One of my favourite characterisations by any actor or actress in any medium is that of Inspector Morse by John Thaw. I grew up with him in a very real sense. The first Morse episodes were broadcast in the late 80s, just as I was starting to get interesting in television beyond cartoons. They continued all through my growing up. Sometimes I watched them with my Granny, other times with the rest of my family. I will not claim to say at eleven or twelve I always followed the stories especially well, but even then something about John Thaw’s portrayal of the somewhat irascible Chief Inspector drew me in.
Recently members of my family have been giving me the various Morse DVDs as birthday and Christmas presents, and along with these this summer I was given the DVD Endeavour, the Morse prequel. Given the history I have with Inspector Morse it is fair to say I approached Endeavour with a fair amount of trepidation – what would they do to my beloved character?
Well, I need not have feared. Shaun Evans’ depiction of Morse as a young man works – and works because there is not too much of Morse in him yet. Oh there are signs – he loves his crossroads and his opera, but when we first meet him he does not drink. That comes later, where we also see his queasiness around bodies (a less-remembered aspect of his character) and the start of his love affair with a Rolls-Royce. This is also a man with rough edges, yet to be worn down a little by the grindstone of life. This is perhaps most pronounced in his manner. John Thaw’s Morse always had a sense of slowness about him, an economy of effort as it were in his movements (if not necessarily in his thoughts). In contrast this young Endeavour is at times almost jerky with nervous energy as his thoughts whirl around in his head. In essence he does a very good job of portraying a realistic version of a young man who might one day become.
The story itself is pretty good too. It presents a jaded, if believable view of the world of the 1960s and the policing of that time. The young Endeavour is part of an investigation into a missing girl. Roger Allam plays Endeavour’s boss, Inspector Thursday, with aplomb with a motivation that is easy to understand. Here and there throughout the tale you get glimpses of a society entering a state of flux – as of course happened to Britain in the 1960s.
Ultimately I very much enjoyed myself. ITV has shown itself adept at extending the Morse legacy with the Lewis series, and now I think they have shown the same in this initial view of Morse as a young man. I read that more episodes are planned, and I look forward to them.
Of course, I watched this as someone wanting to be convinced. Someone who has never watched the original Inspector Morse, or for whom it did not have such a large impact may view it differently, but I would rate this a very solid 4.5/5.