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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


Prime Suspect I image #0Prime Suspect I image #1Prime Suspect I image #4Prime Suspect I image #8


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.


Rod Arthur ... Sgt. Tomlins
Maxine Audley ... Mrs Marlow
Tom Bell ... DS Bill Otley
John Benfield ... DCS Michael Kernan
Dave Bond ... DS Eastel
John Bowe ... George Marlow
Tom Bowles ... DC Avison
Barbara Dryhurst ... WPC Raeburn
Noel Dyson ... Mrs Tennison
Jack Ellis ... DI Tony Muddyman
Craig Fairbrass ... DI Frank Burkin
Ralph Fiennes ... Michael
Doug Fisher ... Edward Harvey
Ian Fitzgibbon ... DC Jones
Michael Fleming ... Maj. Howard
Wilfred Harrison ... Mr Tennison
Ian Hastings ... Reg McKinney
Richard Hawley ... DC Haskons
Helen Mirren ... DCI Jane Tennison
Daphne Neville ... Mrs Howard
Mark Anthony Newman ... DS Lambton
Seamus O'Neill ... DC Caplan
Bryan Pringle ... Felix Norman
Bryonie Pritchard ... WPC Southwood
Malcolm Raeburn ... Insp. Sleeth
Marcus Romer ... DI Caldicott
Anna Savva ... Mrs Salbanna
Mossie Smith ... WPC Maureen Havers
Mark Spalding ... DC Oakhill
Terry Taplin ... Cmdr. Trayner
Andrew Tiernan ... DC Rosper
Gareth Tudor Price ... Willy Chang
Zoė Wanamaker ... Moyra Henson
Jeremy Warder ... Joey
Gary Whelan ... DS Terry Amson
Tom Wilkinson ... Peter Rawlins
Philip Wright ... DC Lillie


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 ZoĆ«'s comments about Prime Suspect I in her BOMB Magazine interview).

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

Press coverage

Zoƫ, 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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