Endeavour: The Secrets of Inspector Morse

John Thaw as Inspector Morse
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.”) 

Shaun Evans as the young Endeavour Morse
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?

UPDATE: Now that it’s aired, Leslie Gilbert Elman discusses Endeavour in detail, and don’t miss the rest of our great Masterpiece Mystery coverage.


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.


  1. Terrie Farley Moran

    Yes!! Thanks for this heads up. I had no idea. Now I have one more reason to look forward to 2012 as the best year ever!

  2. Deborah Lacy

    I think Endeavor is a perfect name for Inspector Morse. I’ve missed Morse, and I am looking forward to this prequel. Shawn Evans has his work cut out for him if he is to live up to the performance of John Thaw.

  3. Clare 2e

    I love those old-fashioned names, and am eager to test drive the new, old Morse.

  4. Leslie Gilbert Elman

    Normally I’m not in favor of revisiting series and characters, but I’ll certainly make an exception this time. It is hard to envision Morse as young though. Didn’t he seem like he was born 50?

  5. Terrie Farley Moran

    @Leslie, it is hard to envision a young Morse, that will make this all the more fun to watch.

  6. Dr. Cox

    I saw the episode tonight on PBS. I recommend it!

  7. Clare 2e

    I watched it, too, as did our Materpiece Mystery maven, Leslie, so we’ll have her commentary on this premiere posted very soon. I really liked Shaw Evans as Morse, and it’s a very tough character to tackle after John Thaw defined it so wonderfully.

  8. Deborah Lacy

    I really liked it. Especially when he looked in the rear view mirror and saw John Thaw’s eyes. And at points I thought Detective Thursday’s tone towards Morse was like Morse’s tone towards Lewis. Really well done. I wish there were more episodes.

  9. Leslie Gilbert Elman

    There will be! Read the new post. It’s up now. 🙂

    • Kellie Malone

      So far so good… Loving the new series!

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