I finally had a chance to catch up with ‘Endeavour’ after missing it on TV. I imagine it’s been a puzzle for TV executives looking to wring more mileage from the Morse brand; ‘Well, the ‘Lewis’ spinoff bombed’, you hear them say, ‘what about a prequel?’ So this precursor to ‘Morse’ saw unlikeable ginger pipe-cleaner Shaun Evans bravely stepping out of the shadow of John Thaw to play the young Inspector Morse, and as an origin story and possible pilot for a full series it worked admirably.
Dropping out of Oxford to pursue a police career in the 1960s, young Morse investigates a disappearance that manages to encompass almost every trope of the original Colin Dexter series – cryptic clues, classical allusions, opera singers, the Masons, bent coppers dreaming spires and hopelessly unrequited romances.
A prequel allows us to see where Morse gained his love of crossword acrostics, Mozart, opera, Jaguars and bitter served in dimple mugs, but also explains why he rubs those in authority up the wrong way. In retrospect the plot is on the borderline of utter derangement, especially struggling in its visual recap of the murders and their motives, but it matters not. Crime thrillers, for all their efforts at realistic, are rarely anything of the kind, and nor should they be.
I took a greater exception to the barely nominal evocation of the sixties, signified by shiny period cars and a lack of trashy street furniture. Indeed, whole scenes appeared to be set in the present until Charlie Creed-Miles popped up channeling Flash Harry from the St Trinian’s films, but let’s put that down to the timelessness of Oxford rather than a lack of knowledge on the part of the hair stylist. It’s a conservative enterprise akin to Miss Marple or Holmes, but on the evidence of this, a series would be welcome.