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30 YEARS OF MORSE ONSCREEN

An exclusive celebration

by Damian Michael Barcroft

Copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

~

For Colin…

Our love to you and your family.

~

INSPECTOR MORSE and I were both first introduced to this world in 1975. While the conception of our favourite detective in a little guest house in North Wales, halfway between Caernarfon and Pwllheli, on a rainy Saturday afternoon is well documented, details surrounding the circumstances in which I was conceived remain somewhat more elusive and I’m happy for them to remain so. Sometimes it’s best not to ask. I share a couple of other things in common with Morse – a passion for classical music and booze for starters. Sadly though, this is pretty much where it ends as I’ll never be able to compete with his stunning intellect but here’s what I do know – thanks to Colin Dexter’s masterful grasp of the crime and detective genre, Morse and his faithful companion, Lewis, are the best and only true rivals to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

However, there’s room for another odd couple in this prestigious list of honours – Endeavour and Thursday. But how did we get from Inspector Morse to Endeavour via Lewis? Well, it has been a long televisual thirty-year journey which began on the 6th January 1987. During this period, some of the finest actors, screenwriters, directors and producers have all worked tirelessly not only to keep Colin’s creation alive, but also create some of this country’s greatest and most iconic television shows. Perhaps it is as simple as that. Maybe.

Some years ago and feeling very sorry for myself, I was standing outside a bank withdrawing cash from the hole in the wall when a bird defecated on me. Please stay with me. Just when I thought the day would never get better, someone approached me – I’ll never know who it was or even know the person’s name – but the individual didn’t point and laugh or steal my money, no – the elderly lady took a tissue from her handbag and gently wiped the offending substance from my jacket while I stood there like a helpless child. A small act of kindness but one that I’ll never forget. And, like Endeavour observed, inspired by Rosalind Calloway’s performance of Un bel dì vedremo, it restored my faith in humanity in its own little way and I myself also saw that there was beauty in the world. True, the news and the media, particularly of late, often remind us how dark and troubling the world is, and yet there really is beauty in the world isn’t there? If only we know where to find it or at least take the trouble to look. Indeed, one good day, we will see.

One of the places we are almost certain to find beauty is Oxford and I don’t just mean its architecture and dreaming spires. No, whether it’s the Oxford of Inspector Morse during the 80s and 90s, the more contemporary Oxford inhabited by Lewis and Hathaway, or the one we are currently enjoying now in 1967, you’ll find beauty in all of these because they have characters with integrity; men and women who will always do the right thing – even if occasionally they do the wrong thing for the right reasons – you can depend on them and their moral code. As with life, you’ll undoubtedly encounter a villain every week or so, but for every stinker, you’ll also find a handful of decent men and women – people with honesty, complete incorruptibility and maybe even a spare tissue for a stranger.

Perhaps then, in addition to the ingenious creative cast and crew who have worked on Inspector Morse, Lewis and Endeavour over the years, this is why they and Colin Dexter’s work endure. We watch the screen in the corner of our living rooms each week and not only see the decency of Endeavour, Thursday, Bright, Strange, Max, Trewlove and Dorothea et al., but we also see the respectability and potential within us all. A glorious widescreen high definition vision of our better selves.

And speaking of ingenious, I asked members of the Endeavour team to join this celebration of thirty years of Morse on our screens. This is what they told me…

ED BAZALGETTE

Director ~ GIRL

‘Never underestimate the audience’ – one of the first things you learn when you start working in TV, it could have been invented for the Morse/Endeavour audience. Since 1987 that audience were treated to scripts that teased and tantalised, beautifully drawn characters leading them up blind alleys, into dark corners, stories that stretched their minds, challenging them to think logically and laterally. In its time Morse became a national treasure, a much loved institution that had seen so many great stories, wonderful writers and directors.

When the call came to direct the first Endeavour of series one it was an easy decision but a tough task. We were making the prequel, stepping back in time to the crimes, cases, loves and losses that would be the making of Morse: the early years of the man who was one of the most popular characters in British television. The backdrop to this was the world of Oxford in 1965. So many period dramas had seemed to fetishize the time they were set but looking at the 60’s British films I liked, the incidental background detail was just that – the cars, clothes and interiors weren’t always front and centre, and that was exactly the feel I wanted for the world of Endeavour. Not everyone had beautifully tailored three button mohair suits, cars weren’t gleaming and routinely polished – our world had to reflect that kind of detail. Of course it could still be beautifully observed and atmospheric!

Russell Lewis refined his splendidly cryptic layered script and I researched the background. The script featured an Oxford secretarial college, I traced down people with memories and stories of the ‘Ox and Cow’ – the nickname of a well known college at the time. An early 20th century shopping parade in Ruislip became the location for the post office run by Wallace and Derek Clark in the script – after a lot of digging I found a photograph of the parade actually taken in 1965! I rifled through old family photo albums for trace elements of 60s life.

Directing the opening film meant casting many of the characters who have gone on to inhabit the Endeavour films with such well observed performances. Shaun Evans, Roger Allam and James Bradshaw had already been established in the pilot episode. Anton Lesser came aboard and was wonderful from the moment he became Chief Superintendent Bright, a beautifully realised portrait of a man from ‘another world another class. One which by 1965 was already slipping out of memory and into history’. His subtle rhotacism, and the reference in the stage directions to Field Marshal Montgomery hit the tone of a man out of time perfectly. Jack Laskey as Jakes and Sean Rigby as Jim Strange made up the rest of the core cast. On the morning of Sean’s audition I arrived first thing for some early meetings and bumped into him a few streets away. Hours before his allocated time he was pacing the neighbourhood being Jim Strange. I knew we had our man. And the guest cast for GIRL were wonderful too: Jonathan Hyde, Olivia Grant, Luke Allen Gale, Mark Bazeley, Jonathan Guy Lewis and Sophie Stuckey.

Each day’s rushes brought new delights and sitting in the edit afterwards I felt we had something very special. It all worked but one detail bugged me. The opening shot – a high view of Broad Street shot from the Cupola of the Sheldonian theatre – looked flat and empty. All the reference photos from the 60s show it packed with cars. Our shot had about six. With each viewing it looked emptier. I started to obsessively research vintage car clubs and eventually found one who promised they could access up to 30 period cars and motorbikes. Too good to be true? It felt like a long shot but before dawn on a freezing Saturday in January I went back to Broad Street to find well over almost 40 period perfect cars waiting. And they all looked right – not shiny and sparkling but properly used and lived in. In the briefest of windows between sunrise and Oxford waking up we got the shot. That was pretty much it, but not quite. The final memory was going to the recording of Barrington Pheloung’s score. Could there be a more appropriate venue to complete the first Endeavour film and recreate the sound of 1965 than Abbey Road studios?

JAMES BRADSHAW

Dr. Max De Bryn

Growing up in the town of Stamford, Lincolnshire, and having a keen interest in brilliantly told detective dramas, Inspector Morse was essential viewing in our house. Proud that he had attended the same educational establishment as the writer of these wonderful stories, my Dad would turn to me without fail, at the end of every episode and say, ‘Colin Dexter went to Stamford School, did you know that?’

And now thirty years on, I am very proud and honoured to be working with a fantastic team of cast and crew, who have created a whole new set of brilliant stories, inspired by Colin Dexter’s Endeavour Morse.

Russell is such a wonderful writer and every time I receive a new script, I never cease to be impressed with his sheer skill and mastery at story-telling. Every character is so finely drawn, and as an actor, I am personally grateful for the all those wry and pithy witticisms from Max De Bryn (far cleverer than I could come up with) and an education into the fascinating world of 1960s forensics.

I always enjoy working with Shaun very much, he is such a talented and generous actor, and I remember the first scene we filmed where Morse first meets Max. I think it was the first day of filming and I remember going home thinking what a great day, and feeling that I was part of something special.

And whether I’m learning my lines as I stroll by the river and through the local cemetery, trying on bow-tie and cardigan combinations with the Wardrobe Department, researching ‘occipital fractures,’ or having a good natter with Abigail at the read through, it’s always a delight working on Endeavour.

