Critically-acclaimed and internationally renowned detective drama, Endeavour, returns to ITV1 for the ninth and final series. Produced by leading indie Mammoth Screen – part of ITV Studios – in partnership with Masterpiece, the Morse prequel sees actor Shaun Evans reprise the title role of DS Endeavour Morse for the very last time. Shaun also directs the first of the new films titled Prelude. Alongside Evans, the series sees illustrious stage and screen actor Roger Allam return as DCI Fred Thursday. The final instalment of the popular drama has once again been written by Endeavour creator Russell Lewis who has penned each of the 36 screenplays across the last decade.
The new series, set in the early 70s, finds Endeavour and Thursday entering a new era of change both professionally and personally with the return of some familiar faces along the way including Sam, played by Jack Bannon, who arrives back from Northern Ireland following his service in the British Army. Filmed in and around Oxford the strong ensemble cast reunited with Shaun and Roger includes Anton Lesser who returns as CS Reginald Bright, Sean Rigby as DS Jim Strange, James Bradshaw as Dr Max DeBryn, Abigail Thaw as Dorothea Frazil, Caroline O’Neill as Win Thursday and Sara Vickers as Joan Thursday.
INTERVIEW WITH ROGER ALLAM
Q: What did you and the rest of the Endeavour team want to achieve with this final series?
“We wanted there to be an end. A point where Endeavour can move off into John Thaw’s Inspector Morse. It felt the right time. We had done plenty of films. From my point of view I also wanted something that had emotional heft that gave a good reason why Morse never mentioned Thursday in the later John Thaw years. Which I think we do satisfactorily in this. I think we covered all of those bases very well.
“Thursday says to Chief Supt Reginald Bright (Anton Lesser) in this series that Endeavour is the soul of discretion and if a secret wants keeping, Morse will take it to the grave. And, as the audience will discover, there is something about Thursday that Endeavour will, indeed, take to his grave. There are also echoes of Inspector Morse in the final episode which I hope will be emotionally satisfying for the audience.”
Q: Where did we leave Morse at the end of the last series?
“Alcohol had become a problem for Endeavour in the last series. So he’s been sent away to get things under control. At the start of this final series he has returned to Oxford having been absent for a number of months.”
Q: What decision does Thursday make about his own future?
“Thursday applies for a promotion to nearby Carshall, where Endeavour started his police career. The promotion means that because of the money Fred lost to his brother Charlie he can serve for maybe three more years in Carshall, increase his pension, and then call it a day. But that means more desk work which he has never been keen on.”
Q: We also discover what happened to his son Sam Thursday (Jack Bannon) who went missing while serving with the British Army in Northern Ireland?
“Sam is a huge worry for Thursday in this series. Sam is out of control and doesn’t know what to do. He didn’t really want to come home to Oxford in the first place. So there is an awful lot to deal with there both practically and emotionally about how to get Sam on his feet again.
“Sam feels humiliated about what happened when he was with the Army in Northern Ireland. His experience there is a different kind of thing to what Thursday went through in the Second World War. That was so vast with Fred fighting in North Africa and the Italian campaign which was pretty awful. Especially the Battle of Monte Cassino.
“So Fred will have seen things of a different order to Sam. But Sam was completely destabilised in Northern Ireland by not knowing who the enemy was. Whereas you fundamentally knew who the enemy was in the Second World War.”
Q: We’ve spoken before about Morse being a surrogate son to Thursday. How does the return of his real son impact on that relationship?
“All of Thursday’s focus goes on Sam because of the worry about him. Endeavour seems sorted and it appears he has got his drinking under control. Whereas Sam is knocking drink back like anything. It’s not so much that there isn’t also room for Endeavour, because there was in the past. But all of Fred’s focus is on Sam.”
Q: Is it fair to say Morse feels more alone and isolated than ever in these three films?
“That’s certainly true. The whole group is moving on. Bright is retiring. Thursday is leaving. Jim Strange (Sean Rigby) is set to move away with Joan (Sara Vickers). Not to mention Strange’s impending marriage to Joan which is several twists of the knife for Endeavour. So it does feel like everyone is leaving. In both our story and, of course, in reality.
“Fred is also set to be the father of the bride. He is happy that his daughter Joan’s husband-to-be is a solid, honest, decent copper. He thinks it will be a good marriage.”
