A New Era For Endeavour
Endeavour season seven started on ITV two Sundays ago and here’s its writer and creator putting the new run into context…
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
In considering Endeavour 1970, Charles Dickens’ opening to A Tale of Two Cities may prove instructive. The key phrase here – as we shall see – is, ‘In short, the period was so far
like the present period…’
Since we aligned the year of broadcast and the year in which the drama is set to exactly 50 years apart, all at Team Endeavour have been struck not so much by how much things have changed, but by how much they have stayed the same. Rewinding the clock another 50 years from Endeavour’s 1970 to 1920, I’m quite sure we should find parallels there also.
1969 delivered justice for George Fancy, and brought the former City Men from Cowley nick back together under one roof at Castle Gate. It was a high water mark for the Old Guard, and a result in which Endeavour took some pride – as deadly a sin as ever there was, and traditionally the precursor to that which must surely follow.
The action of “ORACLE” – the first panel of our triptych – begins on December 31st 1969, as the last hours of a momentous decade dwindle down to darkness. A decade that had promised so much… come to what? As Danny the Dealer observed, ‘They’re selling hippie wigs in Woolworths, man.’
Endeavour is enjoying a well-earned furlough across the festive season, and readying for an evening at the opera in a city by the water… At home, for Fred and Win Thursday it’s chicken in a basket down the Legion, and the off colour jokes of a club comic. Mister Bright has a house full of unwanted guests… At Castle Gate – DS Jim Strange has drawn the short straw and sails the ship alone into the wee small hours…
Daylight will reveal a terrible crime has been committed, and set in train a series of events that will test Endeavour, Thursday and all at Castle Gate to breaking point; proving – were there any doubt – that hearts, like New Year Resolutions, are made to be broken…
Organised by Sheila Rowbotham, Arielle Aberson, and one Sally Alexander, 1970 saw the first Women’s Liberation Movement conference – held in Ruskin College, Oxford, and attended by about 600 women. At this conference, the first four demands of the movement were discussed – Equal pay -Equal educational and job opportunities – Free contraception and abortion on demand – and Free 24-hour nurseries. Plus ça change…
This bit of socio-political history seemed to chime with current events, and provided the keystone for the development of the design and themes that underpin this Series of stories.
If women are providing the wisdom, then you may depend on my sex to bring the foolishness – this time in the shape of otherworldly mumbo-jumbo and woo-woo. While Strange is reading Von Daniken… — ‘Chariots of the Gods, man. They practically own South America. I mean, they taught the Incas everything they know.’ — at home and abroad academics and governments are making serious scientific studies of paranormal phenomena. And in some small, out of the way, research facility in Oxford men in white coats (who really should be in the charge of other men in white
coats) are exploring the potential of human E.S.P., while also entertaining ideas of televisual fame and fortune with the ‘university of the air’. Doctor Denzil Dexter… come on down.
The central panel of the 1970 triptych is ‘RAGA’ – which features Indian cuisine, All-In Wrestling, and the 1970 General Election which paved the way for the Conservative government under Prime Minister Edward Heath to oversee the UK joining the European Communities in ’73. It was also
the first election in which the British Movement (later the British National Socialist Movement) a British neo-Nazi organisation, put forward a candidate for election. Then, as now, immigration and our post-Imperial place in the world occupying the national psyche.
Plus ça change…
The final panel is ‘ZENANA’… It too features an advisory referendum… In 1970 college membership was strictly and exclusively divided according to sex. Five of the Oxford colleges were for women, with the rest for men. However, the spectre of co-education is in the air, and academics and students at Lady Matilda’s college face the possibility that men will soon have access to spaces that since their founding have been the sole preserve of women. The barbarian is at the gate…
Plus ça change…
1970 is an unusual shape for us. A trio of films rather than our more traditional quartet – or our Bumper Annual of six from ’68. “Events, dear boy. Events!” and the availability of key
personnel being the deciding factor in the number of stories we’ve been able to tell this year. It’s allowed us to graft a little more connective tissue between the three stories, with some guest characters running through the triptych.
I shall leave the final word – as always – to Endeavour.
‘When the overture begins – you never know what the opera might be, or where the story might take you. Whether it’s going to be comedy, or tragedy…’
So — there we have it, 1970 – a year of half-truths and halfNelsons… All of it informed by Saturday afternoons spent in the company of Kent Walton, Johnny Kwango, Les Kellett, and Kendo Nagasaki before the long dark Football Results of the soul. Wrestling, of course, was its own form of drama – a genuine people’s theatre, filled with heroes and villains, grudges and long- standing feuds, that played out – if you were lucky – at your local Town Hall. The plots were simple tales – an endless retelling of the battle between good and evil. The eternal existential crisis of the human condition to be decided by two falls, two submissions or a knock-out. As often as not, the guy in the white trunks carried the day…. As Mister Wilde tells us, ‘The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. This is what Fiction means.’
Whether Oxford’s Finest will confirm his definition… remains to be seen.
But… ’Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what
you’ve got till it’s gone…’
Taxi for Miss Mitchell…
Endeavour season seven episode three is on this Sunday on ITV