SAM COSTIN

Script Editor ~ Series I – III

It’s difficult to disentangle my experience working on Endeavour with my own entry into working in television generally, an opaque and boggling industry at the best of times, as they both naturally coincide and overlap. I had stumbled into a job working in development with Mammoth Screen not long after graduation, having previously mimbled about (very vaguely, one hastens to add) in arts journalism. I had been writing about cinema as an adolescent, then as a student. Strutting ingrate that I was, when by chance I saw a graduate script editing position advertised online. I assumed that the critical skills required to analyse a completed product were transferable to that which had yet to be made. I had much (read: a bucket load) to learn.

I’ll always be grateful that having blithered on no-doubt incoherently about The Singing Detective and Cathy Come Home in their old Rathbone Place offices, Damien, Rebecca, Preethi, Michele and the rest of the Mammoths first hired me on a provisional basis, and then – gasp, pant – continued to hire me for an extended period of time. I had greatly admired previous productions such as Christopher and His Kind and Margot, and other highlights (The Best Possible Taste, Parade’s End) were cresting on the horizon. I didn’t quite know what I was doing, and I lived in permanent fear of being metaphorically defenestrated for getting things wrong and making ridiculous mistakes. As it was, I made several, but I was allowed to develop, grow and find my creative feet; a luxury rarely afforded and something for which I remain thankful.

Eventually I was asked to script edit the first series of Endeavour – an ask I took extremely seriously. I’d seen the Pilot film at a screening, and then again when it was broadcast in early 2012. I knew nothing of the production process and my memories of the first series are something of a blurred jumble of learning curves and mad panics, with producer Dan McCulloch exhibiting Job-like patience as I learned the ropes.

All this time later, the job remains a relentlessly amorphous one, with Wilder’s famous dictum about directors – “….must be a policeman, a midwife, a psychoanalyst, a sycophant and a bastard.” –  bearing some vague application. In this particular case it became a process of best serving and protecting the special alchemy and deliberate architecture of Russell Lewis’ screenplays, works that are often astonishing in their adroitness and cine-literacy, as well as honouring the lineage and internal continuity of the Dexterverse that had preceded them. Across three series, every film was its own different working experience, with Russell as the constant, the details of which would fill pages too innumerable, exhaustive and personal to fully expound upon here. But the show became my morning, my day, my evening, my night; my weekday, my weekend. My life.

Endeavour Morse sustains as a lasting spoke of British cultural iconography, regardless of specific iteration, because he appeals to the best of us. So it is with some pride that I got to call his cockeyed caravan at Oxford City Police, however briefly, a home. May he, and all those who ride with him, endure.

IRENE NAPIER

Make-up Designer ~ Pilot & Series I – IV

I’ve always been a huge Morse fan. I’ve seen all of them at least twice. Which is why, when Colm McCarthy, director, called to say he had a new project, I got very excited. I had just finished working in London so I arranged to see Colm and Dan McCulloch, producer, in town before I left to drive back up to Scotland. I’m glad to say the meeting went well and Dan called the next day to tell me I was first on board on Endeavour. And as they say, the rest is history. I love doing Endeavour it always has fantastic scripts, courtesy of Russell Lewis, with great stories and many challenges. I think I’m the only crew member who’s done them all. Which is a huge honour. The core cast are all fantastic! When I travel down from Scotland to start a new series it’s like a lovely feeling of coming home and meeting up with old friends.

I never had the chance to work on Morse so this, for me, is a fantastic opportunity. We’ve had great directors and fantastic guest artists. The casting is always spot on which makes my job so much easier. With Russell’s scripts, each character is finely drawn but there’s always scope for me to add little twists. We’ve had many stunt doubles, always a challenge! In Ride we had one character playing five different characters including a twin. On this series I particularly enjoyed Canticle where we had to create a 1960’s pop band. We added many bits and pieces of hair and wigs to those boys to get an authentic look. Doing 1960’s is great fun, lots of Carmen Rollers used! One of the great things about it is, the production is really well run. We don’t do ridiculous hours and we get to go to Oxford, which is a real  treat. The crew all love to come back which just shows how much everyone loves it. It’s fantastic, for me, to be part of such an iconic production.

SEAN RIGBY

Detective Sergeant Jim Strange

Despite The Dead of Jericho first airing nearly two and a half years before I was born, it would be impossible to grow up during the Nineties and not be aware of Inspector Morse‘s immense popularity.

Towards the end of filming the first series of Endeavour, I got the cast to sign an omnibus of the first three novels to present to a long-time family friend, neighbour and self confessed Morse fanatic back in Lancashire. When I gave it to her, she had tears in her eyes. I think that’s the first time it truly hit home just how much this iconic programme means to people.

We all have to start somewhere, and I had the incredible fortune of taking my first steps as a professional actor in the formidable shoes of James Grout. Even now I still pinch myself. My working days are spent with wonderful scripts and the finest actors and crew you could find. What more could you ask for?

It is a tremendous honour to be a small part of Inspector Morse‘s enduring legacy.

Long may it continue!

MATTHEW SLATER

Composer

1987; BMX bikes, Michael Fish telling us it was only going to be a bit windy, back when there were only five billion of us on the planet, but more importantly the year Morse hit our screens.  Of course, we didn’t know E. Morse was indeed Endeavor those decades ago. I can remember the press and public interest surrounding that enigma for years with vigorous speculation and conjecture.  Being a thirteen-year-old teenager, I can also remember the television set being switched over regardless of what was on the other side.  The cast, the stories the music – it was something new and gripped the nation by the millions.  I don’t know whether it is an urban myth or not but I read at its peak some nineteen million viewers tuned in and during the ad breaks, the National Grid had to go into overload as so many kettles were being switched on simultaneously.

Back when cop shows were all guitars, brass and funk, Morse was something different.  Refined, classical and considered.  Barrington Pheloung’s theme and approach to the series was something clearly integral to the success and longevity of the characters.   Had someone told me as that thirteen-year-old that not only would I get to work on the original Morse series, but then Lewis into Endeavour, and to then finally have the honour of composing for the series in its thirtieth year, I’d have said they were utterly mad.

Being asked to become part of such a well-loved, talented and established team of actors, producers and crew is like being asked to become part of a huge, friendly family.  Shaun Evans and Roger Allam’s onscreen chemistry is equally as strong as John Thaw and Kevin Whately’s.  The entire series from start to where we are now has been brilliantly cast.  So many of the world’s finest actors have passed through the hallowed doors into the world created by Colin Dexter that I don’t think there has ever been such a vast and venerated cast list in the history of entertainment.

I felt a huge responsibility in writing the music for the thirtieth year and can only thank Tom Mullens, Damien Timmer and all at Mammoth for putting their trust in me.  Working with Russell Lewis’ brilliantly engaging new characters and stories has been a privilege.  Being involved for twenty years myself, whilst the prospect was daunting, I felt a natural and familiar comfort immersing myself into the world of one Endeavour Morse, or perhaps more befittingly…

— — .-. … .

ABIGAIL THAW

Dorothea Frazil

2017 comes around and I had no inkling it was 30 years since Morse first crossed our TV screens. Perhaps that’s a credit to the Endeavour series that we’ve become so immersed on our characters and our own program. Suddenly I am in the thick of the “30 years” thing and I can’t believe it was so long ago that it all started.

But I remember thinking, while waiting to shoot my first scene of Series 4 on some beautiful quad, that being in Oxford is a pertinent reminder of my father for me. It brings me back to him with a jolt; the colleges, the streets, the Randolph Hotel, the Ashmolean. Strange because I lived there as a child long after my parents divorced so I’ve rarely been there with him. But the character of Morse is so ingrained in that golden stone and the legacy (although I hate that cliched word) is quite sobering. Staring round at this wonderful, talented crew and actors, there to tell the stories of Inspector Morse’s crime solving… I mean, how extraordinary is that!

Thank you Colin Dexter and thank you Dad for giving Morse a corporal existence and everyone for continuing to make it happen: Damien, Russell, Kevin who drives you to the set happy and rested, Shaun with all that weight on his slender shoulders that he carries effortlessly… The list is very long. And then I stop thinking about it because if I didn’t I’d be overwhelmed and wouldn’t be able to do my job!

