ENDEAVOUR – SERIES III
Foreword by Russell Lewis
1967… Oxford – All Change!
Blame the World Cup. Not the 1966 campaign of blessed memory — touched on in SERIES II’s ‘NOCTURNE’ — but Rio 2014. Such was the amount of air-time annexed by the tournament that the resulting shunt left no room in the schedule for the next quartet of Endeavour stories. So it is that we find ourselves — the best part of two years later — picking up the narrative threads. After such an intermission, a short refresher might be in order.
Previously, on ENDEAVOUR…
When last we saw them, Detective Constable Endeavour Morse was languishing in a prison cell, having been arrested on suspicion of murdering Chief Constable Standish; while Detective Inspector Fred Thursday – shot in the line of duty – was being loaded into an ambulance, his life hanging by the slenderest of threads. Both events arose from their investigation of a conspiracy to conceal dark deeds at a former Boys’ Home – Blenheim Vale.
Some – most – of the audience who were kind enough to convey to me their views on the 1966 series seem to have enjoyed, albeit in a masochistic fashion, the suspense engendered by the cliff-hanger. One or two were less enamoured of such a departure from convention, and were not slow to chide. In my defence, at the time none of us foresaw that there would be such a long delay before the respective fates of Oxford’s Finest could be revealed. Mea culpa.
So. What happened next? Well, given that Endeavour Morse eventually rose to become a Detective Chief Inspector, it ought not to come as any great shock that his duties with the Oxford City Police – destined to become Thames Valley in 1968 – were at some point resumed. But as to the when, how and why of it..? Such is the issue at the heart of ‘RIDE’, the film that opens the batting for the new run.
Not all the answers will come at once. However, in ways both great and small, the fallout from Blenheim Vale is destined to cast a long shadow…
As for Thursday… It’s a matter of record that Roger Allam has been photographed in Oxford wearing his familiar chapeau gris, and it would be dishonest to pretend that he hasn’t filmed some material for us. But whether this material is set in the story present, or in flashback, or – indeed – a projection of Endeavour’s mind’s eye — ‘Morse & Thursday (Deceased)’ — remains to be seen…
It’s no mistake that the first words uttered in SERIES III are ‘Oxford! All change!’ – for the world has moved on. We have covered some distance since the single standalone film that reintroduced ENDEAVOUR to the world. Now, as Easter 1967 arrives, colour is seeping into our canvas, turning a pencil grey Britain into something phantasmagorical. Indeed, June will see BBC2 transmit the first television colour pictures in the UK, as its outside broadcast team covers the All England Lawn Tennis Association championships.
Change, then – in and on the air.
Most notably for #TeamEndeavour – again, courtesy of the beautiful game — the main change has been a shift in our production schedule. This is the first series of ENDEAVOUR that we have shot during the summer – if the four soggy months between May and August 2015 can truly be said to qualify as such.
It’s been strange to find ourselves in such a season, for whether it was the long light of a cool English evening casting a golden glow upon Radford’s Brewery in ‘THE SINS OF THE FATHERS.’, or the shot (one of my favourites in all the films) of Morse & Lewis standing in a corn-field in ‘WHO KILLED HARRY FIELD?’, my memories of watching ‘Inspector Morse’ invariably involve a high summer landscape.
Context is all, but there is a line towards the end of D.H.Lawrence short story ‘The Man Who Loved Islands’ that has haunted me since I first read it, nearly forty years ago. “ ‘It is summer,’ he said to himself, ‘and the time of leaves.’ “
So let it be for ENDEAVOUR…
The other major change on the Production side is that we have moved house. Our last incarnation of Cowley Nick was contained in a rather imposing Victorian pile alongside the Thames in Berkshire. Built for a survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade, it passed later into the hands of the family that owned the sprawling paper mill (now derelict) in the grounds of which it now stands.
The factory floor is where Endeavour’s flat and the Thursdays’ dulce domum resided. The mill itself was a Health & Safety Officer’s nightmare – and bitterly, but BITTERLY cold. Despite the heat from the lighting rig, Ice cubes were the order of the day. Sucked on by the actors before a scene, lest their breath steam in the chill air and give the game away. Cast and crew bore their discomfort personfully, but shed few tears to hear the mill had been earmarked for demolition and residential redevelopment (affordable homes for key-workers, no doubt). Nevertheless, for the third time in as many series, we found ourselves homeless.
For SERIES III – we have been billeted in a former MoD/Tri-Services establishment. Ghostly hints of its previous life abound. A board greets visitors at the top of the stairs, and gives notice of the ‘DAILY TERROR THREAT LEVEL’. Stuck forever now on ‘SEVERE’, the Production Team found it reflected their mood all too often.
