Chess, a nerdy game, is much less in the news now than it was at the height of the Cold War between the erstwhile Soviet Union and the US. The first episode of Endeavour, a cerebral crime drama from the UK, involves chess. And computers.

Things get high tech as Endeavour returns for a fourth season. With gigantic computers of yore, chess and a psychopath, we’re soon fed into the Morse system.

Morse is a character from a detective novel series by Colin Dexter. And Endeavour is the younger Morse, before he became Inspector. Morse and Endeavour and another show, Lewis, are interrelated. And it’s a miracle how they’ve kept it all together, making each individual drama complete in itself and yet connected to many other things.

The episode begins with a delightful piece by Erik Satie, played on a fascinating instrument, the Cristal Baschet. Good classical music, as well as signature tunes from the Sixties lend majesty and add to the pleasure of this aesthetically pleasing show.

Swimming pool scenes float in to the music. And the drama officially begins as a corpse is discovered. This one is fished out of a river with a pocketful of stones. A suicide, we presume. The deceased was a scientist. Part of a team of super nerds headed by a man in a wheelchair, Professor Amory. The professor’s beautiful daughter is around too. Did love for her drive Dr Nielsen to kill himself?

The team is working on a computer. For us, the sight of the Joint Computing  Nexus brings a smile. However, Jason, the gigantic computer in the episode, is an awesome beast and we learn that Jason will be playing chess against a Soviet champ.

However, soon, there is another death by drowning. At the local swimming pool/public baths this time. What’s more odd, the lady had a bath at home and, so, why would she have used the public one?

Frederick_Street_wash_house
Built in 1842, this was the first public wash house in Britain. Public Domain

What is even more puzzling is that there’s something in her nose and ears. And then there’s another death at the baths. Morse suspects foul play. He finds that all three victims played chess and he turns his gaze onto the scientists. However, Detective Inspector Thursday and others think he’s making something out of nothing.

Clues begin to surface and it’s pretty Trewlove who discovers that the mysterious combinations of letters and numbers, on the bath closets, are, in fact, chess moves.

988px-Dakota_Blue_Richards_portrait,_2012_(tone_crop)
Dakota Blue Richards by Jack Alexander, CC BY-SA 3.0

Meanwhile, tension is brewing between DC Morse and DI Thursday, especially after Joan, Thursday’s daughter, left home. Morse has more to be morose about than the loss of the woman for whom he secretly hankers. He has failed to pass the Sergeant’s exam, only because his paper got lost.

Morse has ruffled important feathers and that’s possibly why his paper flew away.

More aggravating is a pretty and driven young journalist who keeps popping up. She gets Morse to exchange information with her and, though he’s cautious and aware that he should not give away too much, the lady light fingers a vital notebook out of his pocket. And there’s hell to pay, naturally.

Talking of journalists, the daughter of the actor who plays the older Morse in the series by that name, stars as one in Endeavour. She has a soft spot for the Detective Constable and it is on the wall of her office that we see a picture of author Colin.

His appearance was a must in all the shows and, as age made personal presence hard, we now find him hanging on walls, in a frame. Once upon a time, it was the mighty Hitchcock who would thus insert himself into his films.

Jason, the gigantic computer, joins the fray to generate a list of possible suspects. And, turn by turn, these emerge out of the woodwork, including a crime fiction writer, Kent Finn, whose latest novel seems to mirror the murders. And whose walls are adorned by death masks.

L'inconnue_de_la_Seine_(masque_mortuaire)
L’Inconnue de la Seine, Public Domain

One mask, recorded the face of an unidentified young woman who, around the age of sixteen, … had been found drowned in the Seine River …, France around the late 1880s. A morgue worker made a cast of her face, saying “Her beauty was breathtaking, and showed few signs of distress at the time of passing. So bewitching that I knew beauty as such must be preserved.” … In the following years, copies of the mask became a fashionable fixture in Parisian Bohemian society.

Wikipedia

Written, as usual, by the fabulous Russel Lewis, this episode, like the others, strews the drama with references. Most of them go over the head for those who are not of the UK. But it would be interesting to see how one could do such a thing in an Indian TV drama, making references to film classics. It would be engaging as the audience eagerly looks for and unravels these delightful little nothings.

Game is directed by Ashley Pearce who has quite a few other series to his credit, including some of Agatha Christie’s Poirot mysteries.

The Series boasts high fandom and morseandlewisandendeavour.com has a very thorough piece on Game.

Endeavour is a major delight for fans of the Sixties and the costumes and settings bring the decade delightfully to life. While many today may not have heard of Woodstock, the name will ring nostalgic bells for many around the world. The song, below, is played in a scene with Jason and his caretakers.

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