Having James Laurenson in the first episode was a treat and it was lovely to hear his stories of that very first Morse; the uncertainty of whether it “had legs”. But for the rest of the time I don’t think about “Morse” or “Dad”. I look across at my fellow actor and I think, Hello Endeavour, or Hello Thursday, and when the camera’s not rolling I’m having a jolly good laugh; or putting the world to right over a custard cream and a tepid cup of tea; or trying to remember my lines and not bump into the furniture. Or trying to look as though I drive a 1960 Triumph with exceptionally stiff gears every day of my life…

And I love Dorothea. I fall for her more with each series. Russell thinks up all sorts for her, some make it to the final cut and many don’t but I know they’re there and they help me fill her out. Russell graciously allows me to feel I have some input into her development as I email him with the odd thought but I have to admit, he’s the puppet master. And I love the glimpses we get of her private life. Her friendship with Endeavour is touching and particularly comes to fruition in this series. Not to give anything away! She’s a lonely soul much like her Morse compatriot. But she’s got such gumption and life force. She can be utterly charmless when she wants to be which is rare in playing or being a woman. Something men take for granted. I wish I was more like her in many ways. But not at the witching hour after a scotch too many. Or those dark hours before dawn. I doubt she’s a stranger to the Dark Night of the Soul.

Whatever other job I do during the year, there is nothing like the thrill of a fresh new Endeavour script arriving, the comfort of all those familiar faces working for the same thing, making it as brilliant and enjoyable as possible. Putting on Dorothea’s rather uncomfortable clothes and pointy bra and drowning in a sea of Irene’s (Napier) hairspray, I’m plunged back into “Ah yes, I know this. Hello, girl. Cheers.”

DAMIEN TIMMER

Executive Producer ~ Pilot & Series I – IV

Back in 1995, as a relatively fresh faced young script editor working at Central Films, the drama dream factory run by the legendary Ted Childs, I had the great fortune to be assigned to the Inspector Morse one off THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS. This was a huge event at the time; the first Morse film for a couple of years, after THE TWILIGHT OF THE GODS had apparently ended the series (with John Gielgud amongst the cast!!) back in 1993. It was a career highlight for me – working closely with the great director John Madden, being in the orbit of Colin Dexter, and actually getting to see John Thaw on set in our Wytham Wood location.

The most important relationship was with the writer, one Russell Lewis. At the time Russell was the rock star god of writers; a young man who had The Midas Touch. Everything he wrote was a huge, monster smash – KAVANAGH QC, SHARPE, CADFAEL. He was the most modest man I  had ever met, but also  genuinely the cleverest; this extraordinary collision of huge (if not mammoth) erudition with this great story brain; an innate understanding of how to hook in a big audience with a well told tale.

Adapting THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS was a complex puzzle, as the (wonderful) novel presented many challenges. I got to know Russell’s brain well over that long summer, and it was a massive learning curve for me. He was my hero.

We worked again shortly after this, on a new series for Carlton called HEAT OF THE SUN, a series of adventurous detective yarns set in Happy Valley Kenya in the 1930s. Originally conceived for Kevin Whatley, at the eleventh hour it became a vehicle for Trevor Eve. A documentary series stole the title just before transmission, and the show was (unhappily) renamed UNDER THE SUN. Beautiful scripts, but the production process was a slightly bruising experience, stretching everyone involved to the limit. But my admiration for Russell’s brain grew yet further. The joy of reading his stage directions! Such nuanced scripts, packed full of allusions to all manner of things, both sacred and profane! The show was so expensive to make it didn’t return, but it put me slightly more on Russell’s radar, so I was happy!

In 2006, the idea of a Morse tribute film looking at what happened to Robbie Lewis after THE REMORSEFUL DAY emerged. I was then at London Weekend Television, and was having a development brainstorm with Julie Gardner, now Queen of All Drama, who was also working in the department. ‘Can Kevin Whatley ever play another TV detective?’, she asked plaintively. I had my eureka moment – ‘would he ever return to play Lewis? Just one last time?’. Russell said it was a good idea, and set to work. Ted Childs was approached, and Christ Burt came on board. Kevin was sceptical, as was Colin Dexter, but great work from Russell persuaded them that this would be made with integrity. The single was a huge success, achieving a rating of 11.3 million, a huge number even back then. Many more films followed. The dynamic between Lewis and Hathaway – forged by Russell’s brain – delighted audiences for many years. Thirty three stories were told – the same as Inspector Morse.

The notion of doing an origin film to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Inspector Morse was one Russell Lewis, Michele Buck and I had discussed for some time. As huge fanboys of the original series, we were excited by the notion of glimpsing Morse in his early years. But was this a spin off too far? I was convinced that it deserved to be made when Russell offered up the title. Of course! ENDEAVOUR! From that point on, the show had its own unique identity. It exists in the world of Inspector Morse, it *is* Morse, but it is also, uniquely, Endeavour. We never talk about Morse in script meetings; we only ever refer to him as Endeavour.

Casting the young Morse was key, of course. Shaun Evans had appeared in the first episode of Monroe, a hospital series Pete Bowker had written for ITV with James Nesbitt. He was a last minute substitution after another actor had pulled out. We were discussing the script of Endeavour at the same time as were editing Monroe, and I kept thinking there was a soulful quality about this young actor which made me think of Russell’s Endeavour Morse. He had something of a fallen angel about him; his face conveyed such sadness, such intelligence, such warmth. And those eyes! With hindsight one marvels at the madness of trying to cast the young John Thaw! What were we thinking of? But to Shaun’s great credit, the first Endeavour film won many accolades from critics and fans, many of them focusing on the brilliant performance at the centre of it, but also the chemistry between Shaun and Roger Allam. Thursday, of course, is integral to Endeavour. That first script originally had Joan and Win, and Strange also made an appearance – all later cut for length. Only Bright and Jakes were missing. I think this goes to show what an extraordinary grasp on this world Russell had from the very beginning. Why is Thursday called Thursday? Why does Joan exist? I have never asked Russell, but knowing his mind and how it works, ‘Thursday’s child is full of grace…’ am sure is part of it. He had it all mapped out! I’m certain he had that extraordinary last scene between Endeavour and Joan at the end of series 3 mapped out when he first wrote the original pilot; he’s always had a very clear sense of how the lives of Thursday, Strange, Morse, Joan etc will play out over the ENDEAVOR years. That’s the thing that sets the show apart from Morse and Lewis; Russell Lewis’ role as sole author. Morse had extraordinary writers (Anthony Minghella! Julian Mitchell! Daniel Boyle!), and there was a thrill in seeing different talents take up the challenge of writing for Colin Dexter’s great creation. But in Endeavour *everything* comes from Russell’s brain. This is highly unusual in the world of returning detective drama, and I think it’s the thing that elevates Endeavour. The complex mythology extends each year. It’s a world where everyone shops at Burridges, follows the tennis career of Elva Piper, listens to recordings of Rosalind Calloway. Russell pays constant tribute to the world of Morse which lies ahead, but he also slowly builds up one of the most detailed and credible fictional worlds on modern television. Everything is to be found in this slice of 1960s Midlands life. Endeavour’s adventures take him to the world of Lonsdale and the other Oxford colleges, but also to the wider world – much more than Lewis did, and possibly more than Morse did.

Endeavour, forged by Russell, helped by Dan McCulloch, Colm McCarthy and many other wonderful directors, Sam Costin, Helen Ziegler and many others over the years. And special mention to Helga Dowie, our inestimable Line Producer. We are blessed that Sheila Hancock makes  a special appearance at the end of this 30th anniversary, in one of our very favourite films yet. Big kudos to director Jim Loach for making something so special. The camaraderie on Endeavour really is one of the most striking things about it; Russell, Shaun, Roger and everyone else all going the extra mile, knowing they are making something a little special. Knowing some of Russell’s plans for future stories I genuinely think the best is yet to come!

SARA VICKERS

Joan Thursday

Being an actor can be a lonely road. Jobs come and go, people come and go. So to enter into the world of Endeavour and Morse, is like a little haven. Meeting up with the loveliest cast and crew year after year, it’s a privilege to be part of it.

And to get to play sassy Joan Thursday to boot, I’m pretty chuffed with that.

A massive congratulation to everyone who has made Morse the huge success that it is. Long may it continue!

