Foyle’s War (2004): S03E01 – The French Drop


Introduction

Foyle’s War is a British detective drama television series set during (and shortly after) the Second World War, created by Midsomer Murders screenwriter and author Anthony Horowitz and commissioned by ITV after the long-running series Inspector Morse ended in 2000.

It began broadcasting on ITV in October 2002. ITV director of programmes Simon Shaps cancelled Foyle’s War in 2007, but complaints and public demand prompted Peter Fincham (Shaps’ replacement) to revive the programme after good ratings for 2008’s fifth series. The final episode was broadcast on 18 January 2015, after eight series.

Outline

In occupied France, a British agent named “Facteur” is killed when he steps on a mine after parachuting in near Rouen. The agent is linked to a tense standoff between Major General Sir Giles Messinger of MI5 and Colonel James Wintringham of Special Operations Executive. Back in Hastings, a body is found after an explosion in a bookshop. Although it seems apparent that Messinger’s son William committed suicide, the facts available are inconsistent. Following the trail to SOE, and their “dirty warfare” training centre at Hill House, Foyle meets Wintringham and Hilda Pierce, and with the help of Milner and Stewart, is slowly able to uncover the true identity of the body and the story behind it. Foyle then reveals that William and Facteur are the same person, and that the explosion and body-theft were part of a cover-up in order to avoid SOE being shut down by MI5. He decides to remain quiet over SOE’s blunders regarding the “Facteur” mission, and accepts accusations of mis-investigation from Messinger, losing the naval security job he had been hoping for, but believing he has best aided the war effort.

Notes:

  • Series 3 was broadcast in the United States on PBS on Mystery!, on 11, 18, and 25 September, and 02 October 2005 as Foyle’s War III, and on Netflix as of April 2014.
  • Set: February 1941.
  • Guests: Ronald Pickup, Angela Thorne, Samuel West, Deborah Findlay, Timothy Carlton, Tony Haygarth, and Lydia Leonard.
  • In Hastings, Foyle and Milner (whose marriage is now breaking up) spend time dealing with petty crimes and black marketeers. Foyle, wanting to do more to help the war effort, goes to the Admiralty to see his brother-in-law Commander Charles Howard in hope of being offered a job at Naval Command in Liverpool. This ultimately fails. Foyle also has a run-in at SOE with an ex-con called Mason (alias Leo Maccoby) he helped imprison some three years earlier. Stewart returns to her hometown with Foyle, and meets her uncle Aubrey Stewart, the local vicar. This episode features the second of three appearances by the recurring character Hilda Pierce, played by Ellie Haddington (previously in the Series 2 episode “War Games“, and then in the Series 5 episode “All Clear“); she then becomes a lead character in Series 8.
  • The title of the episode is taken from the phrase “French drop”, which is a well-known vanishing trick involving sleight of hand. Horowitz was also inspired by the Special Operations Executive, which Churchill created in 1940 to develop techniques of sabotage and subversion. By setting the story in the early days of the SOE, Horowitz was able to use the conflict between the new SOE and the older yet under-prepared Security Service and Secret Intelligence Service as a backdrop to the plot. Many of the details are authentic, such as the use by the SOE of carborundum powder to disable cars,[4] and some characters are based on people involved with the SOE, such as the former Shanghai Municipal Police officer and the character of Hilda Pierce, based on the real-life Vera Atkins. Throughout the episode, numerous people are also seen carrying around gas masks in small cardboard boxes with a carry string attached, indicating the concern of possible chemical weapon attacks of the time.

Foyle’s War Series

You can find a full index and overview of Foyle’s War here.

Production & Filming Details

  • Release Date: 24 October 2004.
  • Running time: 94 minutes.
  • Rating: 15.
  • Country: UK.
  • Language: English.

Video Link

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