Hello fellow Morsonians and welcome to my new post on the episode, Promised Land. Here we have Morse’s first episode which was not set in England, (the second time is in the episode Death of the Self where Morse and Lewis travel to Italy).
Chronologically this is episode 20. (Series 5 episode 5).
First broadcast in the UK on 27th March 1991.
This episode is not based on a Colin Dexter novel.
This is one of the few episodes when Colin did not make an appearance.
Directed by John Madden: also directed The Infernal Serpent, Dead on Time and The Way Through the Woods.
Written by Julian Mitchell: also wrote The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn, Service of All the Dead, The Wolvercote Tongue, Ghost in the Machine, Masonic Mysteries, Cherubim and Seraphim, Twilight of the Gods, The Daughters of Cain and Death Is Now My Neighbour.
After the death of the convict and apparent bank robber Peter Matthews in jail from A.I.D.S. the veracity of his conviction is questioned. Morse, who was involved in the investigation of what became known as the Abingdon bank robbery, is told he will have to re-interview their ‘supergrass’ witness whose evidence helped put all those involved in the robbery behind bars. That supergrass, Kenny Stone, was set up with a new life… in Australia.
(warning, this review may contain some spoilers)
Whenever a TV series is flagging in the ratings the producers will usually create an episode which is set in a different country to its normal setting. This is certainly not the case in the Inspector Morse series. In fact the ratings for series five were very good averaging around 15 million.
I believe the main reason for this type of episode was to see Morse as the proverbial ‘fish out of water’. In the last episode, Greeks Bearing Gifts, he was a little out of his depth trying to tangle with a foreign culture but at least he was still on home-ground, Oxford. In this episode he is finding it difficult to breathe (to continue the fish metaphor) figuratively as well as literally at times due to the hot weather.
In Promised Land Morse is lost in a country that is totally alien to him. He is not only lost culturally but also at times emotionally and mentally. Morse tries to bring an Oxford mentality to the Australian landscape and it proves his undoing.
Meanwhile Lewis takes to the Australian cultural like Donald Trump to a pretty woman, he cannot get enough of it. Lewis unlike Morse is able to relate to the Australian way of life and embrace it tightly. Ironically his son will eventually emigrate to Australia as we have learnt via the Lewis series.
It is interesting to watch Morse struggling with the idea that he may have convicted the wrong man, Peter Matthews. Worse, that man died slowly and painfully from A.I.D.S. Morse’s conscience is always clear when it comes to who he has convicted as he is certain that all deserved to be in jail, all were guilty. But now Morse has to come to terms with the possibility that he may be responsible for the death of Peter Matthews. Morse not only feels responsible for the death of Peter Matthews but also the subsequent deaths that occur as a result of Peter Matthews’s demise. What makes matters worse for Morse is that he may have acted out of revenge and not justice.
Morse talks to Lewis about needing to face Paul Matthews alone and anyway he remarks “I’m old and unmarried. I don’t understand human nature.” Is Morse suicidal? Is he hoping to commit suicide at someone else’s hand namely Paul Matthews. Morse certainly tells Paul that he is to blame while Matthews is pointing a gun at him from only a few feet away. Morse is almost tacitly telling Matthews that he deserves to die for the events that have occurred.
Morse’s turmoil and inconsolable nature are brilliantly portrayed by John Thaw. After twenty episodes and forty hours of Morse, John Thaw was still able to illustrate new strata to the Morse character. As we watch the episode we can see Morse slowly begin to crumble like a long deserted building and this is due to the force of nature that was John Thaw.
What has helped enjoy this episode a little more is it’s recent connection to the Endeavour episode Coda.
Like many of the episodes of Morse this episode is not perfect. The depiction of Australia and some of it’s inhabitants is a little stereotypical. From the empty streets of a dusty town to the slow witted local policeman to the overuse of the word pommy. But I do believe that some things are stereotypical because they are based on so many actual examples. However, I do feel that a writer of Julian Mitchell’s calibre could have reined in the cliches. (Though Julian can be prone to including stereotypes as we will see when I review one of Julian’s other episodes, Twilight of the Gods in the near future).
Portentously, the next episode Dead on Time will see Morse crumble further and find it more difficult to grasp a reason to live.
