Doc On The Box – Endeavour – “Pilot”

I know the title of this blog has the word NOVEL in it but there’s a lot of good detective TV at the moment. Please indulge me a little. And, dear reader, if you’ve stumbled upon this blog in your hunt for Endeavour opinions, stick around and have a look for some more mysteries that might be up your street.

Once upon a time, there were a series of novels concerning a police inspector without a Christian name. These soon became 33 episodes of one of the most popular TV detective series of our time, namely Inspector Morse. Colin Dexter decided, in the novels, to kill off his hero, and thus, in the adaptation of The Remorseful Day, Morse was no more. The subsequent untimely death of the actor John Thaw ensured that we would hear no more from the character, on television, at least.

Seven years later, and a new series appeared on ITV – Lewis. Kevin Whately, who had played Morse’s somewhat unimaginative but loyal sidekick DS Lewis, was now promoted to lead, alongside Lawrence Fox as DS Hathaway. Now I’ll whisper this bit quietly… I think Lewis is a better series than Morse – at least, a better series than what Morse had become by the end of its run. More and more, Morse had concentrated on the character of Morse, rather than a coherent and clever plot, whereas Lewis, for all its humour and heart, has never neglected the fact that it is, first and foremost, a detective drama. Besides, Hathaway makes me laugh.

Anyway, with Lewis continuing, it rather baffled me that someone thought that a prequel to Morse, namely Morse’s early days in Oxford was at all necessary. I have read an interview with Kevin Whately where he said that he doesn’t want Lewis to outdo Morse, at least in the number of episodes (so only 10 more to go), so I presumed that Endeavour was going to be a vain attempt to keep the cash cow alive.

In a detective story, the person that looks guilty almost never is. How appropriate that the TV show that looked like a mindless cash-in certainly wasn’t any such thing.

I’ll admit a little bias here – I’m an Oxford boy. Love the place. What’s more, I appear to have attended Morse’s Lonsdale College (Merton in real life) so that gave it bonus points. But what really helped was that this was a proper detective story. It came from the pen of Russell Lewis, also a writer of the show Lewis, and starred Shaun Evans as Morse – doing a wonderful interpretation, without imitation, of a young John Thaw. It’s a nice twist having the DC, rather than the DI, as the brains, without the DI being particularly dim or resentful, and the great Roger Allam, as DI Thursday – a nod to G K Chesterton? – was an excellent choice as Morse’s sidekick. Some smart casting – in a similar vein to Death In Paradise – of at least two actors who habitually play villains helped to muddy the waters of the mystery. Although it has to be said, no-one questioned one particularly odd occurrence that ended up being crucial to the plot…

And the final act – well, that left you with no doubt that this was an Inspector Morse story. I’ll say no more than that for fear of spoilers.

There are many things in life that you don’t need. A decent bottle of Rioja, a first edition of She Died A Lady and a prequel to Inspector Morse to name but three. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them though. I look forward immensely to the inevitable series.



  1. I just finished watching this about 20 minutes ago in the company of my parents as they had to pop round and watch it at my place after their recording mysteriously vanished from the hard drive (ahem, not a case requiring investigation by Dexter’s finest!). I too thought it worked surprisingly well and definitely felt like a cut well above ITV’s usual standards frankly with a sedate pace that well matched the original show and a climax that was surprisingly emotional (my parents were a bit confused by the flashforwards in the editing but I thought it worked very well indeed). I agree that at its heart the mystery was probably a smidgen too simple to solve if they hadn’t just ignored it. If there is a series I’ll certainly watch it (it did well in the ratings, especially for its slot, but the ratings were nowhere near those of SHERLOCK though so we shall wait and see …) – and you are sooo wrong about LEWIS being better than the original MORSE (ducks for cover!).


  2. I think my point about Lewis is that it’s miles better than what Morse became. The first half or so of the Morse episodes are great, although even then the recurring theme of Morse’s doomed lovelife could grate at times. Lewis is consistently great and, by distancing the personal involvement, avoids what I felt was self-indulgent at times. My impression was always that Thaw was the sort of actor who wanted the emotional plots to give him more to do – a fair enough request – but it tended to nobble the story for me. Having said that, the last few Morses were taken directly from Dexter’s novels so maybe that theory is nonsense. Anyway – more Endeavour, but not at the expense of Lewis, please.


    • I know what you’re getting it, but for me MORSE was always a character drama first and a detective show second but I agree that best episodes of the show probably belong to the first four series (seeing the early version of Max in ENDEAVOUR made me realise how much i missed him after series two of MORSE). But history suggests that we’re not going to agree about LEWIS I fear, no matter how goof Fox is as Hathaway …


  3. Goof? Good I meant – gosh, definitely time for bed! Great post mate about a really satisfying two hours of telly – that’s two for two this week – can the new series of LAW & ORDER UK make it three in seven days (just kidding …)


    • Law and Order UK – not my cup of tea at all. Still trying to make myself watch The Clocks, but I’m setting myself a little rule with the TV reviews – only to review it if I’ve got mostly positive things to say about it. This is supposed to be a book review blog, after all.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s