Foyle's War was a British detective drama TV series set during and after World War II. It was the brainchild of screenwriter/author Anthony Horowitz. Starting in 2002 it was a staple on ITV in Great Britain, was cancelled in 2007, revived in 2008 after an avalanche of public complaints, and ended its run in January of 2015.
The first six years of Foyle's War were set in World War II in Hastings, Sussex, England, where Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen) pursued criminals who took advantage of the confusion of war to wreak their own havoc. Foyle was helped by his driver Samantha “Sam” Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks) and Detective Sergeant Paul Milner (Anthony Howell). From the seventh year on, the series followed the now-retired Foyle as he worked for MI5 in the realm of Cold War espionage.
Foyle is a widower, low-profile, methodical, insightful, honest — and usually underestimated by his antagonists. Many of his cases revolve around the black market, profiteering, and murder. Along the way Foyle often finds himself dealing with high-ranking bureaucrats in the British military or intelligence services.
Episodes run roughly 90 to 100 minutes and are self-contained, though there are some ongoing threads, mostly involving Foyle's son Andrew (Julian Ovenden), a fighter pilot in the RAF, as well as Foyle's relationships with peripheral characters.
Foyle typically introduces himself saying something like, “My name's Foyle; I'm a police officer.” The form of address is typical of him — it's modest, courteous, and precise. A longtime widower, he has one son, Andrew, to whom he is close, although the two are not emotionally demonstrative with each other. Foyle's concern for his son's safety as an RAF fighter pilot is an ongoing theme. He lost his wife Rosalind in 1926; she was just thirty years old.
Foyle is the son of a policeman, a World War I veteran who once told him that the three years he spent in the military were the worst of his life, and confessed to having killed enemy soldiers. Foyle asks for a transfer to the War Office several times in the first two seasons, but by the end of the third seems to have accepted that this will not happen and that his work as a detective is critically important in its own right. He believes that innocent victims of murder should not be forgotten just because there's a war on.
He is loyal to his colleagues and expects their loyalty in return. This is dramatically highlighted in “The White Feather” when he reproaches Sgt. Milner for disloyalty, and in “The Russian House”, when he is critical of Milner's disrespectful attitude towards him and Sam, despite their no longer working together. By the same token, he shows trust in his colleagues. He's quick to forgive Milner, and believes in his innocence when Milner is suspected of the murder of his estranged wife (“Bleak Midwinter”). He also has fatherly feelings for Sam (when he's not expressing exasperation with her).
Foyle relaxes by trout-fishing, at which he excels, and which he uses as a way to supplement his wartime rations. He also plays golf, though far less well. He is often accompanied by his son or his uniformed counterpart, Hugh Reid. Cameo and guest characters occasionally accompany him on these outings.
Foyle resigns at the end of Series Four when bureaucratic malfeasance thwarts his arrest of two murder suspects, supposedly because their work is too important to the war effort. He returns in Series Six when his successor is murdered, staying a DCS for the rest of the war, after which he retires from the force, but is soon drawn out of retirement and into a complex case investigated by Milner. At the end of Series Six he retires yet again, boarding a boat bound for America, possibly in pursuit of unfinished political business. He returns to England at the beginning of Series Seven, only to be pressured into joining MI5, where Sam, now a Labour politician's wife, joins him as a junior clerk.
Before the war, Sergeant Milner (Anthony Howell) was a policeman. After leaving police work to enlist in the army, he took part in the British Norwegian Campaign and ended up losing a leg at Trondheim. In episode one, he's recovering in hospital, and very despondent. Foyle urges him to rejoin the police and Milner remains with the Hastings department for the rest of the war. He's also the only ranked detective in the station, other than Foyle. In “The White Feather,” Milner is “taken under the wing” of a charismatic (and anti-semitic) politician, and reaches a point where his judgment is clouded when the politician falls under police suspicion in a murder investigation. Reproached by Foyle for disloyalty, Milner rationalizes that the politician was the only person who refused to treat him like a casualty of war. But it turns out the politician was using Milner to smuggle important documents; upon discovering this, Milner offers to resign, but Foyle keeps him on. Following Foyle's resignation at the end of Series Five, a dissatisfied Milner strongly considers a transfer, but decides to stay after Foyle comes out of retirement to investigate the new DCS's murder.
As the series progresses, Milner's relationship with his wife Jane grows increasingly strained; she has never fully come to terms with his injury. After an extended separation, during which Milner begins a relationship with Edith Ashford, Jane returns from her family in Wales (“Bleak Midwinter”) to try and start again with Milner, but is murdered before this new effort can begin. Just before Jane's death, Milner lies to Edith about an illusory divorce from Jane. In the intended final episode “All Clear”, Edith gives birth to a baby girl, to be called Clementine after Clementine Churchill, wife of the prime minister.
