By Reece Goodall - The Boar
I’ve referred to it in previous entries of this series blog, but it’s worth emphasising once again that this series of Endeavour has really felt like a cohesive whole in a way that other series haven’t. Sure, we’ve had the odd scenes here and there in past series (the Freemasons claiming pieces of evidence, Sheila Hancock reading tarot cards), but these have mostly been pre-credits stingers – this fifth series, by contrast, has placed a number of threads in its episodes that add a far greater sense of unity. The latest instalment, ‘Colours,’ deals with one of these narrative threads – questions of racism – in another strong piece of television.
At a photoshoot at a nearby army base, one of the young models goes missing and is soon found murdered – suspicion falls on the soldiers who were assigned the job of protecting them, one of whom is Sam Thursday (Jack Bannon). As Supt. Bright tells DCI Thursday that he is too close to events and encourages him to take a backseat, Morse, Strange and Fancy take charge of the investigation. Things are soon complicated by further deaths and the discovery that the murdered model is, in fact, the stepdaughter of Lady Bayswater (Caroline Goodall), a Nazi sympathiser who is helping inflame racial tensions in Oxford.
‘Colours’ felt, to me at least, the least focused on the case of any episode this series – it is concerned more with character work and the political framework that Endeavour is building (although we had a week without Eddie Nero stuff – a comment about him laying low was the end of it). That’s not to say that the case was weak – it was typically strong, with a conclusion that felt earned without being a giveaway. I didn’t massively enjoy the apprehension of the criminal – I thought it was a tired device and one that was obvious about an hour earlier.
No, the focus was on our characters. For fans of Morse, there is something quite upsetting about his happiness with photographer Claudine (Claire Ganaye), seeing as we know it’s not going to last (although it does make for a nice pairing). Fancy and Trewlove appear to be getting a bit closer, and their chemistry is very sweet. We also boasted strong work by a number of the guest stars, Goodall as Lady Bayswater in particular – she brings nuance and conviction to a very hateable character, making her believable rather than a fascist caricature. There was also strong work from our soldier characters, Iain Pirie as Lt. Col. McDuff amongst them. There is a tendency in crime dramas to make soldier characters obstructive officious bureaucrats but, in ‘Colours,’ they felt developed and all-too human.
It’s the hints of the Thursday storyline that may have the biggest weight going forwards. It was good to see Bannon back as Sam, and Joan briefly crops up being arrested at an antiracism protest, but we may have larger ramifications at the head of the family. Win is pushing Fred to retire and, as I’ve mentioned in previous episode reviews, it seems his character has been taking a backseat this series. It would be a shame to lose Allam, because he’s always brilliant, but I fear that’s where we’re heading.
I could sing the praises of the production design and the sheer overall quality of ‘Colours,’ but I’d probably be becoming a bit of a broken record – Endeavour is so strong every week, and so good at balancing its individual elements, that even an episode that feels weaker in certain areas (the case) makes for a strong whole. I’m really intrigued to see where we head next – this fifth season is the first to boast more than four episodes, so we’ll be heading into unprecedented ground next week.
By Reece Goodall - The Boar
Two separate killings strike Oxford. The first, the brutal murder of an old security guard during a lorry hijacking, infuriates Thursday with the senseless level of violence involved. In response, a team from the robbery division arrives to help the force try to solve the case. Morse, meanwhile, is distracted by a missing person’s investigation that soon turns up a body – the woman, strangled to death by the train tracks, her shoes stolen. A mystery lover who claims to have known the dead woman under a different name is identified but, after several similarities emerge with the killing of a schoolgirl, Morse suspects that there may be more going on.
‘Passenger’ feels like an episode of two distinct halves – the first half is the main case, and it is classic Endeavour. Thursday encourages Morse to follow the leads because he wants to deny robbery his best man, and so he mainly solves this case. As always, I shall provide no spoilers, but the ending is once again incredibly satisfying (I never cease to be impressed with the clues in Endeavour – they are logical and realistic, but require some actual thought to figure out).
The second strand – the lorry hijacking – appears that it will shape things later on in the series. Fancy investigates the case with the two robbery detectives (led by DI Ronnie Box (Simon Harrison, playing it suitably smarmy)), and receives a tiny bit of information from WPC Trewlove. He finds a low-level dealer of stolen supplies and arranges to buy some gear from him – the dealer is quickly and brutally killed, and it seems we may be building up to a clash of criminal gangs. We’ve already encountered Eddie Nero, but Thursday rapidly dismisses him as a suspect because of the level of gratuitous violence involved in the murders – add in the fact that Dr DeBryn states that killing is similar to that of one of Nero’s men last episode, and things are likely to start heating up.
