Warning: contains spoilers for Endeavour Series 8 Episode 3 ‘Terminus’.
Fittingly for a drama about a detective with a taste for The Times cryptic crossword, the murder mystery is far from the only game in an episode of Endeavour. As we explore here, the prequel’s films feature nods to pop culture contemporary with the episode’s time-frame, references to Morse’s past and future cases, and of course, the traditional hat tips to the character’s creator Colin Dexter.
Series 8 takes place in 1971 and so winks at Get Carter, Mr Benn, the first Confessions of a Window Cleaner book, all released that in year, among others. Join us in parsing the references and Easter Eggs of Series 8 finale ‘Terminus’, written by Russell Lewis and directed with real horror flair by Kate Saxon.
- This isn’t the first time Endeavour fans have seen the book being read by student Richard Blake on the top deck of the Number 33 bus. Its title is ‘Plighted Cunning: The Murders at Shrive Hill House’ and its author is Stephen Fitzowen, the very same character who appeared in Series 2 episode ‘Nocturne’, played by Desmond Barrit. Later in ‘Terminus’, Blake tells the others that Fitzowen also wrote a book on the Tafferton Park Masquerade Ball bloodbath. In this interview, Endeavour creator Russell Lewis explains the character’s origin as a nod to a Dashiell Hammett character Owen Fitzstephen in 1929 novel The Dain Curse.
- Endeavour series eight takes place in 1971, which saw the release of the On the Buses film, a feature-length continuation of the popular TV series. References abound in this episode, from the graffitied ‘It’s a Grand Life On the Buses’ poster at the terminus (the film’s theme song was called ‘It’s a Great Life On the Buses’), to shared stops along the Number 33’s route Town’s End, Wellfield Street and Mulberry Circus, to the name of cheeky conductor Les Grant, a namesake of actor Bob Grant, who famously played bus conductor Jack Harper on the television comedy.
- The first murder victim is Professor Stanton of Wolsey College, the fictional Oxford college invented by Inspector Morse creator Colin Dexter as a stand-in for Christchurch College, so named because it was founded by Cardinal Wolsey.
- Is it a coincidence that the Chipping Compton church outside which Stanton is murdered is named St. Agatha’s, perhaps in honour of the patron saint of crime fiction…? (Not an Easter Egg but perhaps interesting that the murder took place on the 10th of November, dating Morse’s pub newspaper to Armistice Day on the 11th. If remembrance poppies were worn in 1971, you’d think ex servicemen Thursday, Morse, Strange and Bright would all have marked the occasion.)
- Continuing a long tradition of Colin Dexter cameos in the Inspector Morse, Lewis, and Endeavour television series, when Morse is investigating Stanton’s college rooms, the framed photograph of the boy on his desk is of a young Colin Dexter himself, as written about in this article.
- When Thursday confronts Endeavour about his drinking, he suggests that the detective sergeant visit “a place down in Sussex run by a fella called Wain. Kind of health farm, very discreet.” That wouldn’t be Joshua Wain whose Sussex health farm ‘Shrublands’ featured in Ian Fleming’s 1961 James Bond novel Thunderball, as well as in two of the series’ films?
- Inspector Morse had 33 episodes in total, and ‘Terminus’ is the 33rd Endeavour film, a milestone marked in the shot above not only by the number of the ill-fated bus route, but the large illuminated number 3 in this shot, and the fact that Thursday and Strange’s visit to the bus terminus happens at 3.30pm.
- Win Thursday tells Fred that she received the worrying news about their son Sam from “a Captain Stanhope from his unit.” It’s a reference to R.C. Sherriff’s 1928 play Journey’s End, which is set among a group of officers during the First World War. Like Morse, Stanhope’s character struggled with alcohol.
- Could Linda Travers – the fake name given by Warren Loomis’ sister to the bus passengers – be in reference to British film actress Linden Travers, who played ‘Mrs’ Todhunter in Hitchcock’s A Lady Vanishes? It seems more likely when you take the names of fellow travellers Percy Walsh and Hilda Bruce-Potter, both also classic British film actors, into account…
- Warren Loomis, the name of the young maths genius framed by the Football Pools cabal so they could steal his rightful winnings, is a tribute to Dr Loomis, Michael Myers’ psychiatrist in John Carpenter’s Halloween film franchise, which is largely set in the Illinois town of Haddonfield, another bus route destination in this episode (see timetable above).
- Endeavour creator Russell Lewis confirmed on Twitter that the fancy dress element of ‘Terminus’ was inspired by the seventh of Colin Dexter’s Morse novels, The Secret of Annexe 3, which revolved around a masked ball at a hotel. It’s the only of the Morse novels not adapted for television (perhaps because the fancy dress theme ‘The Mystery of the East’ led to some culturally insensitive costumes.)
- Agatha Christie may not only have provided the name of the local church in ‘Terminus’, but there were echoes of her novel And Then There Were None in the ‘band of strangers being picked off one by one’ plot. The snooker table scene between Walsh and Yeager in particular, featured in both the 1945 and the 1974 film adaptation, when it was Richard Attenborough and Herbert Lom making a pact over the baize. Student Richard Blake tinkling on the piano in the Tafferton Park drawing room also recalls the same happening in both film adaptations.
- ‘Terminus’ composer Matthew Slater deliberately designed the episode score to echo that of 1982 horror film The Thing, he confirmed to a fan on Twitter, continuing the homage to director John Carpenter.
- On the seating plan for the doomed 1963 Masquerade Ball, just above the Cawdor House reunion table was a very special guest by the name of one C. Dexter. Tell us what else we missed below!
Read about the special poignancy of the Endeavour Series 8 finale’s last lines here.