Episode Jag Rating – out of 10.
The only piece of classical music in this episode is at the end of the episode, Hab’ mir’s gelobt from Der Rosenkavalier. This piece can be found on the Inspector Morse Soundtrack CD Volume 3.
The first literary reference is the obvious one, Promised Land. The promised land is also referred to as ‘the land of milk and honey’. I don’t believe there is an actual exact reference to the ‘promised land’ in the Bible. There is many references to Abraham and Moses being promised a land; the territory from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates river (Exodus 23:31). There are however many references to ‘the land of milk and honey’ in the Bible.
Morse doesn’t believe Kenny Stone is capable of taking his own life. His reasoning being that “When it comes to the great perhaps, Mike Harding will follow the Pascal”. Blaise Pascal was a seventeenth-century French philosopher, mathematician and physicist. Pascal’s Wager is an argument in philosophy that posits that humans bet with their lives that God either exists or does not. Pascal argues that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.), whereas they stand to receive infinite gains (as represented by eternity in Heaven) and avoid infinite losses (eternity in Hell).
No art to speak of in this episode.
The location of the funeral of Peter Matthews is Kensal Green Cemetery, Harrow Road, Kensal Green, London.
The same location was used at the beginning of the Endeavour episode Coda in 2016. More on that episodes connection to Promised Land later.
Morse tells Lewis that they are going to Hereford, New South Wales. There is no Hereford district or town in New South Wales.
The actual town they visit is Canowindra, New South Wales, Australia.
Above is the hotel in the background of the picture above with Lewis and Morse. The address is 74 Gaskill Street CANOWINDRA NSW 2804.
The site of the scene where Morse meets up with Peter Matthews brother near the end of the episode,
is Canowindra Railway Station, New South Wales, Australia.
The final location is Sydney Opera House – 2 Macquarie Street, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Morse is circled.
Some memorable lines in the episodes:
Strange: “You know what they say about funerals. Someone always catches their death.”
Morse: “You have too many relatives Lewis. A police man ought to be free.”
Lewis: “What do you want me there for anyway? You’re only going to interview him.
Morse: “I can’t carry my own bags can I. I’m a Chief Inspector.”
Lewis: “Matter of fact. I’ve got cousins in New South Wales.”
Lewis: “Garden of Eden this.”
Morse: “Then watch out for snakes.”
Lewis: (Looking out over a field) “In the supergrass.”
Morse: “Do Australians take siestas or what?”
Lewis: “There’s a lot of Italians over here I know that.”
Lewis: “Orange juice? What’s the matter with you?”
Morse: “They don’t spell Australian beer with four X’s out of ignorance.They mean what they say. And lite beer is the invention of the Prince of Darkness.”
Dave Harding: “It’s a big country. There’s a lot to explore. It’s wilderness. Unmapped. I like that.”
Morse: “But its so…empty.”
Morse walks up to where Lewis is cooking a steak on a BBQ.
Morse: “My doctor says I can’t eat them anymore.”
Lewis: “And you a cattleman.”
Morse: “I suppose I’ll have to have chicken. I hate chicken. What do I have to do?”
Lewis: “Go over and see that girl over there. She’ll give you a portion to cook.”
Morse: “Cook? I have to cook myself.”
Lewis: “Afraid so.”
Lewis: “How old are you?”
Morse: “I forget Robbie.”
The more times I watch this episode the more I am convinced that Morse and Anne Harding had an affair.
I have no definitive proof that such an affair occurred. It’s a just a hunch, a feeling and the way Morse says to Anne that they made a good team in reference to getting Kenny Stone (Mike Harding) to grass on the bank robbers.
Lewis investigates a burglary at the beginning of the episode. The burglary was at the offices of the newspaper, The Tilehurst Gazette.
No actual paper does or ever has existed. There is a Tilehurst, a suburb of the town of Reading in the English county of Berkshire.
So, let us get to the elephant in the room, the connection between this episode and the Endeavour episode Coda.
The bank robbery in the Endeavour episode took place in 1967. The Morse episode was broadcast in 1991 but probably filmed in 1990. Inspector Morse mentions in the Promised Land episode that the Abingdon bank raid happened 10 years earlier. So that would mean that the Abingdon bank raid happened either in 1980 or 1981. We have two different bank raids. We have to assume that those that were convicted of the first bank raid shown in the Endeavour episode were released in the late seventies.