Q: This final series is set in the summer of 1972. Over half a century ago. But there are still parallels in this final series between then and now?
“Some things don’t change. Obviously they are not exactly the same. But there are similarities between 1972 and today. We all try to survive in whatever world we find ourselves in. But unfortunately hatred, suspicion and violence is all too common in our species.”
Q: A past investigation focused on former boys’ home Blenheim Vale returns to the fore as do some old faces. Which puts Thursday and his family at risk?
“At the end of the ‘Neverland’ episode about Blenheim Vale in 2014, Endeavour was arrested and put behind bars and Fred was shot and wounded. Both Endeavour and Thursday had discovered the historic abuse that had gone on in Blenheim Vale. We also discovered that Det Sgt Peter Jakes (Jack Laskey) had been a boy there and had also suffered abuse. There were an awful lot of strands to that story and certain things never got solved.
“There have been lots of placements throughout our stories by the writer Russell Lewis of things to do with land, development and corruption that Blenheim Vale is involved with as well. There have also been stories in previous Endeavour series where going on in the background, and sometimes the foreground, were struggles between different gangsters which saw the death of young DC George Fancy at the end of series five when he was caught up in crossfire.
“We never quite got to the bottom of some of those stories. Probably because you do never get to the bottom of those things in real life. Corruption goes all the way up. But we uncovered a lot about it as the stories went on. I suppose that is what police work is. You put out a fire only to discover another one has started somewhere in the distance. They are all related and you do your best. So I wouldn’t say we have tied everything up in terms of crime in these last three stories.
“Thursday, Morse and others are in real danger in this series. There is a lot of tension. Is Joan’s wedding to Jim going to be disrupted? We’ve seen Joan under threat before when she worked in the bank and was one of the hostages in an episode. Threatening the thing that Fred holds most dear – his family. Which leads to conflict between Thursday and Endeavour in these final films.”
Q: There is a sense of foreboding in the first film – ‘Prelude’ – with a story centred around the Oxford Concert Orchestra.
“You can certainly hear that sense of foreboding in the music of the orchestra. Along with the return of Blenheim Vale as being the ongoing thread through these last three films.
“I actually went for the first time to the recording of the music for the final episode. It was so impressive. We were in this studio in Hampstead and there was a 60 to 70 piece orchestra there. It was huge. Really wonderful.
“It was also a delight to work in that first film with guest actors like Nicholas Farrell (Sir Alexander Lermontov) who I’ve known for years. With other guest names including Jane Lapotaire (Madame Belasco) who appear.”
Q: Episode two – ‘Uniform’ – features Kevin R McNally as the detective star of an TV crime drama. When Thursday and Morse watch the filming, Fred describes it as “a rum caper”. You must have had fun playing those scenes?
“It’s not in your mind when you’re doing it. When you act stuff you kind of play a trick on yourself. But it does make things fun to do.”
Q: Each of the regular characters is given a proper farewell in this final series?
“We have given a satisfying junction for all of our regular characters. That was the difference between Inspector Morse and Russell Lewis’s work on Endeavour. There is a lot of story in Endeavour devoted to the relationships between the regular characters to a greater degree than there was in Inspector Morse.
“I remember when we were filming the wedding scenes we thought, ‘Actually we’ve never all been in a scene together.’ And that’s true. We never ever have. So we had to have a commemorative photo taken.”
Q: Chief Supt Reginald Bright is on the verge of retirement. What has it been like working with Anton Lesser?
“Anton is again wonderful in these final films as Bright. His character very rarely runs the story but I always look forward to seeing him. Every scene he is in is always a telling scene, filled with Bright’s feelings, emotions and anxiety. I felt from very early on in a typical non-commissioned officer and officer relationship that Thursday was very protective of Bright and tried to look after him in a sense. They grew together over the years very well because they shared a lot.”
Q: There is a scene where Fred’s wife Win (Caroline O’Neill) reflects on how, in the end, life seems to flash by. Did that also strike a chord with the Endeavour cast and crew?
“That scene resonated with us all. It seems unbelievable to me that we have been doing Endeavour for 10 years. Caroline O’Neill as Win Thursday has been another crucial part of this series over the years. It’s been a hugely believable relationship between Win and Fred. I have loved doing those scenes with her.
“It’s quite something when you are in the various sets filming and thinking, ‘Gosh, that’s the last scene here and I suppose they will break this set up now.’ Which, of course, is what they do.”
