Inspector Morse (1987–2000)
4 user 1 critic

The Infernal Serpent 

An environmentalist professor is mugged and later dies of a heart attack after an attack on campus just prior to a controversial debate.


John Madden


Colin Dexter (characters), Alma Cullen

On Disc

at Amazon




Episode cast overview, first billed only:
John Thaw ... Chief Inspector Morse
Kevin Whately ... Detective Sergeant Lewis
Geoffrey Palmer ... Matthew Copley-Barnes
David Neal ... Dr. Julian Dear
Barbara Leigh-Hunt ... Blanche Copley-Barnes
Pearce Quigley ... Mick McGovern
Michael Attwell ... Parsons
Cheryl Campbell ... Sylvie Maxton
John Joyce John Joyce ... Mr. Gray
Ian Brimble ... Phil Hopkirk
Tom Wilkinson ... Jake Normington
Irene Richard ... Imogen Garrett
George Costigan ... Ron Garrett
Denys Hawthorne Denys Hawthorne ... Chief Superintendent Rennie
Sydnee Blake Sydnee Blake ... Mrs. McGovern


Morse and Lewis investigate the death of Dr. Julian Dear, a senior fellow at an Oxford college. Dear was to participate in a debate on the evening of his death, where he was headed when attacked, suffered a fatal heart attack during what appeared to be a mugging. The College's Master, Matthew Copley-Barnes comes upon a young man leaning over the body of Dear, and the young man pushes the Master aside in his escape. Morse soon learns that Copley-Barnes has been receiving strange packages, and also that the College has large investments in Corby International, a major bio-agricultural/chemical firm. These facts and the interest of a well-known journalist, Sylvie Maxton, writing an article about the Master leads Morse to a complex cover up of scientific information as well as the discovery of a long-hidden tragedy. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Mystery







Release Date:

3 January 1990 (UK) See more »

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Did You Know?


The master, Copley-Barnes, appears in the Endeavour episode "Trove," set 25 years previously, as a supercilious prof. See more »


Detective Sergeant Lewis: Why didn't he come to us about his kid?
Chief Inspector Morse: They owned him, he had no power. Not a soul would have believed him.
See more »


Referenced in Endeavour: Trove (2014) See more »

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User Reviews

An Outstanding Episode
16 June 2006 | by johnmbaleSee all my reviews

This is one of the best episodes featuring the gruff but cultured Inspector Morse and his sidekick Lewis, in arguably the cleverest Detective series on the box. The cast is splendid, Thaw and Whately are excellent as usual, Thaw plays Morse with his usual comfortable ease, they are ably supported by Geoffrey Palmer is at home with his portrayal of the unpleasant Master, Barbara Leigh-Hunt as his dithering wife, Cheryl Campbell as the attractive Silvie, and Tom Wilkinson as the Music Master. All fine characterizations that would please Colin Dexter himself.

The intriguing plot set as usual in Oxford, has the academic overtones expected, with sudden death, incest, and various false leads typical ingredients. But what makes this episode outstanding is its text book example of good Television technique, the use of extreme close shots to observe the characters expressions, the fluid camera work, tight editing and direction, all work exceedingly well for the small screen. If you are a Morse fan, don't miss this one.

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