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.
Unless it was Morse’s man bag. 🙂
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.
So, to that end I have written to the Archivist at Brasenose and asked her if she has any information on said matter. I will of course let all of you know the answer to my query.
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‘.
The fictional Lonsdale College is actually Brasenose 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 – )