Novels Television

Van der Valk

Van der Valk 

Van der Valk first appeared on British television in 1972. The series was based on the novels written by Nicolas Freeling, although individual episodes were created by other authors. In the books Nicolas Freeling allows Van der Valk to talk and think in untranslated French, which can be a challenge for non-French speakers, and his views can come across as bombastic and opinionated at times. Sceptical and cynical about bureaucracy and officialdom, Van der Valk also has compassion, especially for the young who find themselves in trouble.

In the television series Barry Foster took the lead role as Commissaris “Piet” van der Valk and he was supported by Michael Latimer, who played Inspecteur Johnny Kroon. Regular characters also appeared in the series; however, these characters were played by a variety of actors because Van der Valk had three incarnations: the first series, of six episodes, was aired in the autumn of 1972 and a second series of seven episodes followed in 1973. The second incarnation was produced four years later when twelve episodes were broadcast in the autumn of 1977. A break of nearly fourteen years then ensued before Van der Valk was revived once more, this time in the form of four two-hour episodes, broadcast in January and February 1991, and three two-hour episodes, aired in February 1992. Personally, I think the first series and the last two films are the highpoints of Van der Valk’s run.

Van der Valk highlights a perennial problem for authors – what do you do with the detective’s spouse. Quite often the detective is male and the spouse is female and she is left with the role of cooking dinners for the detective that he has no time to eat because he is too busy crime-busting. A solution to this problem is to ensure that the detective-spouse relationship develops over the series and that the non-detective character has a strong part to play in the emotional and/ or criminal aspect of the story. This engages the character in the series and the readers with the character. To its credit at least Van der Valk gave its detective a family background, which is after all closer to reality than many of the detectives portrayed in film and literature.

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