2017 marks the 30th Anniversary of Inspector Morse’s arrival on television. Hard to believe it’s thirty years since the rather shy, cultured, and essentially lonely figure of Detective Chief Inspector Morse first entered the national consciousness.
He arrived, in the unmistakable shape of John Thaw. World weary, but never wholly cynical. Often abrasive to those who loved him best, and yet, when the chips were down, fundamentally kind. A bruised, and melancholy soul, eternally hopeful that love would one day pick him out again.
The leather jacket Morse sported in THE DEAD OF JERICHO (adapted by the late lamented Anthony Minghella) was quickly mothballed, but pretty much everything else survived. Real ale and crosswords, the classical music, poetry… And, of course, his doughty Sergeant – Robbie Lewis – who never failed him.
For scribblers of a certain vintage it’s sobering to realise that 1987 itself now qualifies as ‘period’. Viewing the original series again, in its pre-widescreen 4:3 format, is to board a train to another country. Pre-mobile phone; the ‘office computer’ still a novelty; the last few bits of family silver on the national mantelpiece. And all the world was green…
When originally broadcast, Inspector Morse was closer in time to Endeavour’s world of the 60s than we are now to the prawn & mayo 80s. Yet two things endure. Oxford, that eternal city of dreaming spires, and the darker impulses of human nature. Greed. Jealousy. Revenge. Where would a whodunit be without them.
Across the writing and production of ENDEAVOUR IV (1967 Vol.2) we have tried, in our own way, to mark the milestone. Without proceedings turning into a hagiography, there are nods – greater and lesser – across all the films to that which went before.
That said, hopefully, if we’ve done our job properly, no foreknowledge or Mastermind level grasp of Morse arcana is required to fully enjoy the unfolding adventures. Our genuflections and tips of the trilby are for the most part ‘grace notes’. So, if you’re new to Endeavourland, come on in. The water’s lovely. Body temperature.
So… what is new, Pussycat? Well – chiefly, Series IV, has welcomed new producer, Head Girl, and all ovoid good egg, Helen Ziegler. Last year’s House Captain Tom Mullens has been elevated to the top table, Groom’s Side, where he now sits as Exec., alongside myself and Damien Timmer as the third of the Unwise Monkeys.
Happily, most of the usual suspects behind the camera have returned to the scene of their previous crimes. My absurd shopping list of location requirements for SERIES IV has, I think, tested them as never before, but they have risen, as always, to the challenge, and surpassed even my ludicrously hopeful expectations. I am enormously grateful to all of them.
Having been confined – Oxford nothwithstanding – across the first three series to sourcing locations not more than an hour’s drive from base, Helen Ziegler tore up the rulebook and took us as far as such far flung outposts as Swindon and Southampton to find some of the more elusive period locations.
Hitherto, each new series proper of ENDEAVOUR has shunted the timeframe on into a new year. The single film & Series I (1965), Series II (1966), and so on… So, why 1967 Volume 2?
Well – it was a pretty key year – and there were still 1967 influenced stories that we couldn’t find room for in the previous series. It also gives us exactly half a century between now and then… So – should we return… Endeavour 1968 would broadcast in 2018 (World Cup notwithstanding!); 1969 in 2019, and so on. There is always something pleasing about a round number.
In our story timeline, FILM 1: ‘GAME’ (Directed by Ashley Pearce) begins less than a fortnight after the events of the SERIES III finale ‘CODA’. As Endeavour and Thursday deal with the heartbreak of Joan’s departure, a death at East Cowley Slipper Baths hurls Oxford’s Finest into perhaps their darkest adventure since 1965’s ‘FUGUE’.
Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s ‘White Heat’ of technology takes centre stage as a Russian academic prepares to do bakle with the Joint Computing Nexus – a “thinking machine” designed and built by the Boffins at Lovelace College – in a game of Chess. The Cold War played out on a chequered field.
In LOVELACE COLLEGE, we see for the first time the architectural flipside to heritage Oxford. Designed by Danish architect Arne Jacobsen, Grade I listed St. Catherine’s College – which serves as our fictional LOVELACE – provides an exciting departure from the more familiar golden limestone, and a fixng backdrop against which our story of a brave new world plays out.