Happy 30th Birthday Endeavour Morse! x

HELEN ZIEGLER

Producer ~ Series IV

What makes Endeavour so special, is that each film invites you into a different world, from the spooky slipper baths and thinking machines, to the hedonistic life of pop stars, a haunted hospital and a nuclear power station. In each film, Russell creates these sublime and utterly different stories which intertwine actual events, issues and personalities with thrilling plots. He effortlessly clashes together both obvious and hidden layers of references to history and the arts, and of course ways to celebrate the 30th anniversary.  So many that even when working on the show you relish trying to work out all the secrets of the script!

I have too many great memories to pick just one. What could be better than exploring the hidden secrets of Oxford, creating a man versus machine competition, following Roger and Shaun in a boat as they seek Nick Wilding through the fog, or shivering as they run through the dark corridors of a deserted hospital, watching dancers tirelessly perfect their rainbow moves and getting to press the big red button on our set for the nuclear power station!

Ultimately, the best memories come from the people, the Endeavour family, the passion, dedication and the many many laughs. Working with such incredible talent both on and off screen was a constant inspiration for me, and it is an experience I cherish.

~

Remembering those who were there in the beginning with the very first Inspector Morse and are no longer with us:

JAMES GROUT

Chief Superintendent Strange

NORMAN JONES

Chief Inspector Bell

KENNY MCBAIN

Producer

ANTHONY MINGHELLA

Screenwriter

ALASTAIR REID

Director

PETER WOODTHORPE

Dr. Max De Bryn

and

JOHN THAW

Chief Inspector Endeavour Morse

~

I would like to thank everyone who was kind enough to contribute to the article above and all those who have done interviews with me over the past few years – especially Russell Lewis. If you ever find yourself in the back of an ambulance suffering from smoke inhalation – he’s the only man to call out for!

Also, I spoke earlier about people of good character and morals. Well, I save my final thanks to someone with more integrity, principles and goodness (not to mention patience!) than anyone I have ever met – my Kirstie. I love you x

~

Copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017
All the interviews and articles on this website are original and exclusive and I would please ask that the copyright be respected. Therefore, please do not use quotes or any other information contained here without permission. Thank you.

 

Exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview with composer Matthew Slater

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF MORSE ON SCREEN

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

Matthew Slater – Composer

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

DAMIAN: As a very young boy I was given two records from an uncle which I played constantly. One was Children’s TV Themes (1972: Cy Payne & His Orchestra) and the other was Star Wars and Other Galactic Space Themes (1978: Geoff Love & His Orchestra). The latter, in particular, showcased some very cheesey disco-pop versions of music from film and television but they started a life-long passion for orchestral music and soundtracks and I’ve since amassed a huge collection of original scores. Now, I enjoy all sorts of musical genres from Frank Sinatra to indeed opera, however, my first and true musical passion will always be soundtracks. Needless to say then, it’s an absolute thrill and a pleasure for me to be able to do this interview with an actual composer so thank you very much indeed. I wonder, what sort of music were you listening to as a child?

MATTHEW: Thank you for asking me and you’re more than welcome. Your reference to the ’78 disco version of Star Wars did make me laugh out loud.  When I first played that version of Star Wars to my children they were incredulous as to why they hadn’t heard of it before.  Being a child of the 70’s this pop version did resonate with me a little more than it perhaps should have done.  Can’t help but wonder what Mr Williams would have thought of it?

I always had a leaning towards music written for picture there was something powerfully attractive about the story telling aspect of it.  Star Wars obviously was playing constantly in our house. In fact, anything by John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Bernard Herrmann, John Barry and Ennio Morricone there would be a good chance I’d be listening to it.

DAMIAN: At what point did you realise you wanted to be a composer?

MATTHEW: The Purley Way cinema, Croydon, December 1982.  I can remember queuing around the block with my Mum to get into the cinema to see E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.  I watched that film in complete awe and amazement.  The direct emotional contact the score had on me was profound and from that moment on I wanted to be a composer.  I had a very unconventional route into the world of orchestral music for picture; not following the conservatoire route completely but learning through the times of electronic and experimental music in the ‘90’s and in many other areas of music before becoming a professional composer for picture.

DAMIAN: Can you remember the first time you became aware of soundtracks and the artistic possibilities of the synthesis between sound and screen?

MATTHEW: December 1982!  That film did show the power music can have to picture.  I once remember seeing a documentary where John Williams couldn’t quite make all the hit points work in the final twelve minute sequence in the film, bearing in mind that Williams was conducting to spots and streamers on screen which is largely a lost talent and very difficult to do compared with the click tracks we all have today which make the recording process considerably quicker.  Spielberg famously said that he’d take the picture away from the screen in the recording studio and let Williams conduct the end sequence as he would if it were a concert work or symphony.  Spielberg would then recut the end of the film to fit the most musically emotional performance by the orchestra and to me that’s why it’s one of my most emotionally charged moments in modern cinema where the combination of music and picture combine in perfection.

DAMIAN: Which film/tv composers have inspired you most as an artist?

MATTHEW: Certainly the greats as I’ve already spoken about but I think there is an enormous wealth of talent from composers like Danny Elfman, Thomas Newman, Alexandre Desplat, James Newton Howard, Michael Giacchino and George Fenton.  I also have a great deal of respect for Christopher Gunning, especially his concert works.  So, in answer to your question, all the above!  Dominik Scherrer also has a sound that is completely different which I find intriguing and has influenced me a little.

DAMIAN: And if I asked you for your favourite film or television scores?

MATTHEW: Star Wars, E.T. and To Kill A Mockingbird is sublime for film.  For T.V., now that’s a more difficult question for me.  I don’t tend to buy or listen to many T.V. scores, mainly as I think the music now must do a subtly different job to that in music for film.  I find the combined world of orchestral and electronic scores very exciting.  There are some great dramas in recent years all with very different sounds and feels and many are excellent at linking music with picture but few that you could necessarily hum the theme tune to.

DAMIAN: In recent years, Classic FM has started to play the odd film/tv theme and BBC Radio 3 has its Sound of Cinema programme but other than that, I’ve always felt that soundtracks never really get the respect and exposure that they deserve. Would you agree?

MATTHEW: I think that’s changing.  More and more people are wanting to become composers than ever before; the advent of technology has widened the creative net for people wanting to score to picture.  Just look at the number of scoring to picture courses and classes that have been established over the past ten years and it seems to be increasing every year which can only be a good thing if the foundations of composing music itself are not lost in the technology.

DAMIAN: You worked on the orchestration for the following original INSPECTOR MORSE episodes (THE DAUGHTERS OF CAIN, DEATH IS NOW MY NEIGHBOUR, THE WENCH IS DEAD and THE REMORSEFUL DAY) not to mention eight series of LEWIS. Additionally for ENDEAVOUR, you’ve worked as an onset music supervisor and arranger, composer of original songs and now also orchestrator and composer of the music score. So, you’ve obviously worked closely with Barrington Pheloung for many years, how did the two of you come to work together on MORSE, LEWIS and eventually ENDEAVOUR?

MATTHEW: Alan Bullard, my composition teacher at my college, suggested I enter a competition run by the Society for The Promotion of New Music to work with Michael Kamen on a week-long master class at the South Bank in London, culminating in a recording with a small ensemble at Angel Studios, also in London.   I duly sent off my scores and thought nothing further of it.  A few weeks later I received a letter saying that I’d been chosen as one of five from hundreds of applicants to attend the masterclass.  Unfortunately, (or one could say fortunately in my case) Michael’s scoring commitments meant he was unable to come to London for the masterclass and that Barrington Pheloung would be taking the masterclass instead.  I knew of Barry as I was a Morse fan so happy days all round.  The class ensued as did the recording and I was the only one of the five composers who wanted to conduct their own music. I jumped at the chance in fact.  Something must have impressed Barry as he invited me down to his studio and by the end of the day offered me a job as his music assistant.  That was around 1996 so I started making coffee for him and now some years later have conducted and composed the music for four ENDEAVOUR films and have pretty much done all jobs regarding the creation of a score to picture from tea boy to composer thanks to Barry.

DAMIAN: In all your years working with Barrington then, what do you think you have learnt most from him?

MATTHEW: His huge appreciation of the quality of the musicians we both work with and how to run an efficient yet relaxed recording session.  If it’s right on the second take, move on to the next cue.  Done.  Of course, quality must always be maintained but he taught me not to get into the take after take after take mentality.