A key element of ‘Passenger,’ and seemingly the fifth season of Endeavour, is the changing world. We’ve ended the past couple of episodes on radio reports of assassinations, and there seems to be a distinct clash between ideas and attitudes towards the world (aesthetically, too – compare the psychedelic tones of Marty Bedlow’s (Hadley Fraser) shop to the period trains and buses). This contrast is an underlying theme throughout the episode and the series thus far, and it will be interesting to see how it affects some of our characters – most notably, Superintendent Bright.
Bright is the subject of a key scene this episode. He clashes with Box in his office regarding some appalling sexist abuse of WPC Trewlove, and Box makes a slew of allegations about him and Trewlove (allegations of a nature that I’ve never seen hinted at since Blue Richards joined the show). Bright, rightly offended, orders Box to leave the station – Box responds by informing him that the future of policing will be results-driven, rather than caring particularly about the procedure. If this is something that we see pursued later on, I fear there may not be much of a place left for Bright, and that would be a shame given the quiet strength of Anton Lesser’s performance.
Shaun Evans always gets his own little moment to showcase his acting, and it once again connects to Joan Thursday. Here, she invites him to her housewarming, and they share a nice moment on the roof, but it seems that Morse is still unable to process his feelings for her. Unknowing, she sets him up with one of her friends, a French photographer called Claudine – he refuses the offer, but appears to bump into her on the street below. Perhaps there may be a bit more romance in the air for Morse this series? ‘Passenger’ was not perfect TV – more could have been done with the character of Cedric, the trainspotter, for example – but it was a typically strong and enjoyable episode of Endeavour. Even as the show is shifting into a darker time period, it stills proves itself to be relaxing Sunday evening viewing.
By Reece Goodall - The Boar
Time for a trip to the movies – this week’s Endeavour has a decidedly theatrical touch about it, with film stars and affectionate jabs at horror rocking up throughout the episode. It’s a typically strong outing, and includes more humour and the touch of both darkness and sadness that the show can do well.
Oxford plays host to a veteran film actor, star of an iconic horror movie about a murderous Egyptian mummy, who is in town to visit a local cinema. The death of a retired policeman turns out to be one of a series of murders linked to the film, which offers the newly-promoted DS Morse a fresh case to pursue, putting him up against a supposed curse and a haunted cartouche. Morse and DCI Thursday must also take on racists who have targeted Oxford’s Kenyan Asian population, and the chief inspector finds his hospitality put to the test when the family pays a visit.
Writer Russell Lewis is so good at putting together these stories – they are difficult to solve but never feel as though their solutions are unearned, and tonight is one such mystery. We head through a case that takes a few different tacks – the curse and an aggrieved Egyptian archaeologist, past arrests of the murdered policeman, the potential target being the film star – before leading to a surprisingly powerful conclusion (again, the killer is more sympathetic than you would expect). On the crime front, Eddie Nero also makes a reappearance – we’ll await the episode that sees him being taken down, and hope that this slow building is worth it.
On the emotion front, Thursday has a lot to do. His more jovial side comes out as he deals with his extended family, but Allam really succeeds in playing him as attempting to be stoic. He has two such scenes in this episode – dealing with his brother (Phil Daniels) asking for a loan, and a brief conversation with his daughter as he tries to reconcile his concern for her with his efforts not to meddle too much in her life – the relationship between the two that has been built up in previous series makes this disconnect all the more hard-hitting. Allam is always superb, but he is greater than superb in these moments.
As Morse, Evans has a bit more to do than usual because of a spark of romance – he spends a night with a young woman who turns out to be Thursday’s niece Carol (Emma Rigby), and is tasked with showing her around the city. A more caring side to him is shown, and seems all the more caring because it is contrasted with him still not being fond of DC Fancy. Fancy is shown here having a bit too much to drink on assignment, and questioning why he should bother being thorough when investigating what he believes is an obviously natural death – I get that we’re meant to think Morse is being a bit of a grump, but I find myself siding with him on this one. (There is also a degree of sadness for fans of Morse – young Morse laments the lonely death of the policeman, to be told by Thursday that the same won’t happen to him because he’ll ‘make better choices’ – tragically, we know this isn’t the case.)
I found some of the stuff on prejudice and racism to be a bit heavy-handed (if entirely accurate) – Bright (Anton Lesser) and Thursday discuss it in the former’s office and Bright gives off a little spiel about why hatred in any form is hatred. He’s not wrong, but it comes quite early on and just feels like it’s making a point – a point that, annoyingly, isn’t really returned to in the episode. The plot thread of the racist thugs is somewhat underdone, and it’s a shame given the strength of the rest of the episode.
‘Cartouche’ is a typically enjoyable Endeavour, and the film flourishes couple with 60s Oxford to make an episode that feels both glamorous and gripping. Bolstered by the usual strong performances and plot, Endeavour again proves why it is a highlight of Sunday night television.
By Phil Cunnington - Lancashire Post
After the President’s Club, and grid girls, and Harvey Weinstein, and equal pay at the BBC, it seems there is anational debate under way about male privilege, the abuse of power and the rights of women. So it’s seems right that one of the nation’s favourite dramas had something to say on the issue. The odd thing, however, is that it wasn’t Coronation Street, or Holby City, or EastEnders, it was ‘60s nostalgia fest Endeavour (ITV, Sundays, 8pm).
