Thirty years on from Inspector Morse’s screen de­but, the de­tec­tive re­mains a firm favourite in ITV’S 1960s pre­quel. Crime Scene meets the cast of En­deav­our as they pre­pare for a fifth series.

Crime Scene - - CONTENTS - By AN­DRE PAINE

To mark 30 years of cryp­tic crime, we look back at the land­mark TV de­tec­tive.

Get ready for even more Morse. Fol­low­ing strong rat­ings for the re­cent fourth series of En­deav­our, which marked the 30th an­niver­sary of the first broad­cast of Inspector Morse, ITV has con­firmed that the fifth sea­son of En­deav­our will be ex­tended from a quar­tet of in­ves­ti­ga­tions to six fea­ture-length episodes.

Shoot­ing be­gins in April in and around Ox­ford for a series, set in 1968, which will fur­ther ex­plore this en­dur­ing char­ac­ter in the early stages of his ca­reer. It’s a gift for the orig­i­nal show’s fans, who get to see the young Morse in what are es­sen­tially six lav­ishly pro­duced films.

“I’m glad you said that, be­cause that’s our in­ten­tion – we hope that each di­rec­tor will make some­thing cin­e­matic,” says lead­ing man Shaun Evans when Crime Scene catches up with him at ITV’S Lon­don HQ. With his strong Scouse ac­cent, Evans isn’t much like Morse in the flesh. He claims he doesn’t ac­tu­ally get no­ticed by fans, per­haps be­cause Morse is a slightly melan­choly cop dressed for the 1960s.

Based on Colin Dex­ter’s fic­tional de­tec­tive, the pre­quel was de­vised by Rus­sell Lewis (also a writer on the orig­i­nal series and spin-off Lewis), who says he’s now rel­ish­ing cre­at­ing “fur­ther chap­ters in Morse’s se­cret his­tory”. Dex­ter, who took sev­eral years to be per­suaded about the pre­quel, is a con­sul­tant to the pro­duc­ers. But the 86-year-old au­thor’s cameo ap­pear­ances were no­tably ab­sent in the fourth series be­cause of ill health.

“When we started [ En­deav­our] we ac­tu­ally be­came re­ally good mates,” says Evans of the Morse creator. “He’s ac­tu­ally a friend, he’s in­spir­ing, a top man. He wasn’t able to come up to set, sadly. But we have a lit­tle nod to him, which is im­por­tant. So whilst we haven’t been able to have him in person, his pres­ence is very much felt.”

Like one of Morse’s cryp­tic crossword puz­zles, it’s easy if you know the an­swer. Look out, for in­stance, for a por­trait of Dex­ter on the wall of the of­fice of Ox­ford Mail editor Dorothea Frazil in Series 4. Of course, she’s an­other nod to the show’s his­tory: ac­tor Abi­gail Thaw is the daugh­ter of John Thaw, the orig­i­nal Morse.

Rus­sell Lewis has made other hid­den ref­er­ences to Inspector Morse. The dic­tio­nary def­i­ni­tion of “frazil” is slushy ice. So “D. Frazil” might also mean de-ice – or in other words, Thaw. For the an­niver­sary, Series 4 also had some fur­ther cast­ing con­nec­tions to the orig­i­nal: James Lau­ren­son, who played Pro­fes­sor Amory in open­ing episode “Game”, was in the first-ever Morse in Jan­uary, 1987, while Thaw’s widow, Sheila Han­cock, ap­pears in the sea­son fi­nale.

Roger Al­lam ( The Miss­ing, Ashes To Ashes), who stars as DI Fred Thurs­day, dimly re­calls an episode of Inspector Morse in which he ap­peared (“Death Is Now My Neigh­bour” in 1997). “There were some peo­ple I knew in it,” he re­calls. “I knew John Thaw through Sheila, who I’d worked with at the RSC.”

While ITV and Rus­sell Lewis are clearly mind­ful of cel­e­brat­ing the orig­i­nal series, the stars of En­deav­our are – per­haps

dis­ap­point­ingly – fo­cused on the job in hand. “Our story’s taken place be­fore those sto­ries, so what do you do?” says Al­lam. “You can can’t get arch about it, so it can’t make any dif­fer­ence to our play­ing of the scripts that we get.”

