Inspector Morse came into Oxford police station frantically searching for Sergeant Lewis. Lewis had already left to go to the house of a murder suspect, where the sergeant would find himself in mortal danger. Without asking for assistance, Morse rushed to his car and drove at speed to the house to which Lewis had gone.
The episode of Morse dated from 1995, mobile phones were readily available. Calls were not cheap, but for essential calls they would have been invaluable. Signal coverage was limited, but Lewis carries no mobile phone that Morse might have tried to call, nor is his car equipped with a radio on which he might be contacted. The culture of the omnipresent phone had not yet developed.
If the script were to be rewritten for the present time, the ever irascible Morse would simply take his phone from his pocket and talk to, or message, Lewis to warn him of the danger and the ensuing tragedy would be avoided.
Watching detective series set in the 1990s is not much different from one set in the 1960s. The possibilities for evidence had advanced, with the use of DNA being admissible from 1984, but information and communication technology were still to make the leaps achieved in the past two decades.
It seems odd that a programme could seem both recent and distant.
It is hard to imagine that Chief Inspector Morse would have been enamoured of smart phones; it’s not hard to imagine him screwing up his face and asking Lewis what juncture the world had reached if such devices now commanded the constant attention of rising generations.
It is said that a single ordinary smart phone has a computing capacity greater than that the Houston Mission Control facility of the Apollo space missions.
In an almost complete absence of voices of opposition, a revolution in human society has taken place. In ten years’ time, it will be hard to imagine what life was like before the smartphone revolution. Even now, there are moments when it is an effort to remember what life was like before the world became accessible from a device a few inches square.
Perhaps there will be no future detective programmes with a following comparable to that of Morse, perhaps those there are will be set in some imagined past rather than being intended to reflect contemporary society. Should there still be fictional detectives in twenty-five years, perhaps they will still get in their car and drive into danger, otherwise they might be very dull.