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.”