DAMIAN: To what extent would you say Barrington’s music was an influence and how does it figure in the way you approach the music for ENDEAVOUR – for example, do you feel free to completely do your own thing or are you perhaps restricted in terms of, if not emulating his music, trying to remain faithful and consistent with the tone already well established?

MATTHEW:  Having worked with Barry for over twenty years it would be very not hard to have had some of his musical influence naturally come into my own music.  It wasn’t a process that I think needed a great deal of thought when scoring ENDEAVOUR.  I’d worked with Barry, Colin Dexter’s and latterly Russell Lewis’ characters for years so they seemed naturally embedded in me although Morse, Lewis and now Endeavour all have a subtle musical difference yet are definable as sitting in the same dramatic world.  It’s an unprecedented situation I think, especially when dealing with an enormous body of film work over thirty years.   Having the opportunity to work with some wonderful directors in this series also allowed a blend of the established world of Endeavour and my own sound to come in and in the right places we could go somewhere different and new.  I also had the opportunity to work closely with Tom (exec. prod.) and Helen (prod.) more than perhaps would be normal due to schedules etc. which I found a very creative experience with the exchange of ideas between everyone.

DAMIAN: You composed the complete score for PREY (SERIES 3: FILM 3) and also films 1, 3 and 4 for this series. But what can you tell us about the two original songs that you wrote for film 2 which your collaborator, Russell Lewis, tells me was like him playing Lorenz Hart to your Richard Rogers?

MATTHEW: Ha! Wonderful question! What a kind comment from a lovely talented man and friend.  I had a call from the production office on the Thursday saying that two original 1967 sounding classics were required, at least in draft form for a scene being shot on the Monday – I’d already had a little time to think about it beforehand after going on set to talk through some ideas with Mike and Helen.  Without giving anything away it naturally left Russ and I little time. There were a few lyrics in the script but not songs.  I asked Russ whether he’d mind writing a few more verses to give me a handle on the songs.  He fantastically provided, and in about 30 minutes each song was written both lyrically and musically.  It just seemed to work between us – Mike Lennox the director instantly liked them and that was that!  We went into RAK studios in London and recorded with a rhythm section, brass, strings and the actors themselves singing to make sure it all looked and sounded as real and convincing as possible.  It was a great day, even Shaun, Helen, Mike and Russ popped down to listen to the process.  No pressure for me then!! Joking aside everyone was incredibly supportive and complementary.

Working with Russell like this was an absolutely pleasure and I was thrilled to be asked to collaborate with him.  I was on set during one of the playback scenes when I overheard two actors trying to Google one of our tracks to see who originally wrote it in the ‘60’s which was a rather humbling experience.  Russ is such a great writer that it’s a composer’s dream to get to play with themes, songs, clues, historic references, operatic and orchestral masterpieces all within the one series.  It’s challenging to say the least but when that musical primer presents itself everything else comes together.

DAMIAN: If the script writing work dries up, do you think Russ has a future as a lyricist?

MATTHEW: I think there’s little chance of the writing ever drying up for Russ but yes, I would wholeheartedly say there’s another world out there just waiting to be explored.  I’ll leave that one with you…

DAMIAN: At what point in the production do you become creatively involved with each film and to what extent are the musical choices, both the underscoring and source music, discussed with Russ?

MATTHEW:  That very much depends on each film. Some require a lot of discussion and work during production and filming whilst others occur during post production so it’s generally down to how much and what type of music is woven into the plot.  Russ, the directors and producers also have their input at each stage so each film has its own unique way of unfolding in terms of collaborations with the composer.  That’s what makes the whole ENDEAVOUR process so exciting as each film I’ve ever worked on sets up new challenges and the fun is how are we going to deal with each musically.

DAMIAN: And I’d like you to take us through the process of how you approach composing the music for ENDEAVOUR. You talk to Russ, look at the script and then what happens – is there much research involved or do you initially begin with your immediate responses and feelings?

MATTHEW: It rather depends to the extent of music that’s incorporated into the story.  If there is little then the editors, directors and producers will lay up what’s called a guide score.  This is used to give the composer an idea of what emotions need to be conveyed at that point in the film.  I usually receive a copy of the script well before this so have an idea of what I think will be required.  Once the film has been locked off, that is there are no further structural changes to the film, I receive a copy of the film with the guide music score then head into the edit suite with the director, editor and producer and talk about each spot where music should or shouldn’t be, what’s liked, what isn’t and that gives me a good feel of where to start musically.  Sometimes that might be to compose the last climatic cue first so we can all see where our film is heading towards musically and making sure everyone is on board for that and sometimes the film needs a more chronological approach from start to finish in terms of composing the score.  That’s the beauty of ENDEAVOUR, each is unique and the challenge is to inject a new musical element that brings that episode together, yet remains within the music universe that is ENDEAVOUR.

DAMIAN: How long would you say it takes to write the complete score for a ninety-minute episode?

MATTHEW: That’s the six-million-dollar question.  It’s the amount of time you have available to write it!  Sometimes that’s a few weeks, other times it can end up being a matter of days to get a first draft of the score together.  As dubbing the recorded music into the final film is one of the last things that happens before the film goes out for transmission, the music schedule often gets compressed as do many other areas of production that are at the end of the production process.  That’s not always a bad thing though as I tend to work well under tight deadlines – perhaps I shouldn’t have said that…sssh, don’t tell anyone.

DAMIAN: Are all the scores recorded in chronological order and how long do these sessions take?

MATTHEW:  Not always.  For example, in this series we recorded film 2 first.  It depends completely on which films are ready for scoring and that’s not always as it sets out to be at the start of the production process.  Generally, yes, and of course that’s always a nice way to develop themes and ideas across a series so sometimes you have to think around corners to keep a sense of cohesion and development across a series.

DAMIAN: How do you decide on which individual orchestras and musicians to perform the scores?

MATTHEW: That’s an easy one.  The London Metropolitan Orchestra were formed back in 1987 with the first INSPECTOR MORSE film.  Many of the players still play on the ENDEAVOUR sessions today and are some of the world’s finest musicians without a doubt.  It’s always an honour to work with the LMO as it’s like working with friends who just happen to be world class musicians.

DAMIAN: Finally, if you had to choose just one piece of opera that best reflects the character of Endeavour Morse, what would it be?

MATTHEW: I’m going to swerve this one I think.  Over the thirty years so many wonderful operatic works have been used in the films, many reflecting different aspects of Morse’s character, others annoying him terribly.  We’ve seen him through INSPECTOR MORSE, LEWIS and now the events in ENDEAVOUR that led him to THE REMORSEFUL DAY.  I don’t think any single opera has the scope of thirty years of Endeavour Morse, much like his much loved Times crosswords, he works on so many levels.

DAMIAN: Matthew, thank you so much.

MATTHEW: You are more than welcome!

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

All the interviews and articles on this website are original and exclusive and I would please ask that the copyright be respected. Therefore, please do not use quotes or any other information contained here without permission. Thank you.

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: Russell Lewis Part III

Please note that this interview was originally published prior to the broadcast of Endeavour: SWAY (S2:03) on April 13, 2014.

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016

RUSSELL LEWIS

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

With thanks to Diogenes Small

and Mr. Tiger

ACT III

‘FUGUE’

(The nut cluster)

We’ve previously discussed FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK and GIRL, now we continue our journey through the first series of Endeavour with FUGUE and ROCKET in addition to previewing tonight’s film, SWAY…

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©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: FUGUE was something of a gear change, a race-against-time serial killer thriller. For as wonderful as the swinging sixties were, this was also the decade which witnessed the horrific murders of the Zodiac Killer, Charles Manson and closer to home, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. You must have been very young at the time but I’m wondering if you can remember these events from your own childhood and if they influenced the script for FUGUE in any way?

RUSS: With the exception of the Zodiac Killer – the rest were a constant presence from as far back as I can remember. The relations amongst whom I lived and grew up were all quite elderly, and the Victorian preoccupations, death and morbidity (we’ll leave spiritualism and the lavatory to one side this time around!) loomed large. I was probably privy to far too many details of the Tate/LaBianca murders at far too early an age. This Be the Verse…

Of course, one says Tate/LaBianca, but in truth it’s the left side of the oblique with which the media, and, through them, the public, was most fascinated. Likewise, the Saddleworth killings have provided the yellow press with easy copy for almost half a century. I doubt there’s many of my generation for whom the perpetrators didn’t occupy far too much imaginary real estate. The maternal side of my family came originally from Barton upon Irwell, so that created an additional, I hesitate to say proprietorial, interest for them, but I suspect that certainly had a part to play. ‘Manchester… so much to answer for.’

