Endeavour: exclusive guide to episode three – Rocket

Producer Dan McCulloch on why this latest instalment is a case of Morse meets Mad Men

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At the centre of this week’s Endeavour, titled Rocket, is a brilliant family – the Brooms (Mr and Mrs played by guest stars  Martin Jarvis and Jenny Seagrove) who live in an extraordinary Modernist mansion and just so happen to run a missile factory.

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We begin with the prospect  of a visit to Oxford by Princess Margaret, who is there to unveil the British Imperial Electric Company’s Standfast Mk II missile. This is a big day for Chief Super Bright, who’s very proud of his esteemed duty to run security during the visit, whilst Endeavour still languishes on general duties. But when an unpopular factory worker is found murdered in a storage cupboard, Morse soon finds himself inevitably embroiled in the affairs of this business and its owners. Bright is on the war path – how could this have happened on their watch?

Funnily enough, the germ of the idea for this case came from an old Pathé video that writer Russell Lewis (@ScriptULike) stumbled across online. It seems a similar Royal visit – from HM Queen Elizabeth II, no less – took place in the town of Stevenage in 1959, bringing out the townspeople and workers alike in their droves. We loved the slightly surreal (and uniquely British) nature of the pageant and pomp of such events. We also the found the unique challenge of building a missile factory native to Oxford somewhat irresistible…

Russell is particularly brilliant at exhuming elements from British social and cultural history and spinning them down uniquely special and thrilling Endeavour avenues. In this particular case, the sheer might of the British Imperial Electric Company (loosely modelled on the manufacture of missiles such as the Bloodhound and the Thunderbird) is something of an antique relic – a remnant of the heyday of British manufacturing and industrial exports. Russell’s real innovation was to take what could otherwise be monolithic and unknowable and personalise it, filtering the themes inherent to the setting through the poisoned prism of the Broom family.

Script editor Sam Price (@samdavidprice) spoke with an old shopfloor worker at the Stevenage factory, finding him in a way Endeavour Morse might: through the old Company choir, which still meets to this day. We sourced as much as original research and authentic detail as we could from such places – still shrouded in secrecy, even after all these decades – to ensure the spirit of the times was successfully captured.

Also tonight Morse will encounter a suspect of a different kind, Alice Vexin, played by the sensational Maimie McCoy. Vexin has ties to Endeavour from his student days. She seems to remember more about Morse than he does about her. Could this be the beginning of a new relationship?

What the setting also gives us is an office space that’s full of intrigue. The gear-shift from last week’s episode Fugue to Rocket will be obvious – Russell wanted a lighter, quick-fire touch to the dialogue, while director Craig Viveiros and I enthused over Mad Men, the influence of which is clear in the Broom family’s office and home. What’s interesting is that Russell initially scripted a castle, but after creative conversations with Craig, we opted to go for a fortified look of the Modernist kind, hence the use of Patrick Gwynne’s The Homewood in Esher.

It’s a new look Endeavour all over again. For your enjoyment the cast and crew spent half the shoot in a freezing cold, old Tate & Lyle factory building (I’m not sure they’ve forgiven me yet!!).

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Follow Dan on Twitter @danmcculloch