ITV’s Inspector Morse starring John Thaw as the titular character and Kevin Whately in the role of Detective Sergeant Lewis was a long-running, masterfully created television series following Morse and Lewis as they solved serious cases in and around the vaunted and steeped history of Oxford, England. It ran from 1987 to 2000. In 2006, ITV revived the series, taking us back to the world created by Colin Dexter, with Kevin Whately taking over the lead as Inspector (the great John Thaw passed away in 2002), and over the past six years, the show has been widely popular, garnering strong ratings and critical success in the UK and here in the Unites States as part of PBS’s Masterpiece Mystery series.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 480P/MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 4 Hr. 30 Min.
Package Includes: DVDStandard
Disc Type: DVD-9 (dual layer)
Release Date: 06/25/2013
The Production Rating: 4/5
“I turn my back for five minutes!”Three feature-length episodes mark the sixth series with Lewis and Hathaway finding themselves investigating more murders in the seemingly idyllic, stone and lush greenery of the hallowed Oxford Univesity town. Though aired with each episode split across different nights in the UK, they are presented here intact and as filmed. The first, ‘Down Among the Fearful’, is an interesting tale pitting faith against the skeptical when a scientist, moonlighting as a psychic, is murdered. The second, The Ramblin’ Boy, is a sober tale involving international drug trade and the cynical marriage of a socialite couple. It is an engrossing story and features a fine guest performance by All Creatures Great and Small star Peter Davison. The final episode, ‘Intelligent Design’, also deals with matters of faith and belief in things larger than the world we see, and ends on a bitter-sweet note as Lewis and Hathaway prepare to set off in new directions.
Likely the last we’ll see of Inspector Lewis – besides some possible one-off television movies in the vein of Inspector Morse’s final appearances – this last series ends not so much with a bang as with a respectable presentation of consistency. The plotlines may not ring of great scandal or flash, but the earnestness of the murder mysteries that the series has long offered are written with the same classical air, the same mastery of location, and touched off with the same banter between partners as has long been the expectation and the joy of the series.
Inspector Lewis, portrayed with a certain unending casual sway by Whately, is a highly likeable character. As Morse’s partner, he was the less educated fish out of water among the high-society and ingrained snobbery that the Oxford setting insists upon. As Inspector, Lewis is still the odd man out, carrying his Geordie (Newcastle) accent like a worn out duffel bag, but it is his common sense intelligence and disarming self that levies his great successes. Partnered with an Oxford educated young man, Detective Sergeant James Hathaway (Laurence Fox), he may from time to time find himself as the unlearned one with regard to history, tradition and classical literature, but it is Hathaway who finds himself frequently schooled in the particular craft of detection by the everyman prowess of his superior.
Though not the strongest of series (seasons), the final three episodes of the show are exceedingly well made and performed. The beauty of the location shoots has long been a treasure of watching the show – intimately shot in and around some wonderful Oxford locations – and we are again treated with this final collection. Kevin Whately’s Lewis is provided more light moments here as is relationship with medical examiner Dr. Laura Hobson (Clare Holman) blossoms, and even his banter with his boss, Chief Superintendent Jean Innocent (Rebecca Front), is given a playful sense. Laurence Fox’s Hathaway has always been somewhat ill-at-ease with his position in society. He is a fine investigator that has long felt the emotional weight of the criminal outcomes he witnesses. Fox is a fine actor from fine acting lineage and an actor from which we can expect great things.
1. Down Among the Fearful
2. The Ramblin’ Boy
3. Intelligent Design
Framed correctly at 1.78:1, the image for this DVD release is superb. Exquisitely sharp image with a surprising level of detail that rivals – almost – a high definition release, and abounds with lush natural colors, natural flesh tones and bright and lovely scenes. Owning previous seasons as digital only HD copies (from Amazon), I was curious how a DVD release would fare and I can say for sure that the quality, even on my 73” Mitsubishi, is a joy to see.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
This DVD release comes with an English 5.1 surround track that serves the series just fine. Most of the audio is taken up with dialogue and Barrington Pheloung’s sublime soundtrack (accompanied by classical and operatic treats), and is served well.
Audio Rating: 4/5
No special features available on this release.
Special Features Rating: 0/5
Arguably, no-one does crime drama television like the British. Exceedingly good detective dramas for decades have demonstrated high quality in front of and behind the camera. In recent years, shows like the gripping Luther and the recent The Fall, have driven the drama darker and grittier, but series like Inspector Lewis (called simply Lewis in the UK), have provided a more traditional style of excellence. It is a wonderfully entertaining show and a faithful continuation of the fine legacy created by one of my all-time favorite television series, Inspector Morse.
Overall Rating: 4/5
The world explored and characters created by Colin Dexter continue to see success on the small screen with the prequel series, Endeavour, garnering strong viewership numbers and high praise on both sides of the pond. So as we say a probable goodbye to Inspector Lewis, we will at least have the chance to continue enjoy the darker side of Oxford watching Morse become the great detective we came to love.
Reviewed By: Neil Middlemiss
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