Tom Mothersdale as Peter Matthews in the episode Coda.
Promised Land began with a funeral, but it was that of Peter Matthews. Peter had died of AIDS in prison. Morse states in Promised Land that Peter Matthews was driving the car during the Abingdon bank raid but not necessarily the one who pulled the trigger on the gun that killed the officer. But in the Coda episode Peter Matthews is INSIDE the bank and not the getaway driver.
The character of Kenny Stone (Mike Harding) is also mentioned in this episode but only seen in a film shot by the police.
In the Promised Land episode Tommy Thomson is mentioned and shown.
Tommy Thomson is in the Coda episode as one of the villains inside the bank.
Jimmy Walker as Tommy Thompson in Coda.
Also in the Promised Land episode we see Bernie Waters at the funeral.
Bronson Webb as Bernie Waters in Coda.
At the funeral in Coda we see some young children so one has to assume that one of those children is Peter Matthews’ brother Paul Matthews who goes to Australia in the Promised Land episode to kill Kenny Stone.
Con O’Neill as Paul Matthews in the Morse episode, Promised Land.
Actors who appeared in Promised Land and/or Lewis and Endeavour.
First up is the above mentioned Bronson Webb as Bernie Waters.
Bronson Webb as Silas Whittaker in the Lewis episode, Fearful Symmetry. (Series 6, Episode 3)
Coincidentally, Con O’Neill who played Paul Matthews in the Morse episode, Promised Land, also turns up in the Lewis episode, Fearful Symmetry.
Con O’Neill as Dr. Bob Massey in the Lewis episode, Fearful Symmetry.
James Grout as Chief Superintendent Strange (Born: 1926 Died: 2012)
Philip Anthony as Tilehurst Gazette Newspaper Editor
Kevin Leslie as Barman
Bill Young as Farmer in Ute (Born: 1 June 1950 (age 67).
Vanessa Patterson as Karen Harding
Rhondda Findleton as Anne Harding
Marie Armstrong as Sash – Nursing Home Matron
John Jarratt as Sergeant Scott Humphries. (Born: 5 August 1951 (age 65).
Maureen Green as Sal – Nurse
Noah Taylor as Dave Harding
Max Phipps as Detective Inspector Glenn McAllister
Peter Browne as Detective Gary Warrender
I hope you enjoyed this post. I am going on holiday next week so there will not be a new post until around Sunday 16th July. Take care.
What a memorable episode. Great review, thanks.
Great review as usual. it isn’t my favourite Morse episode at all – not even in the top 10, and I agree that there are too many stereotypes in the episode. Interesting you say about the affair, I’ve never really thought about it before, but we do know from the episodes that Morse does tend to get a bit involved with the ladies in cases – whether that turned into an affair or just a moment I guess we’ll never know.
I’ve always been of the opinion that the bank raid in Coda and the one referenced in Promised Land is not the same one, but is the genesis of how these group of characters ended up being connected to another. Without spoiling Endeavour series 4 there was the odd line and story that suggested how a future bank raid would be possible rather than them being all banged up.
Morse is fictional, so is Anne. The only way they could have an affair is if we are told as much in the course of this (or perhaps some other) episode. We weren’t and – as they characters have no existence beyond that – it is not a meaningful question.
Well all the characters are fictional but we still like to comment on them! I never thought Morse and Anne had an affair. I think that Morse had a crush on her because as the dialog goes, she was a remarkable woman, and perhaps was a little flirty as well. But she wasn’t an honest person and had committed a crime and those two things would have excluded the thought of a relationship with Morse.
No need to be rude, John Price.
John, this is rather ridiculous reply when you consider we are watching and discussing a fictional world. I would also ask you to be be less abrasive in your replies.
I know this was written back in 2017 but Lewis (the writer) said in interview that in the time of the Coda bank robbery episode the future bank robbers were children.
