As an added help for readers I have added links to many names of actors and TV series mentioned in the post. Just click on the underlined text and a new window will open for the link.
First transmitted in the UK on the 24 January 1990.
This episode is not based on any of Colin Dexter’s books.
This is episode 4 in series 4. Chronologically this is episode 15.
Colin Dexter appears as a member of the chorus of the production of The Magic Flute at various times.
Directed by Danny Boyle. He also directed the episode, ‘Cherubim and Seraphim’, (Series 6, Episode 5). Of course Danny Boyle has become a renowned film director of films such as, ‘Trainspotting’, ‘28 Days Later’ and the wonderful ‘Slumdog Millionaire’.
Written by Julian Mitchell. He also wrote the screenplay for The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn, Service of all the Dead, The Wolvercote Tongue, Ghost in the Machine, Promised Land, Cherubim and Seraphim, Twilight of the Gods, The Daughter’s of Cain, Death is now my Neighbour.
Julian Mitchell makes a cameo appearance in this episode as one of the chorus members standing in front of Colin Dexter. (see above pic)
During a dress rehearsal for the Mozart opera, The Magic Flute, Morse’s (sort of) girlfriend, Beryl Newsome is murdered. Morse is not only found holding her body but is holding a large knife.
Things go from bad to worse as Morse finds himself on the receiving end of someone’s revenge which ends with Morse being accused of committing two murders and is charged and locked up.
Lewis doesn’t believe his boss is capable of such atrocities and finds a way of proving Morse’s innocence but is unaware that the investigating officer, Chief Inspector Bottomley, believes Lewis to be an accomplice.
Morse’s life begins to fall apart and he finding it hard to hold on to reality. Revenge, murder, the Freemasons, Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute and an attack on Morse’s sanity all combine to make this a thrilling and compelling episode.
REVIEW. (warning this review may contain some spoilers)
Well, here we are at Masonic Mysteries. An episode that is always in my top three of favourites. It also appears to be a huge favourite of most Morse fans. It is an episode that barely puts a foot wrong. It allows Morse to show what a brilliant actor he is as he goes through a gamut of emotions, one of those being a feeling of having a mental breakdown.
A strong cast who also don’t put a foot wrong. Though only appearing for a short time, Ian McDiarmid as Hugo De Vries is sublime and must rank as one of Morse’s greatest adversaries, if not THE greatest.
We also get to meet one of Morse’s great mentors, Desmond McNutt played by the wonderful Scottish actor, Iain Cuthbertson. There is talk that the McNutt character will show up in the next series of Endeavour. I hope they get a Scottish actor to play him and not a non Scot trying to do a Scottish accent. The film and TV world is littered with actors trying to do a Scottish accent and who fail miserably, (I’m looking at you Alec Guinness (Tunes of Glory), Christopher Lambert (Highlander), Michael Caine (Kidnapped or was it Master Of Ballantrae?), Simon Pegg (Star Trek), Robin Williams (Mrs Doubtfire. What is even worse in this film is that he calls himself an ENGLISH nanny) and the list goes on. Only a handful of actors have managed to pull off a Scottish accent, Jonny Lee Miller (Trainspotting), Emma Thompson (Tutti Frutti) and that’s the only two I can recall at the moment. Anyway, enough of one of my pet peeves.
In this episode the Lewis and Morse relationship is not only shown as growing stronger but that it is also evolving. There is an almost symbiotic relationship being created. The German mycologist Heinrich Anton de Bary in defining Symbiosis seen it as “the living together of unlike organisms”. This defines Lewis and Morse’s relationship to a tee. They live together in their working life (Lewis probably sees more of Morse than he does his wife) and they are dissimilar ‘organisms’ or in this case characters.
After the fire and when Morse is in the ambulance and appears to be losing his hold on reality he calls the name of the one person he knows he can trust, the one person who is the rock he can hold on to as the waves of desperation and despair are washing over him; “Where’s Lewis. I want Lewis.” I don’t know about you but I get a lump in my throat when watching that scene. (This scene is at 1h10m10sec)
For the first and last time we get to see more than just the downstairs element of the house but that only amounts to the upstairs bathroom and of course his linen cupboard. I do like new glimpses into the life of our beloved Morse. It satisfies the curious element of my personality.
The episode is beautifully crafted by that stalwart of the Morse canon, Julian Mitchell. Julian wrote ten of the Morse episodes so almost a third of the complete series. In this episode he barely falters in bringing the story alive and filling it with wonderful quotes and excellent dialogue. I write barely because there are a couple of small problems I have with the screenplay. Primarily, is De Vries’s appearance at the home of McNutt dressed as a homeless person. How did De Vries anticipate that Morse would visit McNutt. Was it simply a case of him following Morse and then improvising? No, not unless he drove around with a collection of dirty clothes and make up to allow him to transform into the homeless person. The other niggles are minor and not worth mentioning.
On a positive note it is a piece of brilliant writing that Julian Mitchell has the opening scene showing the character of Papageno dressed as a bird through the window of the building where the play is being rehearsed. Papageno is a sweet innocent character who in the second half of the opera becomes almost as important as the main storyline of The Magic Flute. I have read in the past that the casting of Papageno can make or break a production of the opera. If the actor gets it wrong the character can turn out to be irritating rather than charming. So, could this character be alluding to Sergeant Lewis and the part he will play in this episode?