But, no – FUGUE was absolutely not influenced by either. I think there may have been a line, I’m not sure whether it was for FUGUE or not, in an early Endeavour draft for one of the films about ‘that business up North’, but I can’t remember now if it ever made a shooting script, or a final edit.

I wouldn’t want to trivialise or exploit any of those crimes by drawing upon them to any major degree, or constructing a direct parallel, in a show like Endeavour. It’s just not the place. Nor the time. If one was looking seriously and specifically at those crimes from a dramatic point of view, fine. But, otherwise… To plunder them for an ‘entertainment’ – to borrow from Graham Greene’s taxonomy – wouldn’t, to my mind, be appropriate. I’m happy to look further back for a jumping off point, but something within such recent living memory… No. I wouldn’t be comfortable with that.

By comparison – and we may be getting ahead of ourselves — the Victorian murders in NOCTURNE sprang from a loose personal connection some thirty-odd years ago with the murder of Francis Savile Kent at Rode (Road) Hill House, which – at the time – led me to The Saint With Red Hands by Yseult Bridges, and another volume by Bernard Taylor, Cruelly Murdered, I think it was, which also dealt with the case. It stayed with me, I suppose. Percolating. Germinating. Waiting its moment.

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©itv/MammothScreen

It’s now one-hundred and fifty years in the past, and seems far enough removed to draw upon comfortably for something like Endeavour. (It was also drawn on – much closer to the time – to varying degrees by Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens, and also gets a run-out in a segment of Dead of Night, so we’re in pretty decent company). Yet, even there, our crime is but a faint echo – five murders rather than just the one – of its inspiration. In fact, I think the only direct point of contact is that the respective paterfamilias in both instances share the same forename. Though our Samuel was a tea-planter rather than a Inspector of Manufactories.

One final correction to be made. It’s been suggested that our luckless Victorian police Inspector (who ended his days a broken, hopeless drunk in a cheap rooming-house in Dorking) was a nod to Whicher – whose career never recovered from his failure to bring someone to book for the Rode Hill House murder. The truth is much closer to home. It was an affectionate tribute to the producer of the first series of Endeavour, Dan McCulloch – for whom, sober or not, the description holds some meaning.

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©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: Indeed, the psychiatrist, Dr. Daniel Cronyn (aka Mason/Gull), mentions the growing trend in American serial killers and references Charles Raymond Starkweather, Albert De Salvo (The Boston Strangler) and the bodies in the swamp at Fairvale (a nod to Psycho?). Furthermore, FUGUE also features many little allusions such as one of Cronyn’s aliases, Gull, who intends to claim five victims (a favourite suspect of the five canonical Jack the Ripper murders is Sir William Gull) and also the walled up body in the cellar of the farmhouse (Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat?). Do you have a fondness for the horror and Gothic genre?

RUSS: Yes, Sir William (one of Stephen Knight’s now much discredited ‘unholy trinity’) was certainly in my mind – but it was the sense of his surname as a verb that was uppermost. Fairvale – the cuckoo’s egg amongst the rest — was indeed a nod to Hitchcock. The walling up… certainly has Poe associations, but, if anything, I think I would have had A Cask of Amontillado, and the fate of the poorly named Fortunato (and his thousand insults!) more in mind, as he was alive at the time of his immurement, unlike the victim in The Black Cat – but again, the point of departure for all the murders comes back to the first key idea, which was to recreate famous deaths from Opera. Radames fate in Aida was too attractive to ignore. Again – the idea was to attack the thing which gives Endeavour such comfort and pleasure, and taint it in some way. As in FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK.

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©itv/MammothScreen

A fondness for horror/Gothic? You really will wish you hadn’t asked… One of my early prize possessions was Denis Gifford’s (sometime cartooning and writing partner of Bob Monkhouse, amongst many other achievements!) landmark A Pictorial History of Horror Movies, which I got hold of when I was nine or ten, from WH Smiths at Euston Station. (The important things stay with you.) Later, I acquired some of Alan Frank’s fine guides to the genre.

Universal, RKO, AIP, Amicus, Tigon, and the mighty House of Hammer were as familiar in my mouth as household words. And like many young boys, the Aurora ‘Glow in the Dark’ model kits of the classic ‘monsters’ became an obsession. An obsession clearly shared with the young Mark Petrie… Though, so far as I’m aware, no one ever came scratching at my bedroom window.

This was all in a pre-video recorder/DVD age. But I was lucky enough to be growing up at a time when BBC2 could be relied upon to broadcast a regular Saturday night Horror Double Bill – starting off with the Universals, but, then, moving on to a mix and match of Hammer classics, and many of the Corman/Poe/AIPs. It really was an education.

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©itv/MammothScreen

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©itv/MammothScreen

I was far too young to get into what were then X-Cert films – today’s 18 — which certificate such horror fare invariably bore. But good old TV came to the rescue by delivering the wig-out 70s, and such English curiosities as Scream and Scream Again; Psychomania; the late Hammer Draculas – AD1972; Satanic Rites, &c.; Pete Walker’s output: a brace of Phibes, (the latter featuring Robert Quarry, AIP’s own Count Yorga! for extra meta!) . Though, I suppose, of all that period, the film which casts the longest shadow is The Wicker Man. Ah… Sgt.Howie.

In some small degree FUGUE is a nod to both Phibes, and Edward Lionheart’s (Theatre of Blood) ‘collect the set’ m.o. And also – of course – though the ‘crimes’ were driven by a different motive altogether, Kind Hearts and Coronets. On the literary side… Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four, and Dame Agatha’s And Then There Were None.

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©itv/MammothScreen

We were hugely spoiled – for a brief wee while in the 60s and 70s — with TV shows in the genre; the BBC’s Ghost Stories for Christmas; some ITV adaptations of the classics; Brian Clemens’s long running ATV Saturday night Thriller; Nigel Kneale’s Beasts; and then the BBC’s Supernatural, (mostly) by Robert Muller, came along in 1979 — tales told at the Club of the Damned. Made in studio, and directed multi-cam from the gallery. Staggering set designs and builds — of a kind you’d kill for now.

Robert Hardy wandering haunted canals and sitting at the table of a certain cafe in Ghosts of Venice. Gordon Jackson proving that there was much darkness beyond the kindly Hudson in Night of the Marionettes. Vladek Sheybal channelling Peter Lorre!! Oh my! So many gems. Between them, the Beeb, Network DVD and the BFI have reissued many of the above titles. If you have a taste for such, I can’t recommend them highly enough.

More recently, my fellow Spooks alum., the great LUTHERan, Neil Cross gave us a memorable addition to the BBC’s Ghost Stories for Christmas, with his modern retelling of the MR James story Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You My Lad. And that appears to have re-established the tradition, though adherence has been sporadic, and more honoured in the breach…

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©itv/MammothScreen

No monograph on the subject – which I realise this is turning into – be it ever so brief, would be complete without mention of The League of Gentlemen – Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith. Keepers of the dark and secret flame, I’m a great admirer of their work — both severally and individually. Their collective admiration, respect and affection for the genre is something to be cherished. Mark Gatiss’s Crooked House trilogy, and, more recently, the Ghost Story for Christmas – The Tractate Middoth — have been particular treats. The three-hander Rope homage in the outstanding Psychoville (Series 1, I think), was something very special indeed. Flawless writing, execution and performance. And now Number 9, and Ghosts, and the Great Detective, etc.. Long may they reign – in all their numerous guises and disguises.

As a boy, I was in and around some of the studios where some of these productions had been made – the Hammers, Amicus, Tigon – and even, I think I’m right, someone will correct me else, an AIP (The Masque of the Red Death was done over here, as I think, was The Tomb of Ligeia) — and, indeed, still were being made. It gave me an enormous kick to be amongst such history.