At the start of Series Six, Milner has been promoted to Detective Inspector, and has jurisdiction in the Brighton area. While investigating his first case, which by chance involves both Foyle and Sam, Milner appears insecure in his new position and his attempts to conceal this lead to him acting in an abrupt, dismissive manner towards his old colleagues, which earns him an atypically sharp reproach from Foyle at the end of the case.
Sam (Honeysuckle Weeks) has joined the Mechanized Transport Corps at the beginning of the war. She is seconded to the police force as a driver in the first episode in order to relieve staff shortages within the police force, and so becomes Foyle's driver. She is enthusiastic about police work, offering unsolicited advice and help to Foyle and Milner — despite Foyle's initial instructions that she refrain from discussing police work. As the series progresses, they come increasingly to rely on her assistance, especially when she overhears bits and pieces of important conversation. In “Plan of Attack” it is revealed that she left police service soon after Foyle's resignation, but she returns to be his driver upon his rejoining the force in the same episode.
Sam has a healthy appetite; her struggles with rationing are a running and humorous theme. Several times she invites herself to eat with Foyle, and in “Bleak Midwinter” actually covets a turkey which is being kept for evidence.
Sam's father and several of her uncles are Church of England vicars. In one episode, her father, the Rev. Iain Stewart (Stephen Moore), visits her in Hastings (“Eagle Day”). He wants her to come home but eventually understands that her police work is important. Sam stays with her uncle, the Rev. Aubrey Stewart (Brian Poyser), at his vicarage in Levenham during the episode “The French Drop” and Foyle houses him during an ecumenical conference near Hastings in “Plan of Attack”.
Sam becomes friendly with Andrew Foyle and, after a while, becomes romantically involved with him. Fearing his disapproval, they try to keep their relationship hidden from Andrew's father. Sam gives support to Andrew when he suffers from shell shock in “Enemy Fire”. When Andrew sends her a “Dear Jane letter” in “Invasion” their relationship comes to an end. She grows fond of American Private Joe Farnetti (Jonah Lotan) but turns down his marriage proposal, though the relationship seems to continue until sometime after D Day, since she complains in “Broken Souls” that he “ran off with some French girl”. Andrew returns in “All Clear” and asks Sam to forgive him, and as they celebrate VE day, prospects for a renewal of their romance seem good, but nothing happens after all. Season six begins in June 1945 with Sam finding employment as a housekeeper to a wealthy artist. She seems to have lost her sense of purpose along with her uniform and position as Foyle's driver. Later in the series, Sam has a new love interest, Adam Wainwright, (Max Brown), a one-time Bletchley Park codebreaker who proposes to her in the year's final episode.
Squadron Leader Andrew Foyle DFC, RAF (Julian Ovenden) is Christopher Foyle's only child. At the beginning of the war we meet him as a student who has joined the RAF in “The German Woman”. He undergoes training as a fighter pilot in Scotland, and is posted to the south coast, where he takes part in radar trials (“Eagle Day”). He takes part in the Battle of Britain. Eventually, in “Enemy Fire”, suffering from combat fatigue resulting from near-constant flying, worsened by grief at the loss of many of his friends, he briefly goes AWOL. His superior, Wg Cdr Turner (Martin Turner), understands, and compassionately transfers him to a training unit.
We see Andrew with a girlfriend in “Among the Few” but the relationship is short-lived. He's romantically involved with Sam Stewart for a time, but is posted to Debden as a training officer in “Enemy Fire”, and ends his relationship with Sam by letter (read in voice-over in “Invasion”). He is subsequently promoted to Squadron Leader and posted to Malta on active service, but after sinusitis ruins his eyesight he is sent home. He remains an unseen character, referred to solely in dialogue and props, until his return to Hastings (“All Clear”). Apologizing to Sam for his poor treatment of her, he tries to resume their relationship — though initially only able to accept that they meet as “friends”, she seems to be warming to him by the end of the episode, but his place is soon taken by Adam Wainwright as her love interest. In Series Seven, Andrew is spoken of as living in London, but is not referred to when his father visits there, or when he leaves for America. In Series Eight, Andrew is mentioned as working in the City.
Foyle's War is known for its devotion to historical detail, and its drama is frequently moved along by historical events of World War II. Creator Anthony Horowitz has been quoted as saying that in order to honour the veterans of the war, it was important to accurately capture its many details. Interestingly, as the series progressed, Horowitz became more interested in the “murder mystery” dimension of the unfolding stories.