Masterpiece Mystery! Endeavour
Airs Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 10:30 p.m. on KPBS TV
Monday, July 16, 2012
Before Inspector Morse, there was the rookie Constable Morse, fed up with police work and ready to nip his career in the bud by handing in his resignation. That is, until a murder turned up that only he could solve. Shaun Evans ("The Take," "The Virgin Queen") stars as the young Endeavour Morse, before his signature red Jaguar but with his deductive powers already running in high gear, on "Endeavour."
Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the UK premiere of "Inspector Morse" in 1987, "Endeavour" turns back the clock to 1965 to tell the story of the making of the legendary detective, who was played by John Thaw in 33 episodes of "Inspector Morse" that aired on MYSTERY! from 1988 to 2001. Thaw died in 2002. But his daughter Abigail Thaw ("Vanity Fair") makes a very special appearance.
Novelist Colin Dexter authored the Morse plots and characters, including the thrilling back-story to Endeavour, which is scripted by Russell Lewis. Lewis also created the spinoff series "Inspector Lewis," featuring the exploits of Morse’s sergeant.
Endeavour co-stars Roger Allam ("The Queen") as Inspector Thursday, Morse’s mentor on the Oxfordshire Constabulary; Richard Lintern ("Page Eight") as Professor Rowan Stromming, an Oxford don shocked to see the inside of a murder inquiry; 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. 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? Oh, and how did he solve his first big case?
It all starts when a fifteen-year-old girl goes missing. Morse and colleagues are called in from a neighboring town to help with the investigation, which is being 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 seem daft to the rest of the police. Anyone familiar with Inspector Morse recognizes the pattern.
The difference is that in 1965 Morse is the low man on the force with no track 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 on the way to learning his craft.