It’s get everything you would expect from a classy drama set in the swinging ’60s – chrome-bumpered cars, miniskirts, psychedelic happenings – but this week’s episode also had trenchant things to say about the sexual revolution and casual misogyny.
All of this was built around a finely-tooled whodunnit involving Faberge eggs, secret societies, and those staples of British drama, wealth, class and snobbery.
As a prequel to much-loved Inspector Morse, you can see how Shaun Evans’ grumpy young sergeant could develop into John Thaw’s grumpy old inspector, but it has a quicker pace than the earlier series, it’s sharper and more pointed. Roger Allam’s Inspector Thursday tells a suspect, one of the member of the secret society: “A bunch of middle-aged academics prancing around in pretty waistcoats calling each other daft names? I’ve got more time for the Tufty Club.”
So yes, you could enjoy Endeavour as a you might enjoy a mug of hot chocolate – a soothing balm for the troubled soul. But for me – and this is the first time I watched it – Endeavour is much more than that. It’s a con act, smuggling in important modern themes under a sheen of history.
By Angela Kelly - The Bolton News
SEQUELS to popular series are not unusual but it’s a rare pre-quel that catches viewers’ attention and is also a critical success.
Endeavour, though, is one of those rarities as Shaun Evans returns to Sunday evening screens as the young Morse, finding his way through Oxford City Police CID in the macho 1960s.
It’s a tribute to the acting talents of Evans and his boss, DI Fred Thursday (the always brilliant Roger Allam) that the series which began in 2012 is becoming as popular as John Thaw’s original Inspector Morse series of 1987 to 2000.
It’s actually easy to see young Morse as a completely separate individual with only some shared traits, a love of classical music and whisky being the notable ones.
John Thaw was a fine actor and he made the Colin Dexter character very much his own but it shouldn’t detract from the achievements of Shaun Evans who has an impressive stillness and depth about him that means he will be around for a very long time.
By Reece Goodall - The Boar
It’s Oxford, 1968, and things are changing – the city police have been combined with the country force to create the new Thames Valley Constabulary, and DS Morse (Shaun Evans) has been asked to work with a young new detective, DC George Fancy (Lewis Peek). The force is nice and busy, too – Morse is asked to look into the attempted theft of Faberge’s last great masterpiece, Nastya’s Egg, at a college. Morse is happy to consider the break-in as a student prank, but the grisly deaths of a gangster and the academic looking after the sale of the egg cause him to believe something else is going on. The investigation leads to a mysterious woman in a white coat, and a sordid undercurrent of Oxford society.
‘Muse’ is a typical Endeavour mystery – strongly-plotted and (unlike a good deal of crime shows) not easily guessable. Writer Russell Lewis has crafted a tale with some grisly murders, and rooted them in a motivation that is both incredibly timely (at the risk of being a bit too spoilerific, airing this episode after the events at the Presidents Club must be a stroke of fate) and all-too believable. It’s rare that a crime show can create a sympathetic killer and actually have you feel sympathy for them – ‘Muse’ is an example of this done extremely well.
Aside from the central mystery, there is also a decent quantity of character development. Evans and Roger Allam (as Morse’s mentor, DI Fred Thursday) continue to impress, and the strong relationship between the two has really been a lynchpin of this show since its inception. The two must deal with the reappearance of Joan, Thursday’s daughter – the spectre of Morse’s refused marriage proposal still hangs over him and their reunion, whereas Thursday masks a great deal of fatherly concern behind his stolid demeanour.
I can’t claim I massively liked Fancy throughout this episode – he is played well, but the character is cocky, and immediately rubs Morse the wrong way (fans of the original series of Inspector Morse will appreciate Morse’s refusal to suffer fools gladly – John Thaw’s character is shining through here). Morse has always struggled to fit in with his colleagues (leading to an interesting Odd Couple-style set-up with Strange), but his relationship with Jakes in the first two series started the same way, so there’s still hope for the character yet.
I’d also like to highlight the performance of Charlotte Hope in this episode – she plays an artist’s model and a part-time prostitute who has some key relevance to the case, and her interrogation scene with Morse before the detectives figure out what is going on is supremely well-acted (and the best part of a strong episode).
Much though I loved it, there was a big issue for me in this episode – we have prostitutes going by the names of Biblical temptresses, and deaths which were clearly Biblically-inspired, but it took Morse most of the episode to realise this. I know that it would be asking a lot for a chunk of modern audiences to pick up on this, but I find it hard to believe that Morse of all people wouldn’t clock on to the obvious theme to the murders.