Hi Chris, I dont normally shout about what I have been in as a tv extra but I was in that final scene at the Opera House, was hired to be a tourist and was/am working in Construction so knocked off and went down there with a change of clothes but when I got there the wardrobe department said I was fine and thr director told me to just walk up the steps to the left of the Opera House on “action” as the actors were going their separate ways. Well it took a few rehearsals then a few takes and after 4 hours I was getting a bit buggered I can tell yeh, but I did get some reprieve when they were organising the other extras as tourists only for a coach to pull up and the real macoy spilled out of the coach onto the scene anyway it worked in the end and I even got a phonecall from the UK asking if that was me? But they had to freeze frame it because it was so quick ha!ha!! So if you do get to see it again Chris thats me in the green singlet at the top left of the steps with the fine music track.
I’m currently going through all the episodes and this was probably the worst one of all. In the USA they used to call this type of thing “a very special episode”. Cliched and uninteresting it was an ode to Aussie tourism, but what a terrible place to be a tourist!
I agree with email@example.com that this was the worst one of all. The problem for me was that the show was riddled with improbabilities that just annoyed me. Really? You travel 12,000 miles and you haven’t arranged to meet with the guy? And then you show up in suits in what appears to be the middle of summer to meet with the guy presumably in secret? And then you shout out in the local bar that you’re looking for the guy? And then they find out that it is likely that somebody is out to kill Mike Harding but they keep it to themselves? And then there was implausible way the hostage scene was handled. I thought the episode was so uncharacteristically bad that it might have been written by somebody that had not written other episodes. But that appears to not be the case. I wonder if the problems with this episode were that most of it was handled by an Australian crew that was unfamiliar with the nature of the show.
Just 1 point of reference here Morse and Lewis arrive in town on Melbourne Cup Day which is the first Tuesday in November so late Spring not the middle of Summer as you suggest.
I really like this espisode – as teenager when I first watched it, it was a completely different view of Australia than I’d seen in Neighbours, much more gritty and real. Having been there the sense of distance and a beautiful land were very well put across. I didn’t find it stereotypical, I first visited less than a decade later and it seemed pretty accurate!
The way Lewis increasingly fits in, Morse looking so far out of his depth, the idea and reality of the supergrass lifestyle. Not to mention some really classic lines (as you’ve picked out) that still make me laugh. After the usual “Oxfordy” ones this was an immensely huge breath of fresh air.
On the plot, the worst bit for me was when Morse went off with the son to find the chap, despite beleiving a young girls life was dependent upon finding him. It felt far too egomanical even for Morse although I suppose the poor view he has of the local police pushed him. Finding the Dad’s car with the radio still going seemed odd. You’d have a flat battery and the outback seems a place to avoid doing things that risk that.
I’m not convinced Morse had a relationship with Ann – clearly a massive age gap (although that never seems to be the case in the Series generally) – perhaps more just the hangover of them having gone through an intense period.
His judgement seems well off throughout, Morse clearly doesnt know his man – explicitly rules out suicide with a gambling homily. Plus misses the obvious relationship between Ann and the local copper, prioritising his inquiry over the girl and the blundering way he cuts through all the people in this. Not to mention getting it so wrong with the original case. Hard not to be very critical on him!
But the sense of just how tragic life is, especially when lies stack upon lies, came across well, and stuck with me.
That’s correct and the footage shown in the episode is from the closing stages of the 1990 Melbourne Cup, which was won by the American-bred stallion Kingston Rule, who has a prominent white nose roll
Harsh! It did seem like a “jump the shark” piece, but I enjoyed the different scenery. Being in the USA and not having traveled, I learned a little about Australia’s countryside.
I think this is a fantastic episode, Top 10. I don’t understand the comments calling it the ‘worst’. In no way does it feel like a desperate ‘jump the shark’ story. It’s compelling, tense and makes brilliant use of a change in scenery. Top marks. 10/10
Yes, I agree I don’t understand the animosity toward this episode. It is interesting to watch Lewis take charge and poor Morse feeling like the proverbial fish out of water. Of course later in the series the roles are reversed in the episode Death of the Self.
I am rewatching this series in covid-19 lock down and in the musical references have not mentioned the sounds sung by Slim Dusty, a very big name in Australian country and western music. I am not a great afficionado of Slim Dusty’s work, but I am sure there are many people in Australia who are.
