Watching the Detectives: Lewis

 

 

 

 

Unusually, LEWIS, who was originally Morse's Detective Sergeant, is not really based on a fictional character at all. He was, originally, a 60-year old Welshman in the original Colin Dexter Inspector Morse series, but when they came to make the Morse TV series, he was transformed into a young Geordie with a family, acting as a foil to Morse's terse loner. It worked perfectly, and Kevin Whately's portrayal of Lewis was so successful that following Morse's demise, the producers decided to make a LEWIS series. Despite rumours to the contrary, a sixth series is under production, which is very good news indeed. Lewis is a British television detective drama made as a spin-off from Inspector Morse, and set  in Oxford. Kevin Whately reprises his character Robert "Robbie" Lewis, who had been Morse's Sergeant in the original series. Lewis has now been promoted and is assisted by DS James Hathaway (Laurence Fox). The series is produced for ITV. Following the airing of a pilot in 2006, a first series of three episodes was broadcast in February/March 2007. A second series of four episodes aired in early 2008. A third series of four episodes was aired on ITV1 and ITV-HD from March–April 2009, but for some reason this was not shown in Scotland. A fourth series aired throughout the UK (including ITV1-HD where available) from 2 May 2010, and a fifth series from 3 April 2011, each again of four episodes. In June 2011, ITV announced that a sixth series of 4 episodes has been commissioned for airing in 2012. PBS broadcasts the series, as Inspector Lewis, in the United States and British Columbia, Canada, as part of its Masterpiece Mystery series. Like most successful detectives, Lewis relies on his assistant, DS Hathaway, using him to bounce ideas off, and occasionally Hathaway has flashes of genius, but it's generally Lewis who solves the mysteries, and in this respect he is like Barnaby (the original Jim Barnaby, played by John Nettles). Lewis does appear in the original Morse novels, but you wouldn't recognise him. Kevin Whately played the part to perfection in Morse, and has more than come into his own in his own spin-off series. The series is stylish and stately, and invariably involves an upper-middle-class or even aristocratic backdrop, either in one of the Oxford colleges or in a nearby stately home, most of which are well known to James Hathaway, of course. This series works perfectly because of the chemistry between Lewis and Hathaway, and because of the extremely strong supporting cast, with Lewis's boss, Chief Superintendent Jean Innocent played by Rebecca Front, and pathologist Dr Laura Hobson, with whom Robbie Lewis now has a serious relationship, played by Claire Holman. All five series so far shown on ITV and ITV-HD are available on DVD, with 5.1 Surround sound, they do not appear to be in high definition.  

 

It is regrettable that no novelisations of any of the Lewis series have been written, and this would appear to be a serious oversight. The TV series is immensely popular and fans would, I am sure, welcome the opportunity to read Lewis novels, though how this could be achieved without Colin Dexter's input is hard to imagine. There is plenty of Lewis fanfiction at fanfiction.net, but I would personally steer clear of it - it is mostly rubbish, and like most fan fiction, often descends into an excuse for unlicensed sex and distasteful flash fiction. For the time being, it seems, we must be content with watching the magnificent Kevin Whately as Chief Inspector Robbie Lewis and the fantastic Laurence Fox as DS Hathaway. For me, Lewis was always the best character in the Morse TV series, and the LEWIS TV series is among the very best detective drama on television - long may it continue. Press Release: Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox's Lewis has been picked up for another series by ITV1. The Morse spinoff, which has been a regular ratings hit for the broadcaster, features Whately and Fox as Oxford's Inspector Robbie Lewis and DS James Hathaway. Three new titles for the series have been revealed as 'Generation of Vipers', 'The Age of Foolishness' and 'Death of the Author'. 'Vipers' has been penned by Patrick Harbinson, while Rachel Bennette, Simon Block and Russell Lewis teamed up for the other episodes. "Lewis and Hathaway have become a formidable partnership not only in terms of cracking murders cases, but also in terms of their popularity with ITV1 viewers, " said ITV's controller of drama commissioning Sally Haynes.  "We're thrilled they are returning to work on some great new stories." Exec producer Michele Buck said: "Lewis and Hathaway's partnership has grown in popularity with every series as viewers enjoy the fine writing, acting and excellent production values Lewis has to offer." David O'Neill (Law & Order) has been unveiled as the director of episode one, while Toby Stephens (Die Another Day) is the first guest star confirmed for the latest run. Morse creator Colin Dexter will continue to act as consultant for the series.

Pilot: The drama began with a one-off pilot, written by Stephen Churchett from an idea by Russell Lewis, with Morse creator Colin Dexter in a consultant's role. As a result of the pilot's success, ITV announced a full series of three new episodes. Lewis returns from overseas, having come to terms with the loss not only of Morse, but also of his wife Val (killed in a hit and run incident). The pilot introduces the key new characters, Hathaway and Innocent. Throughout the course of sixteen episodes produced so far, a bond of trust, first professional and later (and lesser degree) personal, is seen to grow between Lewis and Hathaway.

Series one:

1. Whom The Gods Would Destroy

Lewis and Hathaway investigate a murder involving a group called the Sons of the Twice Born named after an epithet of Dionysus relating to his birth, whose activities are shrouded in Greek codes, quotes from Nietzsche and a Dionysian fondness for drugs. The title is part of a quotation mis-attributed to Euripides - the full quotation is Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad. (q:Euripides)

2. Old School Ties

When an ambitious Oxford student is found dead in her hotel room after inviting a reformed computer hacker to speak at the Union, Lewis and Hathaway are called in to investigate. The pair are soon drawn into a case driven by celebrity, ambition and dangerous sexual politics, which strikes alarming chords with Lewis.

3. Expiation

Lewis and Hathaway investigate the alleged suicide of a housewife living in Summertown.

