The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries aired on BBC between 1992 and 1994. Patrick Malahide played Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn. There were eight episodes made based on Ngaio Marsh’s Inspector Alleyn novels.
Alleyn is a ‘gentleman detective’. His family is a part of the aristocracy with his brother being Sir George Alleyn. Occasionally, his background gives him a little bit of discomfort such as when his partner Inspector Fox refers (not unkindly) to members of the landed gentry as ‘your lot’. Alleyn will then sigh a little, but it is always good natured.
I adore Malahide’s portrayal of Alleyn. He is calm and sophisticated with a warm, kindly demeanor. His Alleyn is elegant but it is a natural, perhaps even unconscious, elegance. He speaks with a gentle, refined voice but can be very stern when necessary.
Alleyn’s right hand man is Inspector Fox, superbly played by William Simons. Fox is obviously from a more working class background but he has such wonderful chemistry with Alleyn. He actually has quite a bit in common with Alleyn, I think. They are both kindly, prefering to use a rather considerate approach in gathering evidence. Fox also speaks with a warm and gentle voice but his accent is not upper-class like Alleyn’s.
Alleyn’s nickname for Fox is “Brer”, as in Brer Fox. Inspector Fox certainly is as sly as a fox. If anyone should think Fox is not particularly bright because of his course appearance and accent then they are very much mistaken. Each man respects the other very much. They never really argue, unless it because Fox is trying to convince Alleyn to eat something or get some rest. They work together almost effortlessly.
Alleyn’s romantic interest is the artist Agatha Troy (Belinda Lang) who prefers to simply be known as Troy. She is beautiful, intelligent and highly independent. They occasionally spar but quickly make up. Troy also knows not to be too happy when Alleyn shows up wearing his ‘serious suit’ since that means plans will likely be disturbed as he solves a crime.
She is often somehow involved with the events through her art. Either she is painting a suspect’s or the victim’s portraits (Death in a White Tie, The Final Curtain) or she is acquainted with one of the parties (A Man Lay Dead, Hand in Glove). At any rate, we usually get to see Troy and Alleyn spend some quality time together. Eventually, Alleyn asks Troy to marry him but we never see any episodes featuring them as a married couple. I think that is a pity.
The ‘Other’ Alleyns
Patrick Malahide is not the only actor to play the Chief Inspector. Simon Williams played him in the pilot episode. It is interesting to note that Williams also worked alongside Malahide in an episode of Sensitive Skin (Kiss of Life). George Baker played Alleyn in some 1970’s New Zealand adaptations. Baker also worked with Malahide. In his case, it was in an episode of Ruth Rendell Mysteries (Means of Evil). Both episodes are covered in our blog section 🙂
I have seen Williams’ Alleyn but not Bakers, though I would like to. At any rate, I think Malahide’s smooth, refined, and generous approach suits me just fine.