Q: Thursday and Endeavour have two final scenes together. What were they like to film?
“Those final two scenes between Thursday and Endeavour were wonderful to act with Shaun. And terribly emotional as well. Because we have been having exchanges in pubs and outside of the car for all of these years. To realise that these were the last ones had a big impact on us as well and helped in the playing of it. Because it’s literally true that this is the parting of the ways for both the characters and the actors. Let’s say it helped access the emotions of the scene.
“Although Shaun and I have seen each other since and we will see each other again. It’s like this when you end the run of a play. You know you will never meet again to do this thing we have done over all of these years. It’s right, of course, but it’s very sad.
“I’m filled with admiration for Shaun. He has had the most extraordinary energy and commitment to Endeavour over all of these years. We have worked together questioning the scripts, I’m sure often to writer Russell Lewis’s annoyance. But always with the view of finding out what’s going on. So we have interrogated our story together in a way I’ve never experienced with any actor before. Certainly over such a long time. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner to do that with.
“Shaun also had an extraordinary energy when he was directing some of the films, including the first one in this final series. I don’t know how he could have done it…well, he is a tad younger than me, this is true. But he moved with the most extraordinary ease behind and in front of the camera. He used his camera team tremendously well, always taking advice, and dealt with them with such respect. And was also good at talking to actors about what the scene is about and how we should pitch it and things like that. Just really great.”
“It didn’t quite have the impact I thought it would. The thing that really had the impact for me emotionally was strangely doing the last bit of ADR – re-recording dialogue – in the studio, some weeks after filming had finished. I had to do one of those big emotional scenes as part of that.
“I realised it was the last time I will ever speak with Fred’s voice. That had more impact than anything. You don’t quite believe it’s over in a way because it’s always been here for the last 10 years. You think, ‘Oh well, we’ll meet again and do it in the future.’ So it hadn’t quite hit home that we wouldn’t be doing that ever again. I’m sure watching the final film will be like that as well. All things that make you realise you’re not going to do it again.”
Q: And your feelings watching the very final scenes with Shaun as Endeavour?
“I saw the final scenes with Shaun at the orchestral recording. It was tying lots of things together. The beginning and end of Endeavour and the start of Inspector Morse. I think that will have a huge impact for people. At least I hope it will. Especially for those who have watched all of Inspector Morse and all of Endeavour as well.
Q: How do you reflect on having completed the entire Endeavour journey of 36 films across 10 years?
“That really does give me satisfaction. I’ve never done anything for as long a time as this. I’m sorry that it’s finished but I think it’s right that it has. Because we have managed to have a very good beginning, a very good middle and a very good end. And you can’t really ask for more than that in terms of drama and storytelling.”
Episode 1 – Prelude
It’s spring 1972 and Endeavour’s return to Castle Gate coincides with another homecoming, that of the celebrated Oxford Concert Orchestra, led by illustrious composer Sir Alexander Lermontov.
A gruesome discovery in a College garden leads Endeavour and Thursday to the orchestra’s door, and when a second tragedy hits, they uncover a web of secrets.
Meanwhile, grisly London business turns up in Oxford and a criminal from the Smoke is brutally murdered in a derelict warehouse. As the mystery unfolds, Endeavour and Thursday realise there are some unsettling ties to a case the pair had hoped was long since behind them.
Episode 2 – Uniform
Endeavour suspects a connection between a woman’s disappearance and her past employer but another missing persons case demands his attention. This time, it’s a notable artist, whose work adorns the covers of a series of paperback mysteries.
Meanwhile, reports flood in of stolen cars and wanton criminal damage, as a debauched group of university undergraduates wreak havoc. A murder of a uniformed copper sees Bright command all hands on deck, while, much to Endeavour and Thursday’s chagrin the cast of television detective series, Jolly For Short, are in town filming the final series.
Episode 3 – Exeunt
Endeavour’s investigation into a number of untimely death notices in the Oxford Mail, each with a cryptic message, takes him to a series of funerals, then behind the curtain at a funeral directors’, before forcing him to confront his own mortality.
Thursday is facing more than one confrontation of his own, as his past closes in on him. There’s trouble in the present to deal with first, and he resorts to desperate measures to protect those he loves most.
At CID, as Strange looks set to transfer to Kidlington, and Bright eyes retirement; where will this leave Endeavour and Thursday?