 

Series two

1. And The Moonbeams Kiss The Sea

Lewis and Hathaway investigate the death of a maintenance engineer found shot in the head in the basement of the Bodleian Library. A search of the dead man's house reveals a stash of valuable volumes and a connection to the local gamblers anonymous group, with further probing exposing a scam involving two Oxford academics.

2. Music To Die For

Lewis and Hathaway are called in to investigate a boxing scam, a close link to Lewis' old boss, Inspector Morse, and a love triangle linked to the Stasi.

3. Life Born Of Fire

Lewis investigates when a devout young Christian desecrates a church by committing suicide on its altar, claiming in a call to the police that it was "murder". Hathaway recognises him as Will McEwan, an old school friend. As the detectives delve deeper, a series of gruesome murders occur, all involving members of "The Garden", a modern Christian club, and Hathaway, who once trained for the priesthood, appears to know a lot more than he is willing to tell his boss.

4. The Great And The Good

Following the rape of a teenage girl, Lewis and Hathaway stumble across the curious private dinner parties of high school computer technician Oswald Cooper, who ends up being brutally murdered and castrated after entertaining several highly respected society figures.

 

Series Three

1. Allegory of Love

A Czech barmaid is found slashed to death by an antique Persian mirror, paralleling an incident in a newly published fantasy novel Boxlands, which was inspired by the childhood stories of C.S. Lewis (after whose book The Allegory of Love the episode is named). When the author's fiancée finds her life under threat from a shadowy stalker, Lewis suspects that the first murder was a case of mistaken identity, and must work fast before the killer returns to rectify the mistake.

2. The Quality Of Mercy

A preview performance of a student production of The Merchant of Venice is cut short when the actor playing Shylock is stabbed to death with a prop knife. The victim was a womaniser and drug-user who, when he could not borrow money, stole instead. Lewis and Hathaway are working their way through a lengthy list of suspects when another person connected to the play is killed. In a separate investigation involving a con man, Hathaway faces a dilemma involving Lewis's past.

3. The Point Of Vanishing

Lewis and Hathaway look into the murder of a man found beaten and drowned in his bath, with massive burns due to the boiling water. The deceased is identified as a man who once attempted to murder Tom Rattenbury, a celebrated atheist, but instead crippled Rattenbury's daughter, Jessica. The investigation is not helped by Rattenbury's ambitious and over-protective wife. A Renaissance painting, The Hunt in the Forest (also known as The Hunt by Night or simply The Hunt) by the Italian artist Paolo Uccello, is a key clue in the mystery. It is perhaps the best-known painting in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England.

4. Counter Culture Blues

An ageing pop star causes complaints when he fires off his hunting rifle and disturbs the local Sunday service. When he goes to caution him, Lewis is shocked to encounter Esme Ford, a rock singer he had once admired, who was believed to have drowned years ago. The body of a teenage boy, who has been repeatedly run over by a vehicle, points to a connection with members of Esme's old band.

 

Series Four The four episodes of Series 4 were filmed in the summer and autumn of 2009, and began airing on May 2, 2010.

1. The Dead of Winter

After a body is found on an Oxford tour bus, Lewis and Hathaway are led to Crevecoeur Hall, a sprawling Oxford estate where Hathaway spent much of his childhood.

2. Dark Matter

When Andrew Crompton, amateur astronomer and Master of Gresham College, is found dead at the foot of the University Observatory stairs, Lewis and Hathaway find that the finger of suspicion points at all the staff - from tutors right down to the head porter and the college scouts. Lewis uncovers a college-wide blackmail plot and is confused by a mysterious astronomical conundrum. Hobson is unexpectedly drawn into the case while rehearsing for a performance with a local orchestra at the college.

3. Your Sudden Death Question

Over an August Bank Holiday, an empty Oxford college is the venue for a weekend attended by professional quiz contestants. Though both have personal plans for the weekend; Lewis going out of town to attend a play, and Hathaway a rock concert, they are called in when outstanding competitor Ethan Croft is found floating dead in the college fountain. They learn that Croft was an outrageous flirt with a number of secrets, and the pair race to uncover the killer before the gathering breaks up. Meanwhile, Hathaway discovers that Lewis was planning a romantic weekend at Glyndebourne with a mystery date. On the side Lewis assists Hathaway in retrieving his vintageGibson guitar, which was stolen from his car while at the rock concert.

4. Falling Darkness

On Halloween night, a university friend of pathologist Laura Hobson is found staked through the heart. During their investigation, Lewis and Hathaway are approached by a medium who claims that they are in grave danger. The following day a student is murdered in the house that Hobson shared with her university friends, and a clue at the crime scene leads Lewis and Hathaway to a third victim. As the body count rises Lewis and Hathaway are forced to acknowledge that Hobson might know more about the deaths than she is letting on.

 

 

 
 
 
 

Volume 15 No. 3 March 2012

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THE SMALL PRINT: Books Monthly is published on or before the first day of every month and contains news and reviews of new and forthcoming books, together with information on classic books and series. It has been on the web since 1998. Contributions to Books Monthly are welcome but I regret there is no payment as no money is made from this site. Short stories, longer stories (which could be serialised), feature articles and book reviews are particularly welcome. Use the "contact me" link in the menu above to get in touch. Publishers wishing to submit books for review should also contact me via email in the first instance, and I will supply a delivery address. I generally close the magazine to new reviews on the 20th of each month. Books received after that date will be carried over to the next month, although I may include them for information purposes only. Books Monthly is copyright © Paul Norman. Articles, stories and reviews submitted by other people remain their own copyright. All artwork including book covers included in Books Monthly is copyright © the various publishers and artists. Where possible, permission is sought from artists to include their work on the site.