I was much given to prowling (haunting) empty sound-stages and backlots during lunch breaks. There is a certain… atmosphere on a deserted studio set. A pin-drop silence. Some residual heat from the lights. A particular scent of warm air. To which nothing quite compares. All very Sunset Boulevard, I’m sure, but there is something about bogus corridors and flights of stairs that lead nowhere which, if you have a mind at all susceptible to suggestion, excites the imagination. I found it mesmerising. Thrilling. Perhaps even sacred. Still do. Alas, very little is shot ‘in studio’ these days.

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©itv/MammothScreen

Amongst my very earliest memories is playing amongst a whole heap of Dalek casings on the back-lot at Shepperton, which would have been left over from the Peter Cushing Doctor Who outings. For years there was a particular aroma – which took a city boy a lifetime to identify – that I always associated with Shepperton. It drove me mad trying to work out what it was. But it wasn’t until we were in pre-production on TWTTW (The Way Through the Woods) that I was able to solve the mystery.

Chris Burt – who produced TWTTW — had an office in the ‘main house’ at the studio, and I was often holed up there with John Madden as we tried to crack some of the difficulties in adapting Colin Dexter’s novel. (There is a central conceit in the plot which it’s easy to get away with on the page – but because we have to present the thing visually it was as tricky as you like. In fact, thinking about it, there’s a couple of those. Colin is terribly canny and will sometimes tease his readers with a ‘someone saw something’ kind of sentence. Which is great, but how do we shoot it? Which ‘someone’? What ‘something’?)

Anyway, I digress – sorry, this is turning into a Ronnie Corbett story. But there, walking across to the house every day, was this scent again. Only this time, I was able to locate and identify the culprit. What was it that had haunted my senses for thirty-odd years? Only ‘box’ and nothing more… (Now I’ve told you, I can’t help but feel like Eric Idle’s waiter — Gaston, was it? — expounding his philosophy post the Mister Creosote sequence in the Pythons’ Meaning of Life!!) I think this is the point that the Harry Stoneham Quartet start playing the Parkinson theme and we roll end credits.

There’s a Lewis I wrote – my first when I came back onto the flight roster – set around Hallowe’en, which really was a massive nod to all of the foregoing. My love of the genre in film and TV, together with the writings of Poe, Lovecraft, M.R.James and many, many others, all got folded into that story. Falling Darkness, I think it was. I get confused as I did two for that series – the other was titled The Dead of Winter, and centred on Hathaway’s childhood connection to a stately home, and the family who live there. But we didn’t title them until quite late, and it could have gone either way – so I’m never 100 per cent sure which way round it was. It was the same with Series 1 of Endeavour – with the exception of, appropriately enough, FUGUE, the rest were all finally titled at the end of production. If we ever went again, I think I’d probably go back to that model – titles last. Otherwise things leak out – spoilers and so forth, which I’m not too keen on. At all.

One happy coincidence, however, that comes courtesy of my association with Morse, and which closes the circle, is that while we were prepping TWTTW at Shepperton, Sir Kenneth Branagh’s film Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was shooting on the sound-stages and backlot. Once more I was able to indulge my weakness for wandering deserted sets – this time of a beautifully realised Ingolstadt, and come at last within the baroque – though still memorably melancholy – shade of the House of Frankenstein. Even through adult eyes, the magic was, and is, and will ever remain, undimmed and undiminished.

‘And much of madness, and more of sin – And horror the soul of the plot’!

DAMIAN: FUGUE features more screen time with Morse than is perhaps usual with many scenes in which he is alone. The episode also introduces Thursday’s family for the first time so I’m wondering if this was a deliberate attempt to highlight his isolation and loneliness?

RUSS: If he is alone, it’s probably because we wanted to underline his status – still at this stage very much the outsider. And introducing the Thursdays – their normality pushed the disconnect with the nature of the case.

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©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: There’s a wonderful connection to the original series with the explanation as to why Morse suffers from vertigo (see Service of All the Dead) but am I right in thinking Masonic Mysteries was also an influence?

RUSS: Yes, Endeavour’s high-jinks were intended to sow the seeds of his later vulnerability – ‘C’mon! Show a little backbone, will ya?’. But the finale of FUGUE is one of those instances where – in early drafts at least — you’ll find “LOCATION DEPENDENT” in the Sluglines and Stage Directions. We had a good idea of what we wanted, but really couldn’t nail down what we might or might not be able to realise until a suitable location had been found. And so the Recce fed back into the script. Once we had the location for Alfredus College, we was able to tailor the action on the page to what could be achieved. Our nod to the genius of Harold Lloyd.

Masonic Mysteries is such a towering achievement in the Inspector Morse televisual canon that it is often there to a greater or lesser degree.