‘Muse’ is a strong return for Endeavour – it offers a compelling mystery, and sets up enough plot and character threads to hint at where the season will head. Morse will have to figure out how to incorporate Fancy into the team, and he and Thursday must deal with the return of Joan. There are suggestions that criminal Eddie Nero will crop up throughout the series, and that the police merger will shake up Morse’s world of work. It remains to be seen how this will develop throughout the series but if the rest of the episodes are as strong as ‘Muse,’ we’re in for a top run.
By Sam Wollaston for The Guardian
You know how sometimes even the most adventurous foodie just fancies cheese on toast for tea – familiar, comforting, English and a little old-fashioned, especially on a Sunday night? Well, it can be like that with television, too. Nothing too innovative tonight, please, no parallel universes or subtitles. Murder, oh yes, you need a dunnit in order to ask who, but not too graphic or weird. The sex should be hinted at, rather than actually done. Endeavour? Perfect.
The Inspector Morse prequel, now in its fifth series, has reached 1968, where the Rolling Stones are on the radio. Not that young Morse (Shaun Evans) is doing much swinging or spending the night together with anyone. Promoted to DS in the new Thames Valley force, he is more sure of himself and grumpier than before, further along the journey towards Colin Dexter/John Thaw’s character. He has no time outside work for much apart from opera and the crossword, certainly no time for the new boy: cocky, young DC George Fancy, whose focus is mainly on what he calls “crumpet” – and he is not talking comforting teatime treats.
Victim No 1, a former boxer, has been shot, then a metal spike hammered into his ear. Ouch. The next, a history don, has been stabbed in the eye with a steak knife. Both eyes. “Eye eye,” says Dr Max DeBryn (I love James Bradshaw’s DeBryn, sort of Endeavour’s Gil Grissom in CSI Oxford).
Murder No 3 tops the lot, or rather does not – he has been decapitated, body left in the bed, head under a silver cloche. For your main course … head of art dealer! We don’t see it, of course – this is Endeavour, not Game of Thrones. We see the disgust on the faces of Morse and DI Thursday (Roger Allam); secondhand gruesomeness.
Turns out these murders are all inspired by the biblical paintings of Artemisia Gentileschi, who turned the horrors of her own life into scenes of women’s vengeance on the men at whose hands they had suffered.
Now, a modern-day (well, 1960s) Gentileschi, Ruth Astor, is exacting revenge on the members of a vile men’s dining club, like something between the Bullingdon and the Presidents Club – worse, even, if that is possible. Never has murder seemed so just or such fun. Go on, one more, he is the worst of the lot, rock to the skull, bash.
Has Endeavour suddenly found relevance in the real world, then? Let’s not get carried away – it is a whodunnit, but a clever and excellently crafted one (by Russell Lewis), with plenty of whydunnit, too. I like Shaun Evans’s new pricklier Morse and the lovely period detail: not just the cars and the telephone exchange, but in the attitudes of the day.
So, familiar, maybe, and comforting (as comforting as murder can be). But it is also really good. If it were cheese on toast, it would be made with the finest English cheddar and there would be some kind of pickle.
By CHRISTOPHER STEVENS REVIEWS FOR THE DAILY MAIL
There’s a whole sub-division of the internet devoted to something known as ‘shipping’, where fans depict their favourite pop stars and movie characters entwined in romantic relationships.
The internet’s an odd place, but it’s a fair bet that no one has expended much energy on imagining young Sergeant Morse and his matey rival Sergeant Strange cuddled up together by a roaring fire.
Playful as ever, Endeavour (ITV) returned with the two coppers facing each other uneasily over the breakfast table, both avoiding the other’s gaze, like embarrassed colleagues after an office party has led to an unplanned fling.
To tease us a bit more, a glance at Morse’s desk calendar told us this was April 1, 1968.
But no fooling — Morse (Shaun Evans) really has moved in with the stolid Strange (Sean Rigby), to halve the rent while they both save for mortgage deposits.
Contrary to what millennials might believe, even buying a house 50 years ago demanded every penny you could scrape together, and then some.
Still, perhaps there’s hope for these two as a couple. Strange has even started leaving a bowl of shepherd’s pie in the oven for his flatmate when he gets home.
Now in its fifth series, this superlative murder-mystery drama excels because its characters are deep and real, not anonymous parts in a kit that writers can swap in and out.
Other long-running crime shows, such as Silent Witness or New Tricks, could replace anyone and barely notice — but not Endeavour.
Best of the lot is world-weary DI Fred Thursday, a man on first-name terms with every criminal in Oxford, yet utterly incorruptible.
In a less subtle show, Thursday would be a two-dimensional oaf, a prop and dogsbody whose chief job is to applaud when his young protege catches the killer.
But with the brilliant Roger Allam in the role, Thursday is the emotional heart of the drama.
We admire Morse, but we love his boss, a good man crushed by the weight of things he has seen. His verdict on three years in the vice squad — ‘no job for a family man’ — could have been trite.
Allam made it sound tragic.
Endeavour is also the wittiest crime show on TV.
