Foyle’s War has been quietly running for the last decade on PBS as part of the Masterpiece Mystery! series, amassing a catalog of 22 movie-length episodes featuring British police detective Christopher Foyle. Those tale have been complied as Foyle’s War: The Home Front Files (Sets 1–6), a new 22-DVD box set that’s out this week via Acorn Media.
Detective Chief Superintendent Foyle is based in the southern English town of Hastings and the series is set against the backdrop of World War II. Even though the World War I veteran has been denied a chance to serve in the new conflict, all of Foyle’s cases seem to have a direct connection to the war and its impact on England and cover the years 1940–1945.
Foyle’s War is revered in the U.K. for its attention to period detail on its sets and with cars and costumes. That period detail also provides a sharp counterpoint to the “Brits and Americans: good/Nazis: bad” mythology that now dominates popular (and political) discussion of WWII. Not everyone who lived in an Allied country supported the war effort and quite a few people wanted to make peace with Hitler and avoid a war altogether. Those tensions are a constant theme in the series, often providing the motives for the crimes that Foyle’s investigating.
Originally produced by the UK network ITV, the show was cancelled after what PBS called Season Four. Public outcry from viewers in the UK (and PBS donors in the States) led to a revival of the series with two more series produced through 2010.
Since the last episodes cover the end of the war in Britain, most people thought that would be the end of Foyle. However, the series’ continuing popularity on DVD led Acorn Media to buy rights to the series. A new Cold War-era series has been produced and is currently running on UK television before the series returns to PBS this fall.
Actor Michael Kitchen plays Foyle with a quiet gravity; he’s usually the voice of moral decency and British values amidst the chaos of war. The series maintains a connection to military life through its main supporting characters. Foyle doesn’t operate a car, so the police arrange for Samantha Stewart (played by Honeysuckle Weeks) to be seconded from the all-woman Mechanized Transport Corps. His chief assistant, Sergeant Paul Milner (played by Anthony Howell) is an Army veteran who lost a leg in the British campaign to defend Norway from Nazi invasion. Foyle’s son Andrew (played by Julian Ovenden) is an RAF pilot.
The detective stories hold up, nothing’s too violent on-screen and there’s a lot here for anyone who’s interested in the British WWII experience. Check out highlights from each of the six series below:
Series 1 clip
Series 2 clip
Series 3 clip
Series 4 clip
Series 5 clip
Series 6 clip