Then we have a glimpse of what will make Danny Boyle one of Britain’s leading directors. This episode is stylishly directed but without any pretensions. One great scene is when Morse finally catches up with De Vries. This is darkly written scene with the impending death of Morse. His life displayed in photographs on the wall. But Boyle shoots the scene in dazzling bright light. There is light flooding the room from two large windows and this light is amplified by the white walls. There is barely a shadow in the room. Due to the scenes dark writing tone many directors would have had a darkened room or shadows cast across the De Vries’s face to emphasize his black soul and dark intentions. Or with Morse’s impending death a director may have been drawn to have Morse walk into a shadow to allude to his forthcoming demise.
But not Danny Boyle. He bathes the whole scene in bright light to, I believe, allow each character to clearly see who they are and what they stand for and what their actions have created. In the bright light of day one cannot hide from themselves, emotionally, mentally or truthfully.
But for all the dark subject matter in the episode there is still some excellent comic scenes. One of my favourites is Morse’s reaction to finding out the fire was started using a copy of The Magic Flute by Arturo Toscanini. Lewis’s laugh is priceless
EPISODE JAG RATING, (out of ten)
It is no surprise that all the classical music is excerpts from the Mozart opera The Magic Flute. (The Magic Flute (German: Die Zauberflöte), K. 620)
What I will attempt to do is identify the excerpts as to where they happen in the opera and which characters are singing. I have also tried to get all the musical excerpts used in the episode and make them into short videos for each piece.
I am a fan of the opera but do not put myself forward as an expert. So, on that note I apologize in advance for any errors.
So, the episode starts with what is the opening music of the opera.
Morse and Lewis are leaving the town hall where the production was taking place. Morse says to Lewis that he has to speak to McNutt.
After three ladies, attendants of the Queen of the Night, appear and kill the serpent that was tormenting Tomino, he having fainted, he awakes to find Papageno who takes credit for having killed the serpent.
Morse and Lewis are leaving McNutt’s house and walking toward his, now defaced, car. A section of the opening is replayed here.
Morse and Lewis are driving back from McNutt’s house and are trying to make sense of that night’s events.
The music is playing while the council of priests of Isis and Osiris, headed by Sarastro, enter. Sarastro tells the priests that Tamino is ready to undergo the ordeals that will lead to enlightenment. He invokes the gods Isis and Osiris, asking them to protect Tamino and Pamina (Aria and chorus: “O Isis und Osiris“).
The scene starts with Morse staring at the defaced car and then moves into his house where he sits on the settee contemplating all that has happened.
The next piece is from Act 1, scene 1 and is part of the scene after Prince Tamino has just been presented by the Three Ladies with an image of the princess Pamina, and falls instantly in love with her. “Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön” (This portrait is enchantingly lovely)
Morse is in a cell and Lewis and Bottomley arrive at his house to find angry neighbours beating at Morse’s door as their is music blasting from his house.
We are now at act 2, scene 3. The Queen of the Night appears handing Pamina a dagger, ordering her to kill Sarastro with it and threatening to disown her if she does not. “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” (“Hell’s vengeance boils in my heart”)
Morse is released from his cell and returns home. As he lies sleeping on the settee a fire starts.
Tamino declares that he is ready to be tested. Pamina enters and declares her intention to undergo the remaining trials with him. She hands him the magic flute to help them through the trials. Wir wandelten durch Feuergluten, (We wandered through the fire’s glow)
We are now in the house of Hugo DeVries and he and Morse talk of what has happened. Hugo turns on a cassette recording of The Magic Flute.
Papageno and Pamina are searching for Tamino when they are recaptured by Monostatos and his slaves. Papageno plays his magic bells, and Monostatos and his slaves begin to dance, and exit the stage, still dancing, mesmerised by the beauty of the music. Schnelle Füße, racher Mut (Swift feet and ready courage)
Our final piece is when Morse is sitting in his car outside where the opera is being played. Lewis and his wife went along at the behest of Morse. The scene sees Lewis and his wife coming out early (though they almost stayed to the end as the music that can be heard playing is almost at the end of the opera).
The traitorous Monostatos appears with the Queen of the Night and her three ladies. They plot to destroy the temple (“Nur stille, stille“) and the Queen confirms that she has promised her daughter Pamina to Monostatos.
Below is a recording of The Magic Flute where all the monologues and dialogues have been omitted.
Morse is sitting on the stairs in the building’s hall as the opera company begin to leave having all been questioned. Morse says goodnight to them and then says,
“Good ladies, goodnight sweet ladies”.
This is from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Spoken by Ophelia,
“Come, my coach! Good night, ladies; good night, sweet ladies;
good night, good night”.
Within the same scene as above, Deardon enters the area carrying the knife that was lying beside the body of Beryl Newsome. Morse asks to see it and lifts is up to the light and says,
“Is this a dagger I see before me”.
From Shakespeare’s Macbeth, spoken by Macbeth,
“Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still”.
