BBC Radio 7, 17 January 2010
In view of the fact that John Thaw and Kevin Whately made the roles of
Morse and his sidekick Lewis so thoroughly their own, as a result of the television series, the experience of listening to
Ned Chaillet's production proved rather curious. I was not so much interested in the plot (a complicated affair involving
a murdered girl, a corrupt head teacher and forbidden love) focusing instead on the performances of John Shrapnel
and Robert Glenister.
As Lewis, Glenister did not make much impression. Perhaps this was a directorial choice:
the sergeant really only exists as a sounding-board for Morse's musings, and subsequently picking up the
pieces once the case has been solved. By contrast Shrapnel's Morse positively revelled in the role of a maverick cop - someone
who refused to accept the dictates of authority, and approached each case with all the subtlety of a bull in a china shop.
I've always been a bit suspicious of Morse's supposed love of classical music; in the television adaptations in particular,
the music appeared somewhat extraneous, almost as if the respective directors were trying to transform a detective story
into a heritage film, complete with historic locations and a swirling soundtrack. In this radio version, we heard strains
of Wagner's Parsifal, as Morse tried to solve the case. It might be that this device was used to emphasize
the conflict between good and evil that runs throughout the book; but the music did not seem to square with Morse's character
as a bluff, no-nonsense personality, determined to solve the case as soon as possible.
In the end Morse found the solution to the case, but it appeared to give him no pleasure.
On the contrary, he seemed even more melancholic, as he was reminded of the fact that (unlike Lewis) he had no one waiting
for him at home once his day's work had been completed. On the other hand, maybe Shrapnel's Morse deserved everything he got;
at the end of the adaptation, he observed in a throwaway line that he could never understand women, most of whom (in his view)
appeared to impede rather than aid his investigations. Maybe he did not really want to understand them, as that might force
him to engage in the kind of committment that might undermine his maverick instincts.