It’s clever, of course: we expect the crossword clues, the classical allusions and the donnish jokes.
The scripts deliver much more than that — including, this time, a running gag about a Pink Panther-style jewel thief called the Shadow, and a ladies’ man called Fancy who joined the police, he claims, ‘for the social life and the crumpet’.
The look of contemptuous disgust at that on Morse’s face was a perfect echo of John Thaw.
SHAUN EVANS may well be the most modest actor on television. This of course is no bad thing but after five years as the lead on one of ITV’s most successful crime dramas, Endeavour, he turns out to be the last person to crow about his efforts. So we will do it on his behalf. Not only has Evans now successfully inhabited the shoes of John Thaw as Endeavour Morse but he has completely won over the viewing public, too.
By DAVID STEPHENSON - SUNDAY EXPRESS
The most recent films were broadcast last year, marking the 30th anniversary of Inspector Morse on ITV. Despite strong competition from BBC One, it got impressive ratings with almost seven million viewers, or a quarter of the available audience. That’s the highest since 2014.
The show, not surprisingly, was recommissioned for a fifth series, returning tonight, with the first of six films. That’s two more than last year, or 12 hours of television. Only ITV’s Vera rivals Endeavour for popularity when it comes to the single detective, now surely classed as a “minority group” on TV.
I catch up with ITV’s most cherished young detective while he’s filming in a field for another project, with a minor gale blowing around his ears.
As ever Evans wears lightly the prospect of two extra films: “Well, as an actor you have to make sure that you keep the freshness over the long shoot.”
Which indeed they do, with another quality production design, picking up the splendid period detail from 1968, the year in which the first story is set.
“Without a doubt everyone in the crew loves the show,” says Evans. “Each year, at end of the shoot, we talk about the series because it is not like we’re signed to six-year contracts on the drama. It doesn’t work like that.
“You have to make sure you have good viewing figures. Everyone on it is committed to keeping the excellence of the work: the actors, directors and the execs. And pretty much, the same crew has been on it since the start.”
In the first film, past and present collide in Oxford as the auction of a priceless Fabergé Egg attracts the attention of an infamous international thief – and the newly christened Thames Valley Constabulary.
But they soon have a bigger case to solve, as the gruesome death of a known gangster threatens to expose the growing threat of underworld Oxford.
Meanwhile, newly-promoted Endeavour, who has passed his sergeant’s exams, struggles as he is forced to mentor young Detective Constable George Fancy (Lewis Peek). He’s also sharing a flat with his sparring partner and colleague, Sergeant Jim Strange (Sean Rigby).
“That was a great idea from [writer] Russell [Lewis],” says Evans. “I took a little convincing but I think it works really well. A really comic thing. The lease was up on Endeavour’s place, so he asked me to move in. ”
And the new character, DC Fancy? Endeavour apparently takes a dim view. “He just doesn’t want to take responsibility for anyone else. That’s about it. He wants to do his own thing.” So much so in this fi lm that one character tells Endeavour he would be a spectator at his own funeral.
Explains Evans: “That’s about getting involved. Sometimes your intellect can stop you doing things. That’s how I take what she is saying; that it takes bravery to get involved and be open.”
The episode also sees the return of Fred Thursday’s daughter, but Endeavour’s apparent inability to make a romance work continues. In the episode, he is taken to task by a “common prostitute”, a tirade which appears to strike home.
“There’s a little bit of [romantic] action,” he reveals. “Not before time, if you ask me. It is interesting as well. It shows you another side of the character. He is a young man in 1968.
“Joan Thursday [Sara Vickers] is still part of the story. His involvement with other women is a subconscious knee-jerk reaction to the history between him and Joan. He’s trying to find his place in the world and who he’s going to spend it with.
“His relationships with other women show a slightly more rounded version of the character. I think it is OK to surprise people.”
And surprise seems the order of the day when it comes to the whole series. Evans isn’t committing to any great upheavals but writer Russell Lewis is contributing more to the debate.
He says: “A terrible storm is set to blow through the professional and personal lives of newly promoted Detective Sergeant Endeavour Morse and Oxford’s finest, leaving devastation in its wake.”
The first episode certainly points to clues about the future. Fred Thursday (Roger Allam) appears to have endured quite enough of the Swinging Sixties mid-episode. He sits in his living room chair, whisky in hand, deciding if it is the right time to hand in his badge. Surely not? And end years of Twitter speculation about what his wife has packed in his legendary sandwiches?
Evans does nothing to dampen the speculation. Are we, I suggest, set for a tumultuous series? “It’s all change and all the cards have been thrown into the air,” he replies. “There’s going to be a big change... It’s a slow burn until the final episode.”
When I suggest that Detective Thursday appears out of sorts, he replies: “I’d like to say, but you’re going to have to wait to see how it unfolds.”
While speculation simmers, he notes that since the last series we saw the death of Colin Dexter, the creator of the original Inspector Morse books.