’67 Volume 2 continues our theme of a world in flux. Britain, then as now, one eye on the future, one foot rooted in the past. The Victorian grandeur of the Public Baths – founded on its own technological revolution – and the coming of the Information Age, with its first steps towards artificial intelligence.
Endeavour too, as he waits upon the results of his Sergeant’s Exam, looks towards his own future – but, as events unfold, it becomes clear that the past is not yet done with him.
As for 30th Anniversary commemorations, there is a connection in GAME to THE DEAD OF JERICHO, the very first Inspector Morse film ever broadcast. Answers on a postcard to the usual address.
In FILM 2: ‘CANTICLE’ (Directed by Michael Lennox) the so-called ‘permissive society’ comes under the spotlight, as Endeavour is charged with providing protection to Joy Pekybon, self-appointed guardian of the nation’s morals, who is visiting Oxford to promote her ‘Keep Britain Decent’ campaign.
No panthera Agris, but I suppose ‘CANTICLE’ is this year’s wildcard. The joker in the pack. Something a little different, insofar as it also brings Endeavour and Thursday into the orbit of a popular beat combo of the day.
Again, it’s a collision between two worlds. The younger, tune in, turn on, drop out, outward looking and progressive, and the older, more conservative, ‘what will the neighbours say?’ Britain. Looking back, we can see now that for all the ‘end of civilisation as we know it’ hysteria engendered by social change, the sky did not fall. It never does. But people suffered. And suffer still.
Following on from ‘ROCKET’; ‘SWAY’ and last year’s ‘ARCADIA’, which looked at manufactory, department store, and supermarket, FILM 3: ‘LAZARETTO’ (Directed by Börkur Sigþórsson) is this series’ ‘Ladybird Book of…’ In this instance – The Ladybird Book of the Hospital.
There is a strong link here – albeit at one remove — to one of my favourite films in the I.M. canon. As with Crevecouer Hall, home of the Mortmaignes – seen originally in LEWIS – which we revisited for last year’s ‘PREY’, we again returned to a scene of crime last seen in INSPECTOR MORSE. The Schubert Quintet in C (Adagio), and a certain turn off the London Road for Watlington should get you there.
￼The action of FILM 4: ‘HARVEST’ (Directed by Jim Loach) as might be deduced from the title, is a slice of English pastoral. To say much more would be to spoil any surprises, but I hope our final salute to MORSE’s 3Oth Anniversary is received with the respect and affection in which it was conceived.
Hymns ancient and modern. “Time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future and time future contained in time past.” The clock moves a minute closer to midnight. John Barleycorn must die. But the land endures.
And where do we leave Endeavour and Thursday as the last of the year gutters to a close? I suppose a happy ending would be too much to hope for…
As always, for those who enjoy truffling them out, we have included our usual collect-the-set smakering of intentional anachronisms and deliberate mistakes. Good hunting!
One notable absence from 1967 Volume 2 is the physical presence of the man who began it all, and without whom none of us would be here, Colin Dexter. Colin has graced the screen with a Hitchcock-like cameo across all the films – from Inspector Morse, through Lewis, and across the first three series of Endeavour. I know from correspondence that ‘Spotting Colin’ has been a great part of the fun for his many devoted admirers.
Alas, after thirty years, our esteemed founder has finally decided the life of a Supporting Artiste is too peripatetic. The early starts, all that standing around waiting to be called, the questionable catering… However, though physically absent, his spirit endures in all that we do. Indeed, we have ensured that ‘Spotting Colin’ is still an integral part of proceedings. He’ll just be a little harder to find than usual.
‘Now you see him, now you don’t. That’s Dexter alright.’ I hope you enjoy the films.
Endeavour Series 4 – 1967 Vol. 2 premieres on ITV on Sunday 8 January 2017 at 8.00pm
Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess
What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.
Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.
Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.
Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.
Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?
Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.
Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife
Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.
Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.
Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.
Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.
Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.
What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.
Famous guest stars?
The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.
Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.
Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.
Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.
The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.
Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.
Classic TV Revisited: The Royal
The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.
The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.
Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.
Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.
Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”
A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.
First broadcast: 2003
Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden
THIS JUST IN
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