Inspector Morse is one of BBC TV’s longest-running and most-loved fictional detectives. Actor John Thaw built an incredible fan base which spans several generations. For many, the idea of replacing him is tantamount to sacrilege. The last Morse production was 10 years ago. And so, it would seem only fitting that the BBC should try to reboot one of their most popular series, injecting it with a new energy in the form of a talented young man who would take up the character of Morse all the way back at his very beginning, before he was known as the highly-respected sleuth.
Set in 1965, the story follows the hunt for a missing schoolgirl in the pastoral setting of a classic English university. Many police officers are called down to assist the local constabulatory, which also happens to draw Endeavour Morse back to the place which will ultimately shape and define his destiny – Oxford. Endeavor will mark the 25th anniversary of the first episode of Inspector Morse, which transmitted back in 1987. There were 33 Inspector Morse films made over the next 13 years. And if this episode is successful, there may be many more to come..
Shaun Evans will star as the young Endeavour Morse. Most recently he has been superb as law pupil to the dedicated barrister Martha Costello (Maxine Peake) in the BBC series Silk. That series seems to run six episodes per season, so hope remains that we shall continue to see him as her fledgling legal crusader as well as the titular star of a new Morse series. Endeavour was written by Russell Lewis, creator of Inspector Lewis, Kavanagh QC and Cadfael, and writer of Inspector Morse, Spooks and Murphy’s Law. Co-starring in this episode are Roger Allam (The Queen) as Inspector Thursday, Morse’s mentor on the Oxfordshire Constabulatory; Richard Lintern (Page Eight) as Professor Rowan Stromming, an Oxford don shocked to see the inside of a murder inquiry; Flora Montgomery (Midsomer Murders) as Rosalind Stromming, the professor’s long-suffering wife who happens to once have sung opera professionally; Charlie Creed-Miles (White Teeth) as used Jaguar dealer Teddy Samuels; Patrick Malahide (Middlemarch) as a high-handed government minister; and James Bradshaw (Brideshead Revisited) as police pathologist Dr. Max DeBryn, perhaps the first to notice Morse’s queasiness in the face of death.
Evoking the conflict between tradition and the new youth culture of the ’60s, Endeavour answers a lot of questions about the young Morse, who happens to prefer Puccini to the Beatles, amongst other minor quirks. Just how did this working-class, opera-loving, crossword-addicted, Oxford University dropout land on the Oxford police, develop a thirst for fine ale, fall into a problematic relationship with women, and manage to slip behind the wheel of a classic car as part of his low-paying job?
It all begins when a fifteen-year-old girl goes missing. Morse and colleagues are called in from neighboring districts to support the investigation, led by Inspector Thursday. Seeing that Morse is not the usual by-the-numbers cop, Thursday lets him follow some unusual hunches that take the case into English Romantic poetry, cryptic crosswords, clever disguises, and other clues that sem daft to the rest of the police. But anyone familiar with Inspector Morse easily recognizes the pattern.
The difference is that in 1965 Morse is the low man on the force with no trace record and his future on the line. How impressive then to watch him piece together a murder, a suicide, an underage love nest, a shocking academic experiment, and follow the trail straight to the lair of an obsessed killer and high-level corruption – all while still learning the craft of detection.
Endeavour airs on Sunday, July 1st, 2012 on PBS Masterpiece Mystery. Check your local listings for showtimes. For more on this series, click here.