Typically, the last five to seven days of any ENDEAVOUR shoot take place at our production base – where our standing sets reside. The MoD site has a good number of large empty spaces – most notably the gymnasium – where the main CID offices of Cowley Police Station, and, also, Endeavour’s latest residence were constructed.
Elsewhere across the site – our brilliant design team have cannibalized, dispossessed and otherwise generally repurposed sundry rooms to create, amongst other key locations, Bright’s Office; cells and interview rooms. One particular delight is that Max deBryn’s mortuary is now housed in the former canteen kitchen — the smell of gravy overtaken by the tang of formaldehyde. To have let all those ready made white tiled walls go to waste? That really would have been a crime.
1967, then. The spring and eventual Summer of Love. It’s funny, Dan McCulloch – who produced the single and SERIES I, and who returns to the flight roster this time as Executive Producer – pointed out to me that each story in SERIES I was in one way or another about ‘family’. SERIES II – again in retrospect – proved to be about ‘children’. It is only in writing this foreword that I realise the four films here all deal to a greater or lesser extent with love, in all its guises, and disguises.
Part of my own prep (for which read ‘procrastination’ and ‘displacement activity’) for SERIES III involved assembling a number of ‘mood boards’ for each film – collages of photographs drawn from newspaper reports, brand designs, album sleeves, portraits, and stills from movies released across the year in question – visual aides-memoire, and things upon which once could draw for inspiration.
Staring down from my walls for the duration were – amongst others — Twiggy by Bailey. Donald Campbell’s Bluebird. Mary Quant. A portrait of ‘Two sporting brothers’, also by Bailey. Hendrix. The original Factory Girl – Edie Sedgwick. Terry & Julie – not crossing over the river, but in costume as Frank Troy and Bathsheba Everdene in John Schlesinger’s film of Thomas Hardy’s ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’. (Hardy, incidentally, a poet much beloved by Mr.Dexter.) All, some, or none of whom put in an appearance in proceedings.
Yet, there, also, amongst the budding flower power and colourful joie de vivre, the portraits of three men. Joe Meek. Joe Orton. Brian Epstein. Each met an untimely and tragic end in 1967. Had their deaths happened in Oxford – all three would have been investigated by Endeavour. Their inclusion in the gallery served as a reminder that even in the middle of a Summer of Love one does not have to look far to find the eternal Ruffian on the Stair.
There is a further link in the foregoing to Endeavour and the Morse-verse – Con O’Neill, who memorably portrayed Joe Meek in “Telstar,” also played, equally memorably, Paul Matthews, scion of the Abingdon Gang, in the INSPECTOR MORSE film ‘PROMISED LAND.’ “They’re all villains. The whole Matthews family.”
Without foreknowledge being requisite to enjoyment or understanding, compared to Series I and 2, there is probably more connective tissue that links ENDEAVOUR 1967 to INSPECTOR MORSE – and, indeed, LEWIS — than hitherto. Characters and places – minor and major – are recast here, and viewed afresh through their younger selves. Friends and foes. The Mateys – as the fandom self-identifies — should have fun identifying familiar names.
Bigger. Bolder. Brighter. Series III has – like Postman Pat – really ‘pushed the envelope’. The ambitions set down in the scripts have been our most technically demanding to date – and yet under the stewardship of this term’s new Head Boy – Producer Tom Mullens – Production has risen to the challenge, and then some…
Music – always an integral part of the Morse universe – features here too. We had hoped to use Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’ in one sequence, but sadly his estate declined permission. I’m told this was because the scene in question featured some recreational drug use… ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky.’
Of course, no consideration of 1967 could be complete without reference to four young men from Liverpool. Indeed, The Beatles have been casting a shadow across Endeavour-world from the beginning. ‘GIRL’ was titled for their single of the same name, and the world of pain in Lennon’s pre-chorus intake of breath – ‘still you don’t regret a single day.’ And the Traffic Warden present when a private investigator makes his vertical entrance in ‘TROVE’ – though getting ahead of ourselves – was likewise a nod to ‘Lovely Rita’.
Esteemed broadcaster and musicologist Paul Gambaccini said recently that he would direct anyone wanting a crash course in The Beatles to 1967 – a year that began with the double-A side of ‘Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields’ (denied the Number 1 slot by Englebert Humperdinck’s “Please, Release Me” – those pondering Endeavour’s incarceration should hold that thought!); the release of “Sgt.Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”; the global broadcast of ‘All You Need Is Love’; the ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ EP – and the Boxing Day broadcast of its accompanying film; and the Xmas Number 1 of ‘Hello/Goodbye’. As Mister Gambaccini observed – such an output would have been a career for many. For The Beatles, it was twelve months’ work.
