this episode uses the same scheme (“the perp is dead, no he’s not, yes he is”) as “Service for All Dead” and “The Wench is Dead”. I didn’t like any of the three.
One incongruity: at the beginning of the episode, the porter makes sure that the guests understand that the Yale key is for the outside gate and the “big” (simple lock) key is for the room. This makes sense, I have experienced the same thing at my stay at Imperial College in London at a physics conference. Here comes the problem: when Morse is taking Jane back to her room, towards the end of the episode, Jane tells him that all doors are unlocked (because MI6? is doing a search). Jane’s door shows clearly a Yale lock, this does not make sense. When Morse has the “divine inspiration” (deus ex machina) to come back to save Jane, the door is…locked and Morse has to break down the door. This makes no sense, especially in the context of the fact that mrs. Warbut just saved Jane. There is absolutely no reason for her t lock the door behind her, just the OPPOSITE.
I felt for Morse, Jane Robson is a beautiful woman and I would have liked the two of them to get together but she used him, just like Ruth in “Service for All Dead”. Still, I liked Jane better than Ruth. My two cents.
Been rewatching all the Morses (Covid-19 lockdown entertainment), with your web site for company to highlight things I’d miss otherwise – thanks.
I just watched this episode, I wonder if that “red bag” that Mrs Warbut has in the church is actually a hassock / cushion that she had been kneeling on to pray / seek penance, rather than a continuity error? Looks like the right material, size and shape.
Thanks again for enlightening me generally, and adding otherwise easily overlooked detail, this is a great companion to the series.
Hi Russell and welcome to my website. I think you are right in regard to the hassock. Well spotted.
Hi Adrian. I very much agree with you, regarding this Inspector Morse episode. It appears to be generally regarded as one of the weakest Morse episodes, out of the entire series, and I sadly concur, to that opinion. Nevertheless, I would also echo something I believe Chris has said in the past, that a weak Morse episode, is still much better, than a lot of other drivel, which is on television.
According to my copy of “The Complete Inspector Morse”, by David Bishop, the writer of this episode, Charles Wood, interestingly confessed, to having had a torrid time with the script, and he is quoted as saying, “I made a terrible mess of the first draft. I offered them their money back… but the series producer Kenny McBain, refused to let me drop it”.
While in his summary or verdict on “The Settling of the Sun”, Bishop, considers it to be, one of the least effective televised, Morse stories. In addition, he says, the remarkably humourless script is loaded with unsympathetic characters, something the director and guest actors seem unable to overcome.
You appear to be watching the Morse series in chronological order, Adrian, which is certainly the way I would view them. Are you watching Inspector Morse for the first time, or are you merely rewatching, this classic series?
Hi James and Kathleen
Glad to “see” you again. I am watching Morse the second time around, in the same exact order (I watched Midsomer Murders 3 times). I agree with you that this episode is one of the most unrealistic and Jane is the second most dislikeable Morse love interest.
I have watched Midsomer Murders 5 times all the way through in order. I’m working my second time through Endeavour, Morse, and Lewis. I also enjoy Poirot. This blog adds so much to my enjoyment to the world of Morse. I especially like the research on literary references, music, art, and locations. I usually go back and rewatch many of the topics covered in the blog and try to see if I can catch anything that is in the review before reading it.
I agree that the characters in this were just unlikeable and I really didn’t care what happened to any of them, especially Jane. I don’t think there was any reason for her hostility and meanness to Morse who was just being sympathetic and kind to her. I think the plot was a messy convoluted one. Whenever I rewatch Morse, I skip this one and The Wench is Dead. My pick for a love relationship for Morse has always been Adele.
Thanks for kindly responding to my previous comment, Kathleen. I very much agree with, what you have just said, above. It was strange the way, Dr. Jane Robson, behaved in this episode, especially towards Morse. I suppose she felt guilty, about the murder plot, she and her fellow conspirators had designed, which had been turned back on its head, by the real Yukio Li. However, this does not explain by itself, why she was so rude, dismissive, taciturn and uncommunicative, in her dealings with Morse. If it was because of guilt, she wasn’t very good at hiding it, and it made me think she was suspicious, from the very beginning. If she was worried, that her own murder plot, was being turned on its head, with the killing of her brother and nephew, she should have told Morse, a lot sooner. Although, I assume, she did not want to reveal to the police, her own part in the original murder plot. Having said that, her relatives were being killed, so it was too late to be concerned, about her own part in the murder conspiracy, and she thus should have spoken up, much earlier.
At the beginning of the episode Morse is seen leaving a church(?) and is seen walking past a bronze plaque with names of people who lost their lives in the war. Do you know where that is please?
Hello Jean and welcome to my website. The Church is Exeter College Church. The plaque is no longer there. It may have been moved to another location.
Many thanks for the information. I was interested in the plaque as one of the names might have had a connection with my husbands ancestors. It’s an unusual surname Scrymgeour.
Oh that’s interesting Jean. I’m sure Exeter College would be happy to help.
When questioning the German (who is in reality Mr Robson) Morse speaks about spending time in Cologne during his National Service. I wonder if this is true or merely a ruse to weed out the fact that this man is a phoney German? Probably the latter.
If Morse did spend time in Germany, it is strange that it’s not referred to in Endeavour. There are a couple of instances where it might have been mentioned appropriately, such as in Rocket, when Thursday has his exchange with the German scientist at the factory.