But I couldn’t close any discussion of FUGUE without mentioning director Tom Vaughan. That we were blessed with fantastic performances from the cast notwithstanding, Tom just ‘got’ FUGUE from the off, and gave us all we could have asked for and more. And then once Barrington Pheloung does his thing – aided and abetted by Matthew Slater… In the words of many a reality TV talent contest, it ‘takes it to the next level.’

~~~

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©itv/MammothScreen

ACT IV

‘ROCKET’

(The very rum truffle)

DAMIAN: Again, there was change in mood with the third film, ROCKET, which was perhaps a touch lighter in tone and humour. Is it a conscious decision to shape each film differently with its own unique identity and is this why every film has a different director?

RUSS: Well – each film has a different director for very practical reasons. Typically, the post production period of the first film occupies the shooting period of the second, and the shooting period of the second is the ‘prep’ time for the third film. I suppose it might be possible to bring back FILM 1 director for FILM 4, but it would be a lot to ask, as their schedule would run – prep FILM 1, shoot FILM 1, post FILM 1 – prep-FILM 4 – shoot FILM 4 – post FILM 4.

From my end – we only get to do four of these a year, and I want to try to get as much variety in as possible. It’s always Endeavour, but, hopefully, comes out of a different trap for each film. But it was lovely that we got Colm McCarthy back for HOME – a secret Dan McCulloch kept up his sleeve until the last moment.

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DAMIAN: You’ve said in the past that there was a long and quite twisted backstory to writing ROCKET – would you care to elaborate for us please?

RUSS: You’ll have to jog my memory, as it’s quite a long time ago now. The final clue was always in my head – the accidental method whereby Endeavour unlocks the mystery. (Spoilers ahead!) Ah – now I remember. Yes. As I mentioned before, not everything you write ends up getting green lit and made, and some years ago – ten or more, I should think – I was asked to adapt a novel as 2×90 minutes. I… took some liberties. It was a pretty loose adaptation, as these things sometimes are, but I needed to find a way in, to make it more of a state of the union piece, and as a result I ended up looking at certain newsreels – amongst which sundry visits by members of the royal family were made to certain towns and factories, etc.. There was one with the DoE – it must have been the late 50s/early 60s – and the tone of it struck a chord somewhere. And then another of HMQ’s visit to… Stevenage, I think it was – there to admire the Thunderbird missile factory… Met by the Lord Lieutenant, etc.. ‘Have you come far?’ Bob Danvers Walker providing the narration. What a voice. And – to cut a long story – there was a changing of the guards at the broadcaster, and the new broom didn’t share their predecessor’s enthusiasm for the project, so it quietly died a death. But those newsreels were stacked away in the back of my mind…

Nothing is ever wholly wasted. A decade or so goes by… And thinking about stories for the first series of Endeavour, I remembered the newsreel. I’m fascinated by the long history of our island race – how EXACTLY did we get here? – changing social mores, &c. And the missiles and Her Majesty seemed too tempting to resist as a jumping off point. As soon as one thinks of factories and British films, a certain Boulting Brothers’ masterpiece (one of several!) can’t be far behind.

I thought it might be fun to have some kind of dynastic struggle behind the scenes amongst the owners of the factory. And the Plantagenets seemed a splendid model. Thinking of Henry, Eleanor and their fractious offspring brought to mind James Goldman’s staggeringly good The Lion in Winter. And the rest is…

So – those were the three things, the major ingredients for ROCKET stew.

I also had a the back of my mind that bit of folklore/urban myth about everywhere a royal personage visits smelling of fresh paint. So one takes that and puts it with the rest of it, and… Click!!!

Dan McCulloch brought us to director Craig Viveiros who was fairly untried with television. Little did we know that he wouldn’t just get the crate airborne, but would shortly dazzle us with barrel-rolls and loop-the-loops. Ridiculously talented just about covers it.

I’m very partial to a chamber piece – a precinct drama – which in effect is what ROCKET was. The factory and offices of Imperial Electric were a closed space. Our cut-off country house. We were two and a bit weeks in the old Tate & Lyle factory at Greenwich – possibly our longest stay at any location to date – which doubled for IEC — and I think the look Matt Gant (Production Designer) and his team of elves achieved simply dazzles. The way Craig and DoP John Pardue shot it… It’s just terribly stylish.

Likewise Chinon Court – the Brooms’ family home – which was Craig’s call for a location. I’d been terribly literal with the mediaeval vibe, but thankfully Craig, Matt and Dan saved me from myself, and went for this moderne masterpiece, which we then dressed with the odd bit of armour, etc., so’s not to lose sight of its inspiration. It fitted the look of the factory far more closely, and gave the whole thing a sense of completeness.

We were very lucky with our directors. Ed Bazalgette had the toughest gig of all, I think – opening the batting for us on GIRL; defending The Ashes almost, after the reception FBTW had received. He had so much on his shoulders – essentially setting up a new show – but he delivered with his customary brilliance, style and panache, and gave us not only a terrific film, but a perfect springboard for all that followed. An unbeaten double century.

But – back to ROCKET… Add the sublime Miss Jenny Seagrove, and the living legend that is Mister Martin Jarvis (every bit as lovely and mischievous as you might expect) as our Nora and Henry and it’s like all one’s birthdays and Christmases have come at once. That Martin had history with Morse (Greeks Bearing Gifts – What a film!) made the experience even more special. To hear that voice – THAT voice! – delivering one’s dialogue at the read… I mean… Come on!

DAMIAN: There are many moments for the fans to savour in this film but I particularly enjoyed the humorous exchanges between Morse and Strange (Bergman!) and the beautifully written and performed scenes with Alice Vexin (Maimie McCoy). I know Morse is currently busy with Nurse Monica but might we see Alice return one day?

RUSS: Yeh – dear old Strange. If not a cultural desert, then perhaps an area with very low precipitation. I’d forgotten about the Bergman, but now you mention it, that scene very nearly got cut from the final edit. Jokes are always a hostage to fortune – being seen as not furthering the plot, but I think I’ve said before, it’s the character stuff carries equal weight for me, and I think there might be some Jakes material lurking in this scene also, which probably saved it. You’ll have to forgive my memory – I haven’t seen it since it was broadcast. But, yes – Strange’s misunderstanding, possibly prefigures/draws on an exchange about Morse’s recent holiday destination in TWTTW…

Very sadly we did lose a scene between Dorothea and Strange, which came quite late in proceedings – once Endeavour was firmly on the scent. It is shot – and edited – and perhaps one day we’ll include all the stuff we couldn’t squeeze in. It’s a scene I like a lot – a rare two hander between Abigail and Sean. It sprang off the back of some oblique Endeavour mutterings in the cinema about Simeon Stylites. Also cut…

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

Ah… Alice Vexin… in the person of Maimie McCoy. I thought it was interesting to turn the usual coat inside out and have a character who had carried a torch for Endeavour, or rather her idea of Endeavour – enhanced by the passage of time. As Jakes observes in TROVE – ‘absence makes.’ There’s little quite so attractive as that which one cannot have. But I think once, almost immediately, that Alice had got it out of her system that the bubble was burst, and she could see Endeavour was not the brightest of prospects for something long term.

In terms of Endeavour’s development, it felt right to establish in the fourth film we’d done that he wasn’t going to lead some kind of prissy, asexual, weirdly monastic existence. He might be unlucky in love by the time we get to meet him as a Chief Inspector, but to imagine, or, worse, to actively want his twenties and thirties to be just this arid stretch of nothing seemed to my mind unrealistic, immature and more than a little bit Annie Wilkes! You dirty birdy! Of course Endeavour taking someone to bed on screen (as t’were) was a break with tradition, but we hoped we’d bring the audience with us.

Maimie’s this luminous, ethereal screen presence. A very sharp, very sensitive actor – both strong and fragile at the same instant, which was just perfect for Alice. And she and Shaun just nailed that relationship. I particularly like the way Craig V and his D.o.P. framed those scenes at the table in the pub. Very Kubrick.

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

One thing I’m keen to establish is the idea that Oxford is a living, breathing place outside of our adventures. The notion that Endeavour would not run into Alice, or, indeed, other characters previously encountered in a place so relatively small and socially insular (then! Before there are ‘letters’!) as Oxford strikes me as unlikely.

DAMIAN: As is now customary, please tell us a little bit about tonight’s film, SWAY – I believe you’ve been digging into Oxford history again?

RUSS: Yup, I’ve got a history of the Oxford City Police that contains a great section on Bonfire/Fireworks Night/November 5th, which was an annual blast of riotous town and gown mayhem. All leave was cancelled and the City Police deployed a large contingent of officers in ‘disguise’ to infiltrate the crowds and identify troublemakers for their colleagues to nab. I think I’ve mentioned before how the shooting schedule – late summer through winter – defines what we can and can’t realise, and so FILM by FILM the seasons progress – SWAY brought us to autumn, and November 5th seemed a good spot to hang the story on – there’s another reason it was chosen, which will become clear if you watch it, but I can’t go into it here for fear of spoilery.

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©itv/MammothScreen

“Le Minou Noir”

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

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~~~

The Inside Story

Each week we’ll be looking at what information we can glean from each of the Endeavour films concerning significant events and encounters and how they relate to the original series. Today we continue with our study of Fugue and Rocket

Morse appears in The Oxford Mail with the following headline: ‘TOP OF THE COPS – DETECTIVE CONSTABLE IMPRESSES AUDIENCE AT OPERA RECITAL’. Fugue

The psychiatrist, Dr. Daniel Cronyn (aka Mason/Gull*), is asked to help profile the “Opera Phantom”. He makes reference to the growing trend in American serial killers and mentions Charles Raymond Starkweather, Albert De Salvo (The Boston Strangler) and also the bodies in the swamp at Fairvale (Fairvale is fifteen miles away from the Norman Bates/Psycho mansion and motel). Fugue

*It is interesting that Gull wishes to claim 5 victims – the same number as the canonical Jack the Ripper murders – one of the suspects was Sir William Gull. Fugue

Cronyn stabs Morse in the stomach with a knife. Fugue

Morse develops a fear of heights which he still suffers from in 1987. Fugue & Service of all the Dead

-Thursday’s family: Win (wife), Sam (son) and Joan (Daughter). Sam has/or is about to join the army and Joan works in a bank. Fugue

-Thursday speaks Italian. He came up through Italy after North Africa, landed at Reggio and then on to Cassino. Fugue

-Thursday also speaks German. Rocket

-There is a picture hanging on the wall of Thursday’s living room which is reminiscent of Housman’s “blue remembered hills”. The picture is to the right of Morse when he is resting shortly after the stabbing. Fugue

Oxford City Police are responsible for providing additional security while Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret is escorted on a tour of a factory for the official unveiling of the new Standfast Mark Two surface-to-air missile. The purpose of the visit is to help promote British industry abroad. Rocket

Alice Vexin discovers the body of Percy Malleson (aka Kendrick). Alice had a crush on Morse while at University and lived across the stair from Susan. Alice and Morse haven’t seen each other for seven years and he hardly recognizes her at first. Rocket

Morse tells Alice he has only been back in Oxford for a couple of months. Rocket

Morse and Alice meet on a date at the Fox and Hounds where she used to drink as a student. Morse says he likes police work but doesn’t fit in. Alice tells him that he was never like the rest despite Morse wanting and trying to be. She continues that he was difficult, awkward… all corners socially and so angry… but himself most of all.

After Morse’s failed relationship with Susan, Alice hoped he might seek comfort in her but instead, he just disappeared from her life.

Alice wears her hair like Susan did in the hope that it will remind Morse of her and perhaps be attracted to her. Morse says he doesn’t know if he is still in love with Susan but it is obvious that he is. Alice wonders if he could love her too.

Later, Morse and Alice spend the night together but soon afterwards, she tells him that she doesn’t think he is ready for a relationship and doesn’t want to be second best after Susan. The two go their separate ways. Rocket