A frequent visitor to the set, Dexter is much missed: “It was very sad to lose him. But Colin was still in our thoughts as we made this series. We want to try and stay as true to his original vision as possible while also taking it in new directions.
“There was something brilliant about having Colin on hand. When we first started he’d go through all the scripts with a fine-tooth comb, not unlike myself. And he wasn’t backward in coming forward about expressing his opinions. We were very fortunate to have that.”
We discuss the popularity of the series. “Modesty” Evans takes over: “It is testimony to all of the people who make Endeavour, the writer Russell Lewis and all of the actors involved. Also the producers, directors, costume, make-up and the guest artists. Everyone brings their top game to Endeavour. We’re very lucky. I’m glad people love it because that is our intention.”
Shaun Evans obviously inherited the character, albeit in prequel form, from much-loved actor John Thaw. But does he feel he’s made his own mark?
“I come in and do my day’s work,” says Evans, “and hopefully people will enjoy it. Having never seen the previous ones [starring Thaw], I couldn’t say, but I’m very proud of the work I’ve done. We try to breathe life into the character and tell stories. I’m just lucky to be working; I’m not trying to leave a legacy.”
Detective Endeavour Morse has secrets – but not nearly as many as the man who writes him
By Andrew Collins for Radio Times
I am due to be met off the train at Oxford by Russell Lewis, the man who devised ITV’s Inspector Morse prequel Endeavour and who has single-handedly written every one of the 17 two-hour episodes since its 2012 launch, plus six in the new, fifth series.
Lewis mischievously uses an image of Patrick Magee in A Clockwork Orange as his Twitter avatar, so in order to identify him at the station, I searched for him on Google Images. There are no photos of him in the public domain, except the screen-grab I finally track down on a site called Movie Dude where, unhelpfully, he’s playing a character who’s seven years old.
Thankfully, he recognises me and sidles up on the concourse using a greeting familiar to fans of From Russia with Love: “Excuse me, can I borrow a match?” I expected a tweedy Oxford-don type with leather elbow patches, but Lewis looks more like a hill-walking A&R man, a gravel-voiced 54-year-old in a North Face waterproof with the hairstyle of a young Ted Bovis.
He leads me to the famous, neo-gothic Randolph Hotel and a pint of “Oxford Blue” in the Morse Bar. Actually, we have coffee, observed by framed photos of detective inspectors Lewis and Hathaway, Inspector Morse creator Colin Dexter (who died last March just as filming on Endeavour’s fifth series began) and Morse himself in a hospital bed in a 1998 episode.
The non-fictional Lewis and I will spend the next two days on Endeavour’s set being queried or moved on by actual security guards as – to an extent by his own design – very few people on the crew know that this is the chap who writes it.
Lewis speaks in the clipped aphorisms he gives to Roger Allam’s character, DI Thursday, as if he too came of age during the war (“Got to play the ball where it lies… Revenge is a dish best served cold”). He’s garrulous, generous company and a happily married non-drinking father of one who seems to run on coffee and cigarettes. We settle down in the Randolph’s private lounge to discuss how he got where he is today, and he reveals it’s his first weekend off in seven months.
For Lewis, Endeavour is less a detective show, more a way of life, at least for two-thirds of a year. They have tried out other writers, as per Morse and Lewis, but it didn’t work “because we’d already set up an idiosyncratic template, and I have real trouble overwriting other people,” explains Lewis, by which he means re-writing. “We’re doing volume in British TV drama now [this series comprises six films, instead of four], which follows the American model. I’ve overwritten in the past, but nine times out of ten you’re not doing a polish, you’re going back to basics, squaring a circle not of your own devising.”
Lewis works seven days a week during production and sometimes writes for 48 hours straight “without seeing the pillow. But the mail must get through! When you’ve been on a real one- or two-nighter, you read it back and you can’t remember having written it. And often, that’s some of the best stuff, because you’re so fried, the barriers come down.” I mention these sessions to Endeavour himself, Shaun Evans, who remarks, paternally, “I think he should look after himself a bit better.”
Lewis was born in 1963 in Battersea, south London, raised and formally adopted by his maternal grandmother and her second husband, who provided his surname. He speaks of “a certain lived experience of dark secrets and unhappy families that has stood me in good stead when it comes to Endeavour”. Protective of “the sensitivities of all concerned who are still alive”, he describes his background as “potentially still a bit of an emotional minefield”.
He attended “an academically wonky stage school” between age four and 16, which is why there’s a photo of him on an obscure website: he landed a part in the 1972 period biopic Young Winston, directed by Richard Attenborough, playing the even younger Winston.
“Dickie was very sweet, [co-star] Anne Bancroft was lovely. Robert Shaw was my dad – there’s a title for the autobiography!” He was too young to see the other stuff he was in (Sunday Bloody Sunday; I, Claudius) and gave acting up in his 20s to play in rock bands, living off the dole once he’d burned through the money in his child-star trust fund (“Fender Rhodes don’t come cheap”). He and some fellow drama-school grads moved into fringe theatre and some good reviews meant an agent could get him “through the door” at The Bill, where he wrote “22-minute playlets”. This led to script commissions for Taggart, Between the Lines, Sharpe, Cadfael then Inspector Morse, in 1995.
