Endeavour: Morse Meets Mad Men

By | November 2, 2016

Endeavour MorseWho Is Endeavour Morse?

Fans of the classic British police drama Inspector Morse had to wait until the final episode to discover Morse’s first name. An intensely private character, he was known simply as Morse to everyone, and never told anyone his first name. In the new series Endeavour there is no such mystery. Endeavour shows Endeavour Morse as a young man, in his first police job in the fabled university town of Oxford in the English Midlands. The switch back in time places the show in 1960’s1960s Oxford, and whilst that may conjure up images of Swinging London and Carnaby Street, provincial England was at the time a far drabber place, still recovering from the effects of the Second World War.

Why is there an extra ‘u’ in the word endeavor? It’s because Endeavour Morse is British and so was named in British English, where extra u’s are the style.

Image Credit: Mammoth Screen/Masterpiece productions

Who Is Endeavour Morse?

Endeavour follows a similar structure to the original ITV Inspector Morse mysteries, which celebrated their 25th anniversary earlier in 2013. There’s a murder, or at least a suspicious death, in Oxford each week. In the interests of Oxford’s tourist economy it’s worth pointing out that crime rates in Oxford are really very low, and police in the city are not constantly fending off crazed murderers inspired by the novels of Colin Dexter.

The key difference in this series is of course that the young Morse is not the wily old detective with decades of experience, called in to solve a crime that would have anyone else stumped. As the new kid on the police beat, Endeavour Morse is employed primarily as a ‘Bagman’. It’s worth pointing out that a ‘Bagman’ in 1960’s1960s Britain was a very different role to that of a bagman in more recent US Police history. A British Police Bagman would be driving a seasoned detective around, taking statements and doing the leg work, literally carrying his bags.

A story about an honest bagman could make for a dull show, but even as a young pup, Morse has plenty of insight to offer.

His boss, Detective Inspector Fred Thursday, deftly played by the seasoned character actor Roger Allum suggests an idea of how Inspector Morse developed his management style.

What do British Police Officers have in their sandwiches?

Truncheon Meat!

Young Morse

Shaun Evans gives us a young, awkward, complicated Morse, having been sent down from Oxford for reasons that are never entirely clear, leaving without graduating. He does not mix well with the ‘town’ characters in the Oxford Police who treat students and dons with disdain, or with the ‘gown’ characters who do not see him as an intellectual equal.

As the older Inspector Morse such a mis-fitting seems natural, and something that the detective has perhaps deliberately cultivated, but with the young Endeavour the sense of otherness is uncomfortable, eliciting sympathy for his situation.

Fans of Inspector Morse will love seeing the style revived, and getting to know more about their hero’s back storybackstory. New viewers can pick up the series without worrying about what happened in the original series’ as they are chronologically sequels.

More From The Cast of Endeavour

Sean Evans has a small part in the film Telstar. As Endeavour is by far his biggest role to date, however, he does a great job, and the film itself is a masterpiece of docudrama, telling the story of Joe Meek, and Telstar, the first British number one in the Billboard charts, fitting the period of Endeavour rather well.

Thick of It, The: Seasons 1-4
Roger Allum is perhaps best known for his stage work, but he’s played some cracking characters. As Peter Mannion in The Thick Of It he gets to really let lose.

There has been some delay in getting this series to US television, as the language gives Deadwood a run for its money in the profanity stakes, but if you’d like to see how the British view their politicians, this is often referred to as the British West Wing.

James Bradshaw plays Dr Max DeBryn, the forensic pathologist in Endeavour, and as the show is about murders, he gets plenty of screen time.

His portrayal is low key and understated, causing the viewer to lean in to get more. An effective style.

Again, he is best known for his stage work, but made a silver screen debut as Mr Samgrass in this recent remake of Brideshead Revisited. he plays the annoying chaperone/guide really very well.

Is there a British character actor alive who doesn’t show up in Game Of Thrones now and again? It’s a series that needs a lot of baddies, so it forms the pension fund of plenty of jobbing actors. Anton Lesser who plays the venal Chief Superintendent Reginald Bright in Endeavour appears in GoT along with Roger Allum, Fred Thursday in Morse.

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