This was on Australian TV last night. I have seen it countless times and have always wondered what English people made of Rhonda Findleton’s accent or accents? It sounded a bit Cockney at times, so out-of-place I guess. Rhonda is still acting, in fact she is on a TV ad that is screening at the moment. I found this episode quite reaistic in terms of storyline and not a novelty in that respect at all – we are always hearing of overseas forces liasing with our own – and as for stereotypes, maybe just the racing scene in the pub is a bit forced in that regard, S
Steve – She is playing an English girl who has lived in Australia for ten years so that gives her plenty of latitude on accent. Just my opinion. I’ve not looked her up so I didn’t know if she was an Aussie or a Brit.
I’m watching the episode right now and in a bizarre moment of synchronicity an English girl who moved to Sydney 20 years ago rang me out of the blue. She’s been back and forth several times but her accent is like Rhonda’s in the episode – somewhere between.
The most unrealistic part is that Morse endangers himself, the girl and others by not telling Peter Matthews brother (what is his name, by the way) that Kenny is DEAD. Since Peter Matthews brother was after revenge, knowing the fact that Kenny is dead would have put an end to the cycle of revenge. The rational thing to do would have been for Morse to tell him: “I could not bring Kenny with me because he’s dead. See the picture taken by forensics, I can take you to the morgue to see his body, now free the girl”. Instead, Morse launches into a long diatribe about why he should be the object of Peter Matthews brother revenge. Totally wrong. The rest of the errors were noted by Dave Kirby and Ann. 6 JAGs .
Yes, he gets greedy and tries to turn the brother against the big baddie. I love this episode as a depiction of Morse confronting his own fallibility and the consequences thereof.
Nothing made me despise the later episodes of Endeavour more than the contrast with this one. Here Morse finally gets in a Western style faceoff-shootout scene and everything goes terribly wrong. Even his sacrificial pose of going in without a gun backfires, and other people pay for it. Whereas the Endeavour silly OK Corral nonsense … don’t get me started!
It might just be me but I thought his not revealing Kenny’s death was because Paul was holding Kennys (Mikes) daughter hostage and he didn’t want her to find out her father had died whilst in such an extreme situation.
I just saw Promised Land, what a great episode … The whole cast is impressive, but of course: John Thaw is beyond everything, he is impeccable. His performance is so heartfelt, so real, so accomplished …. The last scene, where he maximizes the tension of guilt … is pure art. Australia, it looks like an excellent landscape. Thank you for reading. Greetings to all.
Hi Chris. I mentioned on the Twitch stream for the Endeavour episode, “Coda”, that Russell Lewis in an interview with Damian Barcroft, explained the timeline in connection to the Matthews’ gang. He confirmed the bank robbery in “Coda”, is not the raid, referred to by Morse in “Promised Land”, where Thames Valley lost one of their best police officers.
Anyway, here is the question from Barcroft and Russell Lewis’s reply, in which he explains his own timeline of events.
DAMIAN: As many reading this will know, your scripts are always filled with so many delightful references to INSPECTOR MORSE and various other things –CODA is no exception and newcomers might like to check out GREEKS BEARING GIFTS, PROMISED LAND and THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS in particular– so you must go back and view the original series every so often?
RUSS: Mmm. A bit, yes. With one exception. It’s usually characters that have stayed in the memory that put in an appearance. But there’s a lot still left to plunder. Yes, PROMISED LAND loomed large over CODA – thanks to the diligence of Helga Dowie, our brilliant Line Producer who has been with us since FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK, we managed to shoot the funeral of Harry Rose, which opens proceedings, at the same cemetery. Helga also came through magnificently with last week’s LAZARETTO – going to great lengths to secure the location used in DEAD ON TIME for William Bryce-Morgan’s house.
It’s worth saying that the raid in CODA is not the bank-raid STRANGE and MORSE discuss in PROMISED LAND, which claimed the life of RON PIGGOT. ‘I lost one of my best officers that day, and you lost a good friend.’ We’re looking at the raid before that. Filling in some of the blanks. I did compile a feasible timeline that allowed for both raids and the fallout from each as part of my prep. Taking birth dates from the actors involved. So – Con O’Neill’s character from PROMISED LAND appears here as one of the children at the funeral.
