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
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