For 22-year-old Dakota Blue Richards, who plays WPC Shirley Trewlove, the 30th an­niver­sary was not some­thing of which she was even aware. “As much as it is ob­vi­ously a pre­quel to Morse, I think En­deav­our is its own series and all the ac­tors have their own in­ter­pre­ta­tions of their char­ac­ters,” she tells Crime Scene. “We’re vaguely aware at all times of where Morse will end up. But I’ve never seen the [ orig­i­nal] series and, for as long as I’m in the show, I think I’d rather not watch it.”

While fans might point to the ap­pear­ance of PC Jim Strange (who’s risen to Chief Su­per­in­ten­dent in Inspector Morse), the evoca­tive mu­sic by Bar­ring­ton Ph­eloung (in­clud­ing the clos­ing theme from Morse) and even a Jaguar (Mk 1 this time), Evans is adamant that it’s a very dif­fer­ent show. “The writer has put some things in, but they’re so well embed­ded that un­less you were a big fan you wouldn’t [ re­alise] – and that’s not to be pe­jo­ra­tive about it, but it’s not a nos­tal­gia fest,” he says, claim­ing that he’s not seen the orig­i­nal series ei­ther. Evans has a point. Series 4 de­lib­er­ately used the strik­ingly mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture of St. Cather­ine’s Col­lege as a con­trast to the city’s an­cient in­sti­tu­tions. For “Lazaretto”, Ice­landic di­rec­tor Börkur Sigth­ors­son ( Trapped) was brought on board for a change of tone. “It’s very dark, it gives it a dif­fer­ent flavour,” says Evans of the episode. The lead­ing man is him­self in­creas­ingly in­volved in the post-pro­duc­tion process of En­deav­our and re­veals he’s re­cently taken on his first di­rect­ing job (for a BBC series he de­clines to name just yet). Dur­ing our in­ter­view, he shows a keen in­ter­est in the craft of mak­ing a ma­jor series. “It costs a for­tune,” he says of the lo­ca­tion shoots, cred­it­ing the fi­nan­cial sup­port shown by ITV and Mam­moth Screen. Char­ac­ter is also im­por­tant to the show’s en­dur­ing pop­u­lar­ity, with Evans seek­ing out “in­ter­est­ing con­flict” with his part­ner and su­pe­rior of­fi­cer, DI Thurs­day. “I think it’s good that there are changes in their re­la­tion­ship,” adds Al­lam. “If things get too fixed, it just starts re­peat­ing it­self and be­comes a bit dull for us. So I think it’s good that grit is in­tro­duced.”

Morse has fallen out with his po­lice em­ploy­ers again in Series 4, fol­low­ing his failed sergeant ex­ams — a sur­prise re­sult that sug­gests the pow­ers-that-be want him out. How­ever, the ac­tor sees his char­ac­ter as a ded­i­cated of­fi­cer who’s evolv­ing into the de­tec­tive who will one day solve cases “by the power of opera or cross­words”.

Thurs­day is some­thing of a men­tor to Morse – and a fel­low ale drinker – though the se­nior of­fi­cer is a World War II vet­eran who’s never go­ing to ex­press his emo­tions. He’s been par­tic­u­larly trou­bled as he tries to find his daugh­ter Joan (Sara Vick­ers), who fled Ox­ford in the wake of a trau­matic raid on the bank where she worked in the Series 3 fi­nale. Her de­par­ture at the end of the series was also a ro­man­tic blow – one of many more to come – for Morse.

The job is al­ways go­ing to come first for Morse, though Evans can see beyond play­ing the fa­mous role in En­deav­our in the not-too-dis­tant fu­ture. “I think I’ll know when it’s right,” he says of the pre­quel’s end. “I just think we’ll know when the sto­ries have been told.” En­deav­our Series 4 is on DVD. Series 5 will air in 2018.

As much as it’s ob­vi­ously a pre­quel to Morse, En­deav­our is its own series

Shaunevans as­morse even evokes some of John Thaw’s man­ner­isms, thoughe­vans claims he’s never seen the orig­i­nal series.

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