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When the writer Colin Dexter killed Morse off two years ago, the episode was watched by 13 million viewers.Like his other television dramas - The Sweeney and Kavanagh QC - Thaw brought a subtle blend of humanity and charm to characters which made them exciting, dangerous and all too recognisable.In 1970, he played the lead in John Mc Grath’s Random Happenings in the Hebrides at the Edinburgh Festival, a new play which the Royal Lyceum presented by its then director, Richard Eyre.Also in the cast were John Cairney and Bryden Murdoch.Dexter himself had cameo roles in each episode and the Jag’s number was 248 RPA: was that significant?The series, which ran for 13 years and 33 episodes, won many awards, as did Thaw.Thaw and his sidekick - played by Dennis Waterman - were aggressive, uncompromising and belligerent.
Whenever Morse fell for a lady (and they were invariably stylish county types who had been to the opera the previous evening) they usually turned out to be the murderer.
He didn’t seem to be acting: he portrayed the character with absolute integrity and honesty. Then we found out that Morse’s Christian name was Endeavour (named after Captain Cook’s ship, for some obscure reason).
When, as Morse, Thaw owned up, he did so with a delightful blend of shyness and self-mockery.
As the titles rolled, Morse was left listening to his Wagner in a distraught manner, agonising over what might have been. One of the great attractions of the series was how it teased its audience.
Morse had an erratic relationship with Lewis (Thaw took pleasure in bawling out "Loonies" when things got heavy) but once when the junior was asked why he put up with his boss, Kevin Whatley replied with obvious affection: "Because he’s the best." And that summed up Thaw the actor. The music was, it was alleged, a coded reference to the absence of a Christian name.