Inspector Robbie Lewis arrives at the Oxford Police Department to a whole new regime when he returns to Oxford after three years in the Caribbean. He has been trying to come to grips with the death of his mentor, Inspector Endeavor Morse (whose series, including specials, ran from 1987 - 2000), and of his wife Valerie, in a London hit-and-run accident. The Chief Superintendent is now Jean Innocent, an abrupt woman who immediately assigns Lewis to a senior training post, though he wants to get back into action. Reluctantly, she allows him to manage a new murder case, but only for three days.
A young math student has been shot in the head at close range while at an Oxford sleep lab to which only a few people have access. The suspect is Danny Griffon, a disturbed but brilliant fellow-student, and the heir to a sports car company which the Japanese are in the process of buying. Lewis (Kevin Whately) and his partner, James Hathaway (Laurence Fox), a former seminarian, investigate this death and several others which occur within the next few days.
Those who loved the Inspector Morse series and who mourned not only the death of Morse, in the final episode, but also of actor John Thaw, in 2002, will be delighted by this spin-off, which gives Morse's sidekick his own series. Actor Kevin Whately continues his self-effacing role, but he also conveys a sense of competence, and his relationship with Hathaway reminds one of Morse as Lewis's mentor. Whately has obviously aged in the seven years since the end of the Morse series, and this serves him in good stead here, providing a sense of gravitas.
The wonderfully intricate plot to this pilot show, as good as the best of the Morse series, keeps the viewer totally involved, and the occasional references to Morse, including a poignant visual reminder via a crossword puzzle which retains the outline of his coffee cup, add to the sense of continuity. The photography is outstanding, though not as dramatic here as it was in the Morse series, and Barrington Pheloung, who did the brilliant music for the Morse series, returns for this series. In England, this pilot was followed by three more episodes in February and March, 2007, and one can only hope these will be made available soon to those of us in the US who long for more of the clever mysteries and wonderful characters we enjoyed with the Morse series. Mary Whipple