While in his cell he asks Lewis to bring him the libretto of The Magic Flute. He then says, “into the mysteries.Though whether of light or darkness“. I don’t recognize the phrase. It does sound biblical but I cannot find any mention of it.
In the office of Amnox where Beryl Newsome worked as does Marion Brooke, on the wall is a poster.
We have seen this before piece before in the episode Dead of Jericho; Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Proserpine.
We are in Strange’s office where we find him talking to Bottomley. Behind him is a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.
This portrait is by Leonard Munro Borden.
One of my subscribers Nancy has found two etchings by Piranesi in Morse’s home.
The first is around the fifty minute mark when Lewis and Bottomley visit Morse’s home to find the music blasting out from the tape recorder.
This is called “Temple of Antonius and Faustina.”
Nancy wrote “In a previous episode “The Infernal Serpent” Screenshot (259) at 1 hour 25 minutes 44 seconds, I believe that I caught a glimpse of this same picture “Temple of Antonius and Faustine” by Piranesi on wall in Morse’s living room above bookcase with statue of head of Dante.”
At around the 51 minute mark during the same scene Nancy noticed, “another Piranesi etching “Another View of the Temple of Sibyl in Tivoli.”
Great work Nancy and thank you.
Nancy also noticed a poster of the Magic Flute in Morse’s hallway. It can be seen around the 53 and a half minute mark.
This is from a photograph by Bert Loewenhertz.
In Morse’s office he has this lovely poster of The Magic Flute.
The designer of this poster, Jane Ray, is a well-known illustrator and writer of children’s books. This same poster appears in Morse’s kitchen in the episode Fat Chance.
On Morse’s hall wall above the stairs he has this poster.
It’s the Welsh National Opera poster by Robert Holder 1989. Curiously this same poster appears in the episode Fat Chance in the police station. Thanks to Nancy for the information.
Bottomley: “I know Morse does really care for me”.
Lewis: “He doesn’t much care for anybody, Sir.”
Morse: “The richness of your family never fails to astound me Lewis.”
1h 10m 20s
Morse: “Where’s Lewis. I want Lewis.”
1h 10m 43s
Strange: “You know Lewis, Morse is a very good copper. But sometimes he’s more trouble than he’s worth.”
Madelaine Newton who plays Beryl Newsome is Kevin Whately’s real life wife.
Ian McDiarmid who plays Hugo De Vries is probably most famous for playing Emperor Palpatine in the Star Wars films.
Mark Strong who plays PC Butterworth has become a well known and great actor and with one of the most distinctive voices on TV and film.
Here is a short video of Danny Boyle the director of the episode talking about the episode.
John Molloy made the following observations, “he real Hugo de Vries ( 1848 – 1935 ) was a Dutch botanist and geneticist who developed a mutation theory of evolution. Given that the Morse de Vries was capable of mutating/evolving by way of successfully adopting disguise I wonder if the scriptwriter used the botanist’s name because of this. This point may be of significance if, as you observe in Endeavour, Kent Finn mutates/evolves and becomes Hugo de Vries.
Chiswick Town Hall, Heathfield Terrace, Chiswick. (Opera rehearsals)
Saint Albans Cathedral, Abbey Mill Lane, St Albans, Hertfordshire AL3 4HB
(Where Lewis and Morse park the car to visit Marion at AMNOX. The car is parked on Romeland. It is also where Marion and Morse talk)
Romeland Hill, St Albans, Hertfordshire. (The building posing as HQ of AMNOX where Marion and Beryl worked. The building with the blue door.)
Beryl Newsome’s flat is said to be on Cowley Road but after looking up and down that road in Oxford I couldn’t find it.
Bodlian Library where Lewis is looking at back copies of The Oxford Mail.
Royal Oak pub, Kitters Green, Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire, (Where Morse and Lewis have a pint)
Thanks to Ant who located the wine shop that Morse visits to find out Hugo’s address at around the one hour and 20 minute mark.
Ant pointed that the location is Beaconsfield Old Town. The wine shop has gone and been replaced by Thai massage place.
I believe the wine shop was split into two. The other part is the dry cleaners.
Diane Fletcher as Marion Brooke. Born: April 17, 1944.
Richard Kane as Chief Inspector Bottomley. Born: September 17, 1938.
Ian McDiarmid as Hugo De Vries. Born: August 11, 1944.
Iain Cuthbertson as Desmond McNutt. Born: January 4, 1930 – Died: September 4, 2009.
Madelaine Newton as Beryl Newsome. Born – Unknown.
Celestine Randall as Sandra Machin. Born – Unknown.
Roland Oliver as the Conductor. Born – Unknown.
John Arthur as the porter. Born – Unknown.
Mark Strong as PC Butterworth. Born: August 5, 1963.
Richard Huw as Detective Constable Reardon. Born unknown.
James Smith as Bank manager Prettyman. No info.
Timothy (Tip) Tipping as PC Dene. Born: February 13, 1958 – Died: February 5, 1993.
James Grout as Chief Superintendent Strange. Born: October 22, 1927 – Died: June 24, 2012. James Grout’s obituary http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2012/jul/03/james-grout-obituary