When after 13 years, 33 episodes and more than 80 murders Chief Inspector Endeavour Morse (John Thaw) keeled over in an Oxford quad in 2000, his sidekick Kevin Whately failed to leave in his wake. Instead, after some persuasion, he stepped forward to become lead investigator for hit spin-off Lewis. The former Detective Sergeant has not only kept the flame alive – minus the Wagner – he has also appropriated some of Morse’s morose qualities following the death of Mrs Lewis, while sidekick duties have been taken on by enigmatic theology graduate DS James Hathaway (Laurence Fox).
The precedent was set by the Baker Street hero who, in The Final Problem, was tipped over the Reichenbach Falls. Such was the outcry in 1893, author Arthur Conan Doyle had to pen a story explaining how Holmes survived the drop. Of course, Holmes lives on thanks to Benedict Cumberbatch’s modern interpretation in Sherlock, which returns for a second series later this year.
Early series focused on the activities of pathologist Dr Sam Ryan (Amanda Burton) but by series six she was supported by Drs Leo Dalton and Harry Cunningham. Following Burton’s departure in 2004, Dr Nikki Alexander (Emilia Fox) was introduced, who’s been a constant presence at the mortuary slab ever since.
Mark McManus was so indelibly linked with the gruff Glaswegian detective that it would have been unthinkable to recast the role. Various successors have followed at the head of the show, but Alex Norton has made the best fist of it as Matt Burke. The title Taggart still remains as a brand logo.
5. Waking the Dead (2000-11)
The final series may be running at the moment but pathologist Dr Eve Lockhart (Tara FitzGerald) is set to get her own series, The Body Farm, in which she’ll use her private forensics facility to help solve crimes. Keith Allen will star alongside as DI Hale who will be seen seeking Eve’s advice in episode one.
It famously ended on the depressing note of Sam Tyler’s suicide, but his superior Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) was such a force of nature that a sequel followed. Ashes to Ashes introduced Hawes (2008-2010) as a new partner and answered many of the mysteries surrounding Hunt. It also ran for longer than the original show.
The character of PC George Dixon (Jack Warner) was shot and killed by a criminal played by Dirk Bogarde in the 1950 movie The Blue Lamp. But in a case of miraculous resurrection, he was back on the beat for his own long-running TV series.
After years of seeing people pinioned to croquet lawns, impaled with pitchforks and shoved into tumble dryers, John Nettles’s Inspector Tom Barnaby took retirement. Barnaby’s cousin John took over the reins in 2011 and now probes Midsomer’s ridiculously high crime rate with long-standing sidekick Ben Jones.
9. The Gentle Touch (1980-84)
Jill Gascoine became a household name as Maggie Forbes, the widowed single mum who’d grafted her way through the police ranks to become a Detective Inspector with the London force. When the series ended, Forbes transferred to the frivolous and more action-oriented CATS Eyes (1985-87), with Forbes now heading up a trio of Home Office operatives including Leslie Ash and Tracy Louise Ward.
Debuting in the same year as The Gentle Touch, the series title was confusingly the name of a police call-sign rather than the protagonist. Original lead actress Stephanie Turner played Jean Darblay for the first run of episodes, while Anna Carteret took over for the final three series as Kate Longton.