I should have said Russell Lewis didn’t actually reveal a timeline of events to do with the Matthews’ gang. He only said that he had compiled one himself, without showing it to Damian Barcroft. Finally, If anyone wishes to read the full interview with Russell, all about the series 3 finale of Endeavour, “Coda”, here is the link:
Thanks for that link James. I enjoyed reading it. Interesting too about the timeline with the children. I’m still trying to get all the characters straight from Promised Land and Coda. Was the getaway driver Bernie Walters or Kenny Stone? I think I’ll have to watch both of those episodes with a notepad!
Just watched Promised Land and the driver was Larry Nelson’s son-in-law. Kenny and Ann Stone never told Morse that because they wanted “insurance” against retaliation. They “shopped” the whole gang except for him. Peter Matthews was innocent of that.
Thank you, James, for this fascinating background. I will check out your link. The graveyard in Coda did look familiar to me, as I loved The Promised Land episode from the Morse series.
What a fun time I had viewing Coda for the first time with the Sunday Night Club’s delightful usual suspects, so glad you were there, and thank you, Chris, for being the host with the most! Happy, happy birthday!
Remains one of my favourite episodes. Was really impressed with Rhonda Findleton’s performance in it especially, as well as a rare snippet of Morse and Lewis’ diversion into almost a father/son relationship. I saw the Australian detectives as a mirror image of the two.
Endeavour is both Morse first name and the name of the ship Captain Cook used on his voyage of discovery to Australia, which I found interesting.
There were inconsistencies throughout, however the streets of a country town being deserted during the running of the Melbourne Cup (in 1990 to boot) isn’t really much of an example of poetic license at all. It is, after all, “The Race That Stops The Nation”.
Noah Taylor was very good in his role as Dave Harding, and the inverse relationship Lewis and Morse have with the Australian environment still has a vast amount of appeal on rewatch. As some others here have noted, Morse seems to have a good portion of his intelligence in Oxford but it doesn’t detract terribly from what is a fairly straightforward entry in the series.
Final point. Anne Harding is having an affair with the Australian policeman Humphries. Morse has a mild dislike of the man and they never see eye to eye. It all seemed to me a subtle nod to a previous dalliance with a serving policeman?
Six jags from ten.
My theory regarding Morse’s feelings toward the Australian officer is that Morse may have had an affair with Anne Harding back in England and so is possibly a little jealous.
There is one stereotype which amused me about this episode – and it’s nothing to do with the fact that it’s in Australia. The teenage girl arrived back home after her swimming session, and immediately starts talking at 90 miles an hour on the assumption that her mother is immediately and attentively listening.
It was also a delight to see Noah Taylor – at that age he was probably the cutest actor ever to appear in any Morse episode.
Noah Taylor was outstanding. His closing lines to Morse still make the hair stand up on my neck.
“It’s Australia, mate”
Hello, Chris, with thanks for yet another insightful review. A possible addition to Literary References: the story Lewis reads the kiddies is “The Magic Pudding” by Norman Lindsay. Published in 1918, it’s considered an Australian children’s classic.
Great review! Another one of my favourite episodes. I agree with you that there was something more to Anne and Morse than meets the eye. Probably why he was so keen to try and get to go to Australia again.
I was also shocked when I first saw the episode, as to the fate of the Australian policeman, as I had started to build up hope that there would be a sequel later on where he would be sent to Oxford for whatever reason. But alas.
Also, I can’t be the only one who thinks that the son is a spitting image of a young Nick Cave?
hello markus. I’m glad you enjoyed my review. Good point about the son looking like Nick Cave.
This seems to me to be the only episode where Morse engages with the criminal underworld. Perhaps because of that, he seems at times more like a policeman than a sleuth.
My view on this episode hasn’t changed since my previous comments. That being said the scenes at the end before the shootout were very powerful by John Thaw.
The other thing I didn’t like was the shootout. Not due to the violence or the aftermath, but it seemed daft that they would have Lewis and Ann just crouching out of sight, therefore allowing Ann to go running. Sadly it was Mike and Anns actions years ago and then Ann more recently that caused the death of her husband and lover.
Felt for Morse on the steps of the Opera House, not wanting to be alone.