Why does he work so hard to maintain his anonymity? “It enables one to slip through the cracks,” he reasons. “Infinitely harder to observe if one is being observed. Moscow Rules.” That’s a Cold War reference. With Lewis, you’re never far away from a footnote or an elliptical cultural nod. For me, these are what make Endeavour such a head-spinning joy. It was during the third series, an episode called Prey, where a night-time scene of Oxford hippies drinking, toking and strumming acoustic guitars around a campfire in the woods gave me a Jaws flashback, confirmed when pathologist Max DeBryn notes “portions of denuded bone remaining” on a severed arm, a direct quote from the shark film. That same series playfully referenced Night of the Demon, The Great Gatsby, Dog Day Afternoon and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.
I call this metatextuality; Lewis prefers “grace notes and finials”, tracing them back to the “mischievous quotations and chapter headings” in Dexter’s novels. You’ll remember, too, that composer Barrington Pheloung used the dots and dashes of Morse code in his theme tune. “It’s there if you want it,” Lewis says. “But we won’t be docking any points if you don’t.”
It’s Day 13 on “Film 6”, and the first scenes I witness involve DI Thursday, looking in the window of a jeweller’s on Turl Street. Although rubbernecking tourists throng the location shoots from behind lines policed by location marshals, true fans with long lenses abide by an unspoken pact not to publish spoilers.
Unlike the low-profile Lewis, 37-year-old Shaun Evans is instantly recognisable with his strawberry blond hair, hypnotic blue eyes, slight frame and freckles. I first notice him in a stylish Kangol cap hovering behind director Gordon Anderson as the same shot is set, shot, re-set and shot again, so I say hello. He’s not required for the rest of the day as an actor, but he’s here in his new role of associate producer. “I like to make the most of the opportunity,” he tells me in his soft Liverpudlian twang. “Part of the joy of the show is having so many top-end directors. There’s a lot to be gained from them.”
Lewis confirms that Evans is a “team man, and plays a very straight bat. He doesn’t care for flannel.” It’s admirable for an actor of his stature and popularity to come with zero airs and graces – when he calls you “my friend,” it doesn’t feel false. (He’s also recently expanded his portfolio into directing, helming his first episode of Casualty last year during Endeavour downtime, and his second and third at the start of this year for a late-summer transmission.)
Somewhat self-consciously, I later find myself invited to the cast-and-crew wrap party in a lounge at the Holiday Inn, thrown the night before the final day of shooting, as the crew tend to disperse as soon as the final “Cut!” is yelled. The morning after, on a sun-dappled shoot in the grounds of Christ Church, there are bleary-eyed rumours that last night’s free bar bill tipped £3,000. If so, it was worth every penny after another even more demanding endeavour.
“It’s great to have the opportunity to hang out, have a few drinks, let your hair down and have a dance,” says Evans. “It’s a good way of letting everyone know how much they’re appreciated.” Meanwhile, Russell Lewis is trying to convince a car park attendant that he’s allowed to park there as he’s the chap who writes Endeavour.
Endeavour returns on Sunday 4th February at 8pm on ITV
OXFORD’s dreaming spires and golden stone buildings are once again at the heart of ITV drama when Endeavour returns for a fifth series this week.
By VICKI POWER - EXPRESS 3 Feb 2018
The Inspector Morse prequel, based on the detective created by Colin Dexter and the 1987-2000 TV series starring John Thaw, sees a thirtysomething Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) at the start of his career with Oxford City Police CID, the city’s colleges and quads forming a sumptuous backdrop to the murders that occur with alarming frequency.
Shaun is delighted that, five series in, ITV has ordered six episodes rather than the usual four.
“I’m very grateful,” says Shaun, 37, in a thick Liverpudlian accent that he disguises when playing Morse.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. How often do these things come along in life where you’re getting to do what you’re passionate about on a daily basis, but for it not to be the same every day?”
He explains that the fifth series picks up a few months on from the end of the fourth; it’s now 1968, a year of global political turmoil that featured Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr, the Paris riots and protests against the Vietnam War.
Like the Oxford setting, the global troubles will inform the plotlines.
The first episode concerns the murder of a prominent don, but also the life of Oxford’s call girls in a storyline that highlights the city’s ‘town versus gown’ tension.
Subsequent episodes involve a spy story, an assassination, and a murder at an army barracks in a storyline that sees the return of Sam Thursday, the son of DI Fred Thursday (Roger Allam).
An overarching storyline about Yardies – criminal gangs of Jamaican origin – highlights a new kind of criminality that Morse and his colleagues were not familiar with.
