One of the great mysteries of Inspector Morse on Masterpiece Mystery was the mystery of Morse himself. Over 13 years and 64 episodes Morse, portrayed by John Thaw, revealed very little of his true nature.
He liked real ale and crossword puzzles. Who doesn’t?
He drove a burgundy 1959 Jaguar Mk II in mint condition, yet he rarely exhibited the fervor of a typical car enthusiast. (Bizarrely, after the series ended the Jag was bought by a businessman who turned out to be a crook. What would Morse have made of that?)
When he was stressed, Morse cranked up some Wagner. Well, you could hardly expect a gruff, white-haired detective schooled in the classics to opt for Mötley Crüe.
He rarely (and grudgingly) inquired about his colleagues’ personal lives and he expected the same treatment in return.
For goodness sake, we didn’t learn his first name until Series 11—although he once mentioned that he was known as Pagan at school because he refused to use his Christian name.
When his initial was revealed to be E, back in 2000 or so, it sparked a flurry of speculation among fans on the Internet.
Knowing that Morse’s mother was a Quaker, faithful viewers put their proverbial money on Esrom, a Biblical name. You see, they said, Esrom is Morse spelled backwards. A palindrome! What could be a more perfect, more bothersome name for Morse, a man who never met an anagram he didn’t solve? Trouble was, Esrom is also a type of Danish cheese—and everyone agreed that Morse’s creator Colin Dexter wouldn’t saddle his detective with such a name.
And so we have Endeavour…
It’s the name Colin Dexter gave his detective—because it’s suitably Quaker and because Morse’s father admired Captain James Cook who sailed to Australia aboard the HMS Endeavour in the 1760s. (Hearing all this, Morse’s partner Sergeant Lewis could only shake his head and mutter, “You poor sod.”)
Endeavour is also the title of an Inspector Morse prequel that will air on Masterpiece Mystery in 2012 to mark the 25th anniversary of Morse’s debut.
The single episode will show Morse back in 1965 as a young detective constable beginning his career in Oxford. Shaun Evans will star as Morse, and Russell Lewis, who writes the Inspector Lewis series, is the screenwriter.
Colin Dexter has given Endeavour his blessing and the early word from the producers is clearly meant to reassure the faithful that their beloved Morse will be treated with the respect he deserves.
So what do you think? Are you ready for this endeavo(u)r to decode Morse?
Leslie Gilbert Elman blogs intermittently at My Life in Laundry. She’s written two trivia books and has a few unpublished fiction manuscripts in the closet to keep the skeletons company.
See all of Leslie Gilbert Elman’s posts at Criminal Element.