You’d think what with all the episodes of Morse and of the recent ITV spin-off Lewis ITV would have got all the steam they possibly could out of the success of John Thaw’s epic role. However, in early 2012 we were treated to a new twist in the Morse tale when Shaun Evans took on the iconic role as a young Morse in Endeavour.
Recently I was fortunate enough to see the first episode of the Inspector Morse prequel, Endeavour, along with some of the cast and crew. One of the Producers did a short introduction, he thanked a lot of people, clearly lots of effort has been poured into making the show. The first series consists of four standalone ninety minute episodes (two of which have already screened with episode 3 due this Sunday) Some may question if ninety minutes is too long for an audience to cope with. We live in a world where no one likes watching ads and getting people to sit still for an hour without tweeting or checking their facebook status is damn near impossible. Endeavour is the antidote to all of that. It’s intelligent without being snobby. It’s clever without being complicated and it has a quality that very few dramas at the moment have – it’s classy.
Some may find it hard to watch any show with reference to Morse and not picture John Thaw but Shaun Evans has made Endeavour his own. He is both instantly likeable and believable in the role. His young Morse has a presence to rival that of Thaw. When you couple his performance with that of the wonderful Roger Allam you have a true dream team. In the opener we find a young Morse in his first post as a Detective Constable in Oxford. He is currently “Bag Man” (Driver) for Detective Inspector Fred Thursday (Roger Allam) who is Morse’s biggest (and sometimes only) supporter in the Oxford city Police. The main difference to the one off is that there is a new Chief Superintendant, played by Anton Lesser at his cantankerous best, he is old fashioned and Morse’s investigating methods and theories don’t appear to interest him. Rounding out the cast is the slimy Detective Sergeant Laskey and Police Constable Jim Strange, who appears to be Morse’s new drinking buddy.
The show’s slow pace is deliberate. It doesn’t drag but it gives time for characters to breathe and interact with each other. The complex plots need time to play out, else they could appear to be rushed. British TV has struggled with two hour long shows due to the ever shortening attention spans, but I feel Endeavour deserves a decent time span. Each episode feels like a standalone film.
The first episode “Girl” followed the death of a local typist Margaret Bell and the seemingly unrelated death of a GP, Dr Cartwright. As the show develops we learn it is more than just a coincidence that the two untimely endings happen close to each other. The script deals with mass genocide, mental health and drugs, highly topical subjects for a show set in the 1960’s.
Evans plays Morse as a loner, an outsider who follows threads in cases on his own and often without senior officer approval, but much to Chief Supt Bright’s annoyance he does provide results. There is quite a Sherlockian feel to the conclusion of this episode, with Morse proving to have solved the tricky complex case.
A special mention must go to the script, as the show is set in the 60’s lots of language which hardly gets spoken now is used. A lovely use of “befuddled” brought a large laugh at the screening.
Besides Evans and Allam, I was particularly intrigued by the supporting cast, in both episodes the acting was of a high quality, sometimes in very small roles. Even if you were not a Morse, or even Lewis fan, Endeavour is a remarkable show.
Contributed by Gary Redrup
Endeavour continues Sunday at 8.00pm on ITV.