Not only is Endeavour’s work life bound up with his boss’s, but his romantic life has been, too, since he’s long pined for Joan Thursday (Sara Vickers).
In this series Joan is back in Oxford, but much remains unresolved following her miscarriage last year of a baby that wasn’t Morse’s, and his unexpected proposal of marriage that was not taken up.
Shaun hints that at last Morse may have moved on from Joan.
“What we’ve tried to achieve this time is that you can’t stay heartbroken forever,” explains Shaun.
“And the best way to get over that is with a few more relationships.”
Moving on may be a theme of Endeavour’s work life, as well.
He’s been promoted to Detective Sergeant and instead of being mentored by Thursday, is expected to become a mentor himself, to newcomer George Fancy, a Detective Constable played by Poldark’s Lewis Peek.
Also returning to the cast are Dakota Blue Richards as WPC Shirley Trewlove and Sean Rigby as PC Jim Strange.
At the same time, Oxford City Police is being merged with the newly formed Thames Valley Police, meaning the old guard of Thursday and Chief Superintendent Reginald Bright (Anton Lesser) are wondering if their time is up.
“Thursday has a feeling that the world is moving on in lots of complex ways and that this is the right time to retire,” explains Roger Allam, 64.
So the winds of change of the 60s are blowing strongly through Oxford when Endeavour returns, leaving the detectives uncertain about the future. As usual, Endeavour’s love life is far from settled, which is how Shaun prefers it.
“The series should be constantly pulling up the carpet in a different way. For Morse, the people he’s made his family are going their separate ways. What will he do? That’s the interesting trajectory for this year.”
The young detective finally finds romance - but, says star Shaun Evans, it ends in tears
Daily Mail, 2 February 2018
Shaun Evans is quite the tease when it comes to talking about the future of his hit crime drama Endeavour.
‘I’ve decided, in my own mind, when I want to leave the show – I’m just not going to tell you when that is,’ grins the quietly spoken Liverpudlian, who has played the younger version of Inspector Morse since 2012 and returns in series five this week.
‘Maybe – maybe – this is where we end. The last episode of this new series sees Morse and his colleagues scattered to the four winds, due to police re-organisation in Oxfordshire, and for some of the older generation of officers it could be their last case,’ he says.
Luckily, this season delivers an extra-large helping of the brilliant detective, with six feature-length episodes, rather than the usual four.
Set in 1968, they’re an exotic bunch of stories compared with what’s gone before, and reflect a feeling of upheaval at that time. With revolutions in Europe, the horror of the Vietnam War and Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech, the world was a troubled place.
The first episode, Muse, begins with the theft of a Fabergé egg from an Oxford college. It’s rumoured to have been taken by a famous criminal nicknamed The Shadow. Morse, who has been newly promoted to sergeant, investigates the case, which later involves a series of grisly murders.
In Cartouche, the second story, a glamorous Hollywood actress who is in Oxford to make a horror movie takes centre stage. She is convinced that two fatal poisonings have been caused by an Egyptian curse. In a later episode, Quartet, Morse is warned off investigating an assassination attempt at a major sporting event but carries on regardless and finds himself embroiled in a world of international espionage.
There’s even some romance for Morse, who becomes involved with a French photojournalist, Claudine, in episode three.
‘Not before time, if you ask me,’ laughs Shaun, 37, who had a string of smaller TV roles in shows such as Silk and Ashes To Ashes before making his name in Endeavour. ‘The relationship shows a different side to the character, although I can reveal it ends in tears – obviously! Morse is never lucky in love.’
He’s proud of the new season, but says while the length of it will please fans, it was tough on the cast and crew. ‘Too many episodes,’ he says. ‘Four is manageable, the six that we’ve filmed this time is too many. It’s a massive ask of the crew to work crazy hours every day for 30 weeks, taking them away from their families for such a huge amount of time.
‘I did worry that standards might have slipped because we were doing so many, and we just can’t afford for that to be the case, but I honestly don’t think this has happened.
‘You’ve got to keep standards high because there are so many brilliant stories being told out there at the moment on television and on the big screen. You can’t afford to have a below-par day.’
Shaun is tight-lipped about whether he had anyone special to miss him during filming. A four-year relationship with The Corrs singer Andrea ended in 2007 with a wave of publicity, and since then he’s kept his private life private.
But he’s happy to talk about his alter ego, and says that playing Morse – a character who was beloved in his first, more mature incarnation played by John Thaw – is an ‘odd but good’ experience.
‘Odd because sometimes he does things that you question but you know he has to do them or you won’t get to the next part of the story, the next clue. There’s a danger of compromise and it’s a fine line to tread. But it’s also good, because it’s a fantastic part and everyone brings along their top game.
‘I’ve come to realise that it’s going to be a very hard act to follow when I’m no longer playing the part, to the point where I may not want to follow it, I may choose to do something entirely different. I know I’ll be on a fool’s errand if I think I’m going to pick up something as good as this in the future.’