Lewis vs Morse: who’s the better detective?

His latest series sees Lewis notch up as many cases as his mentor – but who has the superior skills?

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As Lewis – the Inspector Morse spin-off starring Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox –  returns for a new series, we’ve decided to solve the mystery of who is actually the better detective…

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1. Number of cases solved

The new series of Lewis reaches an important milestone: by its end, DI Robert Lewis (Kevin Whately) will have solved as many mysteries with current sidekick Hathaway (Laurence Fox) as he did with his boss in Inspector Morse (John Thaw). That’s 33 for each series. But who’s the better sleuth? Both will have taken the lead in cracking cases for exactly the same number of episodes, both will have spent exactly the same amount of time in the title role. Together that’s a total of 132 hours, bringing wrongdoers to book on the mean streets of, er, Oxford. But as Lewis the sidekick often provided inspiration for Morse when solving mysteries (“You’ve done it again, Lewis!”), we’ll have to hand this one to him.

RESULT: Lewis


2. Education

Morse failed to graduate from St John’s College after a failed love affair cost him his scholarship. But his classical education does prove invaluable, particularly when it comes to catching a sociopath using a libretto of The Magic Flute for inspiration. However, his deductive blunders include an occasion when he becomes convinced that a series of murders are inspired by Oedipus the King. Turns out they have nothing to do with Sophocles. Lewis, on the other hand, left school at 15, spent a short while in the Army (where he was a promising boxer) and then joined the police force. As a man used to taking orders from superior officers, he’s at his best when being instructed by the intellectually superior Morse.

WINNER: Morse


3. Women

One of eternal bachelor Morse’s major flaws is his knack of falling for either the murder victim or the killer. Even when it looks as though he’s finally found love with Adele Cecil (their fling lasted two whole episodes!), he once again manages to mess it up. Lewis is unlikely to have his head turned by any femme fatale, being devoted to wife Val. He even spends the first seven series of his spin-off series grieving her death from a hit-and-run,  and has only recently managed to move on after hooking up with pathologist Dr Laura Hobson.

WINNER: Lewis


 4. Cars

Morse’s vintage Jaguar – registration 248 RPA – was old even when the series started in 1987. In 11 years he never changed it, the regency red Mark 2 Jaguar becoming one of the most recognisable vehicles on TV, even if it was, according to John Thaw, a “beggar to drive”. No such problems for Lewis, who gets standard-issue saloon cars for the spin-off. Although it is revealed in the 2014 episode Entry Wounds that he spent some time of his retirement restoring a wooden canoe!

WINNER: Morse


 5. Best boss

A notoriously stingy Morse is rarely seen buying Lewis a drink, even in the days when a pint cost £1. In fact, Lewis is barely ever allowed a pint of ale – having to make do with an orange juice thanks to his role as designated driver and general dogsbody. Lewis, though, ends up being a much more benevolent boss to Hathaway and even becomes a police consultant to lend a helping hand when young James is struggling with promotion. All in all, you’d much rather have Lewis as your superior officer than Morse.

RESULT: Lewis


6. Sidekicks

Morse spends seven entire series and five specials being exasperated by Lewis, barring one episode in which he’s paired with PC Adrian Kershaw (Matthew Finney). For the spin-off, Lewis has been mostly assisted by the enigmatic Hathaway (below), although a recent series has seen DS Lizzie Maddox (Angela Griffin) added to the line-up. So that’s two sidekicks each.

RESULT: a draw


7. Quirks

For Morse, these are plentiful: his Jaguar car, opera, The Archers, poetry, classics and cryptic crosswords. Aside from being hard-working and essentially decent, Lewis’s personality traits are in short supply: he likes rock band Midnight Addiction, gets to inherit some of his late boss’s melancholy following the death of his wife Val and is a good enough cricketer to go under cover for a college team. But he mainly gets by on his easy-going, everyman charm.

WINNER: Morse


8. Vices

It’s the excessive drinking that finally does for Morse. All too used to liquid lunches and bottles of Glenfiddich in the evening, Morse ends up dying of complications from diabetes, exacerbated by too much alcohol. His other vice is a liking for pornography, particularly in the novels, where he often seems to be pursuing leads in London’s Soho. Lewis is a much more clean-living character, his main flaws being – in Morse’s eyes – cultural philistinism and an inability to master his subjunctives. He also has a love of chips and fast driving. And – perhaps most heinously – is seen wearing a horribly garish shirt after he returns from a stint working in the British Virgin Islands.

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WINNER: Morse


AND THE WINNER IS… Morse

Not that he’d be all that happy about it. Instead of celebrating, he’s more likely to slope off home alone to tackle a particularly fiendish Times crossword, while supping Radford’s ale and listening to Wagner… But you can’t please everybody.