I believe Julie it is true regarding Morse being stationed in Cologne. There are many examples of Russell Lewis not including information mentioned in the Morse series as well as not following its timeline.
Morse speaks German to the unhelpful German assistant of Paul Eirl in “Who Killed Harry Field”.
God point here. I can’t remember which episode, but there is an “Endeavour” episode where it is pointed out that Morse doesn’t speak German. Thursday does, however, at least some.
Hello, thanks for the website, great work.
I agree that the coo-incidence of trying to frame someone as a drug dealer only for it to turn out they really are a drug dealer is not credible. Also, it vastly over-plays the ‘they all look the same’ idea. I had just thought this was a racist cliche only to find out it was an essential plot element.
Dr Robson is an unsympathetic character from the beginning. I feel for her niece if she ends living with her in the end, which presumably she does. I don’t like this episode very much, I can understand what they’re trying to do and the storyline behind it but it’s dark and dreary and nobody you’d care much for at all until the little girl at the end.
Also when the first murder is discovered, Dr. Robson takes Morse to the office to get the files for her students. Their journey seems very convoluted, up and down stairs, out into a garden, through what looks like a gym, opening and closing doors, I want to shout at her – ‘there must be a faster way to get to that office!’ . It looks very contrived just so they could spend more time together- which she clearly doesn’t really want for most of the episode.
Exactly! What was the point of the twisted journey to the bursar’s office? And whom do they see there? Mrs. Warbut! How did she get there? Same circuitous route?
Thanks for this blog. KQED, California public TV in the San Francisco Bay area, airs British mysteries endlessly, as do other U.S. public television stations. (It should be called BBC 7.) Alas, I think this phenomenon is what resulted in Downtown Abbey and other thin British costume dramas as well as a few disappointing modern mysteries (Death in Paradise and even Lewis). I watch Endeavour for the atmosphere, but the stories are not tight nor provide the atmosphere of Inspector Morse. Wishing you all the best with your new academic pursuit. It sounds like you deserve it after years of caregiving.
It’s a small thing, but as a Japanese teacher in the US it bothers me that they didn’t do better. Yukio is a Japanese given name, not a surname, and Li is not a Japanese name at all.
Sounds like the researchers should have done more work on the subject.
I watched this episode the other day, and had a thought regarding Mrs Warbuts handbag, its just a thought so happy to be wrong, but i wondered if instead of being a red bag as they are in a church i wondered (and apologies for not knowing the correct name for them) if it was one of those “cushions” that they have in some churches to kneel on for prayer, and she had been kneeling on this “cushion” neer the front of the church and the bag morse carries out is just her bag and wasnt in the inside of the church shot?
You’re absolutely correct in regard to the ‘bag.’ It is a cushion or I believe it is actually called a Kneeler. I have added the info to my post.
This is the last weak episode before the Golden Age of Morse emerges In the Last Bus to Woodstock. But I do believe it is a terrifying inspection of if It is ever justifiable that the sins of the fathers ever be visited upon their children. I love your art references in particular. There is great brutalism right through this episode especially towards strangers even though we are all the same really. It is a very dated perhaps because we can see the mechanics of the message. It is an episode that leaves one dissatisfied as to its intention. Like many it is one that matures on several viewings. It all depends on where we start from. I am sorry for your great loss this year Christopher. Please accept my sincere condolences.
Thank you Joan for your condolences.
Appreciate your work. If it’s not too late. Have to ask, what is the granddaughter’s doll in the late scene?
It looks like Uncle Fester from the Monsters.
You’re thinking of The Addams Family.
Ye gods, this is a giant steaming turd of an episode. I can’t describe how much I dislike the character of Jane.
Yukio Li was obviously a Chinese bloke identifying as Japanese – Li as a surname being shared by circa 92.76 million people in China. Still, one can forgive these minor errors. The tedium level of this episode, alas, can not be forgiven.
Related to where’s Colin. I thought I had seen him walking near a college, I didn’t make a note of the timing.
My main comments on this episode were posted on here a few years ago 🙂 and on a rewatch today haven’t changed. I’m still not sure of the timeline on when Yukio Li was kidnapped, escaped etc considering Max said that the Japanese who had died at the beginning had evidence of being bound and gagged, and at the beginning of the episode we saw a Japanese man in a window just before the bus drew up.
Mark, if you can get a time or screenshot of where you saw Colin that would be great.
When I typed the comment I must have got my episodes mixed up, because couldn’t find Colin in it to give you a time 🙁
Can we all agree that this is the worst Morse episode by a country mile? Peter Hammond is the most pretentious and frustrating director, although he WAS working with deathly dull material
it is my least favorite to say the least. I didn’t like anything about it.
This is probably my least favourite Morse episode- the storyline is plodding and at times dull, the characters are poorly developed and the premise is far-fetched to say the least.
I watched it recently when very tired- and I would have turned it off if not for my plan to watch the whole EML series in entirety.
Interesting (to me, at least) the actor playing the elderly clergyman at the start is none other than ‘I happen to be the proprietor’ from the tea-room scene in the film Withnail and I- Llewellyn Rees. There are many more Withnail and Morse/Endeavour links which I will share in due course with Chris in case others may be interested.
My god, this episode was tedious. Dark and foreign art movie slow. It’s the “Cries and Whispers” of the Morse Universe, I think. Not much upside.