Our key text, then, in many ways, proved to be ‘Sgt.Pepper’ – ‘I read the news today, Oh boy…’
FILM 1: ‘RIDE’ (Directed by Sandra Goldbacher) features both ‘a lucky man who made the grade’, and, with its fairground associations, might just as easily have been titled ‘Being For the Benefit of Mr.Bright’ – for it is Easter, and the Bank Holiday funfair has pitched its tents on Cowley Green. The Police investigate the disappearance from the Ghost Train attraction of a ‘clippie’ with the Town and District bus service. And, of course, Harry the Horse dances the waltz.
Having looked at a manufactory in ‘ROCKET’, and the world of the department store in ‘SWAY’, FILM 2: ‘ARCADIA’ i(Directed by Bryn Higgins) is our Ladybird Book of the Supermarket. Change – in Oxford and in the wider world beyond, as the Rhodesia Crisis – in the words of the late, great Jake Thackray… ‘New UDI Washes Whiter…’ – and the British Trade Boycott provides some part of our backdrop.
Change also at Cowley nick. Good fortune for some. Ill luck for others. Arrivals and departures. Entrances and exits. Amongst the former, ARCADIA marks the introduction of WPC Shirley Trewlove – played, delightfully, by Dakota Blue Richards — who makes a very welcome addition to the ranks of the Oxford City Police.
While in FILM 3: ‘PREY’ (Directed by Lawrence Gough) the Arab-Israeli Six Day War commands the attention of the world, ENDEAVOUR, together with the rest of Oxford’s Finest, has something else on his mind entirely. A Scandinavian au pair has gone missing after an evening at Night School. The resultant investigation brings Endeavour to Wytham Woods, and an adjacent country estate where he will brush shoulders with the future…
Our last story for this run is FILM 4: ‘CODA’ – (Directed by Ollie Blackburn) in which characters from two Inspector Morse films are brought together, and Endeavour is examined in more ways than one. They say if you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your intentions. My original design was that SERIES III should begin and end with a funeral. The best laid plans. As things fell out, I did get my two funerals – albeit not the two I was expecting. No wedding. As yet.
One thing that does not change is the presence of Colin Dexter; who returns to make his traditional twinkling cameo appearance in each of the four films. As sharp and erudite as ever, he always appears whenever we shoot in Oxford. Of course, it could be a writer’s overactive imagination, but on such days – ‘Colin Days’ – it seems that all the cast and crew stand that little bit taller, shine just that little bit brighter, and strive to make their very best work even better. Such is the ‘Dexter effect’. Long may he continue to grace our efforts with his presence, for, as I think I’ve said before, an absence of Colin would be as unthinkable as the ravens leaving the Tower of London.
For those who enjoy spotting them, we have – as always – included our customary collection of intentional anachronisms and deliberate mistakes… Answers on a postcard to the usual address. B^)
I am – as ever – indebted to the talent, skill and creativity of an extraordinary collective of directors, cast and crew who once again spun my rough straw into something more; to the Maestro Barrington Pheloung; to Matthew Slater, who stepped admirably into the breech on ‘PREY’; to my fellow execs, the estimable Damien Timmer, & the redoubtable Dan MacCulloch; to Line Producer, the unsinkable Helga Dowie, who has been with us from the very beginning, and without whom… And, finally, to our inexhaustible producer Tom Mullens, who bore the carnivore’s share of the heavy lifting with grace and good humour.
So it is that we take our leave of Endeavour — this time in June, at the turning point of the year. “Hello/Goodbye” – The Beatles Christmas 1967 Number 1 — is yet to come, but its mood of one door closing as another opens, seems to have found expression across the entirety of the series, both in front of the camera – and behind it.
On which point, on behalf of all of #TeamEndeavour, I’d like to thank my brother-in-arms, Script Editor extraordinaire, Sam Costin. After three series at Cowley nick, he has turned in his Warrant Card, and leaves Oxford (with a Congratulatory First) for pastures new. At my side through thick, thin, and all too many late night conference calls, across each of these films his limitless creative genius has dug us out of more holes than it would take to fill the Albert Hall. We shall miss him.
Whether we are, indeed, in the words of the Sgt.Pepper (Reprise) ‘Getting very near the end…’ rests, as always, with the audience and the Network, but I went along – as I tend to – for the last day’s shooting, and found myself between takes talking to Shaun Evans. I happened to ask him which series of Endeavour had been his favourite. Without a moment’s hesitation he replied, ‘This one.’ Who am I to argue with Morse?
I hope you enjoy the films.