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Prime Suspect I (1991)


A drama by Lynda La Plante, first broadcast on 7 April 1991 (ITV).

Running time: 3 hours and 23 minutes


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This drama, originally broadcast in two episodes, is the first instalment in the hugely popular Prime Suspect series. 

After the detective in charge of a gruesome murder investigation suffers a heart attack, DCI Jane Tennison seeks to prove her worth by taking charge of the case.  Faced with hostility from colleagues and criminals alike, the policewoman must struggle to assert her authority in the male-dominated world of policing. 

Having linked the murders to a series of violent attacks stretching back more than a decade, Tennison is determined to charge the prime suspect, an apparently ordinary businessman called George Marlow.  Obtaining sufficient evidence to secure a conviction proves far harder than she and her team had imagined, however, particularly as Marlow's tough-talking common-law wife, Moyra, clearly intends to stand by her man.


Sgt. Tomlins ... Rod Arthur

Mrs Marlow ... Maxine Audley

DS Bill Otley ... Tom Bell

DCS Michael Kernan ... John Benfield

DS Eastel ... Dave Bond

George Marlow ... John Bowe

DC Avison ... Tom Bowles

WPC Raeburn ... Barbara Dryhurst

Mrs Tennison ... Noel Dyson

DI Tony Muddyman ... Jack Ellis

DI Frank Burkin ... Craig Fairbrass

Michael ... Ralph Fiennes

Edward Harvey ... Doug Fisher

DC Jones ... Ian Fitzgibbon

Maj. Howard ... Michael Fleming

Mr Tennison ... Wilfred Harrison

Reg McKinney ... Ian Hastings

DC Haskons ... Richard Hawley

DCI Jane Tennison ... Helen Mirren

Mrs Howard ... Daphne Neville

DS Lambton ... Mark Anthony Newman

DC Caplan ... Seamus O'Neill

Felix Norman ... Bryan Pringle

WPC Southwood ... Bryonie Pritchard

Insp. Sleeth ... Malcolm Raeburn

DI Caldicott ... Marcus Romer

Mrs Salbanna ... Anna Savva

WPC Maureen Havers ... Mossie Smith

DC Oakhill ... Mark Spalding

Cmdr. Trayner ... Terry Taplin

DC Rosper ... Andrew Tiernan

Willy Chang ... Gareth Tudor Price

Moyra Henson ... Zoë Wanamaker

Joey ... Jeremy Warder

DS Terry Amson ... Gary Whelan

Peter Rawlins ... Tom Wilkinson

DC Lillie ... Philip Wright


Director: Chris Menaul
Producer: Don Leaver
Executive Producer: Sally Head
Cinematography: Ken Morgan
Production Designer: Roy Stonehouse
Costume Designer: Sheelagh Killeen
Makeup: Jane Hatch, Tracey Dilley and Sian Richards 
Music: Stephen Warbeck


The character of Moyra Henson is based on a real woman who lied to the police for her husband.  As research for the role, Zoe observed the woman at work in a department store.  'I hid behind the stocking rack so I could watch her.  That was a strange thing to do,' she later remarked (see Zoë's comments about Prime Suspect I in her BOMB Magazine interview).

For her performance in Prime Suspect, Zoë earned a Best Actress BAFTA Award nomination in 1991.

Press coverage

Zoë, Helen Mirren, and John Bowe 'bring a fearsome intensity and realism to the screen', declared Brett Arends in the Express.


Prime Suspect I Region 1 DVD

Prime Suspect I Region 2 DVD

Prime Suspect by Lynda La Plante

BFI TV Classics: Prime Suspect by Deborah Jermyn (book analysing the programme)

Related links

Prime Suspect I in-depth guide - PBS

Prime Suspect 'Case History 1992-2006' photo montage - PBS

Prime Suspect I production information - IMDB

Prime Suspect I cast list with photos - Aveleyman

Prime Suspect series guide - BFI Screenonline

Prime Suspect series guide - TV.com

Prime Suspect series guide - The Museum of Broadcast Communications

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