Van der Valk

Van der Valk is a British television crime drama series, produced by Thames Television for ITV, that starred Barry Foster in the title role as Dutch detective Commissaris "Piet" (real name Simon) van der Valk. Based on the characters and atmosphere (but not the plots) of the novels of Nicolas Freeling, the first series of six episodes was broadcast in 1972. A second series followed in 1973. Both were recorded on 2" quadruplex videotape at Thames' Teddington Studios in London, with location scenes shot in Amsterdam on 16mm film.

Van der Valk
GenreCrime drama
Created byNicolas Freeling
Opening themeEye LevelJack Trombey and the Simon Park Orchestra
Composer(s)Alan Parker
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series5
No. of episodes32 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
  • Lloyd Shirley
  • George Taylor
  • Brian Walcroft
  • Geoffrey Gilbert
  • Robert Love
  • Michael Chapman
Production location(s)Netherlands
  • Dusty Miller
  • Roy Pointer
  • Colin Munn
  • John S. Smith
  • Ian Toynton
  • Ralph Sheldon
Running time
  • 60 minutes (Series 1—3)
  • 120 minutes (Series 4—5)
Production company(s)
Original networkITV
Picture format4:3
Audio format
Original release13 September 1972 (1972-09-13) 
19 February 1992 (1992-02-19)

After a break of four years, a longer, twelve-episode, third series aired in the autumn of 1977. This series was generally made on location, entirely on 16mm film, by Thames's subsidiary Euston Films, perhaps best known for dramas such as The Sweeney, giving the programmes greater realism. The series was revived once more, for the first time in just over thirteen years, towards the end of Thames's life as a part of the ITV network, with a fourth series of four episodes, now extended to two hours in length, airing in 1991. A fifth three-episode series followed in 1992. Series four was recorded on 1" Panasonic videotape, with location shooting shot on 35mm film. Series five was similar, but with the studio recording on D-3 videotape. The final two series were transmitted in stereo sound using the NICAM system.

Network released all five series on Region 2 DVD on 22 October 2007.[1]


  • Barry Foster as Commissaris Simon "Piet" Van der Valk
  • Michael Latimer as Inspecteur Johnny Kroon (Series 1—2)
  • Susan Travers as Arlette Van der Valk (Series 1—2)
  • Joanna Dunham as Arlette Van der Valk (Series 3)
  • Meg Davies as Arlette Van der Valk (Series 4—5)
  • Martin Wyldeck as Hoofd-commissaris Samson (Series 1)
  • Nigel Stock as Hoofd-commissaris Samson (Series 3)
  • Ronald Hines as Hoofd-commissaris Samson (Series 4—5)
  • Sydney Tafler as Hoofd-commissaris Halsbeek (Series 2)
  • Richard Huw as Wim Van der Valk (Series 4—5)
  • Dave Carter as Brig. Stribos (Series 1—2)
  • Natasha Pyne as Janet (Series 4—5)
  • Alan Haines as Brig. Mertens (Series 1)

The setting and characters

The stories are mostly based in and around Amsterdam, where Commissaris van der Valk is a cynical yet intuitive detective. Drugs, sex and murder are among the gritty themes of the casework, contrasted against picturesque Amsterdam locations. In the opening credits of the first series van der Valk is standing on the tower of the Westerkerk.

Van der Valk also contrasts with his naïve assistant, Inspecteur Johnny Kroon, played by Michael Latimer, and his superior, Hoofd-commissaris Samson, who deals with the political fallout of the cases. (Samson was played by three actors over the course of the show: Martin Wyldeck for two episodes in 1972, Nigel Stock for 12 episodes in 1977, and lastly Ronald Hines for the revival in 1991-92.) Van der Valk's French wife Arlette was played by three actresses over the course of the show's twenty-year run: initially by Susan Travers, Joanna Dunham for the third series, and finally Meg Davies for the 1991-92 revival. Other notable actors in the series included Alan Haines who played Brig Mertens, and Richard Huw who played Van Der Valk's son Wim, also a police detective, in the revival.

Theme music

The signature tune, Eye Level, composed by Jack Trombey (a pseudonym of Dutch composer Jan Stoeckart) and performed by the Simon Park Orchestra, reached number one in the UK singles charts in 1973. Also that year, Matt Monro charted with a vocal version titled "And You Smiled". In the final TV series, the theme was played at a slightly faster tempo than previously.

Other adaptations


  • Amsterdam Affair (1968), a lesser-known British film featuring the character, features German actor Wolfgang Kieling in the title role.
  • Pas de frontières pour l'inspecteur (Van der Valk), three French-West German co-produced TV films, starring Frank Finlay in the title role:
    • Van der Valk und das Mädchen (Le milieu n'est pas tendre) (1972), based on the novel Gun Before Butter, directed by Peter Zadek.
    • Van der Valk und die Reichen (Discrétion absolue) (1973), directed by Wolfgang Petersen.
    • Van der Valk und die Toten (Le bouc émissaire) (1975), directed by Marcel Cravenne.
  • Because of the Cats (1973), a Dutch/Belgian co-production, starring British actor Bryan Marshall in the title role.


  • Van der Valk: Gun before Butter was adapted for BBC Radio 4 and directed by Philip Martin. The play was first broadcast on 8 November 1993.[2]


Series 1 (1972)

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate
1"One Herring's Not Enough"Michael ChapmanDennis Vance13 September 1972 (1972-09-13)
When a man confesses to the double murder of his wife and her lover it seems an open and shut case; but as one part after another of the man's story doesn't check out, Van der Valk realises he is dealing with something far more complicated.
2"Destroying Angel"Michael ChapmanGraham Evans20 September 1972 (1972-09-20)
A man is found dead in his room above a sleazy bar and brothel. Van der Valk is called in when the examining doctor suspects poisoning. Immediately sensing there is more to the case than meets the eye, he uncovers a complicated web involving drug dealing and the grubbier end of Amsterdam's S & M industry. Ultimately though, he finds the motive for the man's murder may lay elsewhere and that "Destroying Angel" is definitely involved; but who, or what, is that?
3"Blue Notes"Geoffrey GilbertMarc Miller27 September 1972 (1972-09-27)
When Jan Servaas, a world-famous Dutch violinist, makes a rare concert appearance in his home country it is an eagerly awaited event. In the weeks leading up to the concert van der Valk receives a series of mysterious notes, written on blue paper, warning that Servaas will be "executed" if he comes to Amsterdam. Van der Valk ignores Kroon's pleas to have the concert canceled until the case is solved, perhaps in part because he and Arlette have tickets and are looking forward to it! It is a decision that will have tragic consequences as a drama which began with betrayal in wartime Limburg plays out to a fatal conclusion in 1970s Amsterdam.
4"Elected Silence"Geoffrey GilbertDouglas Camfield4 October 1972 (1972-10-04)
Officers investigating a hearse abandoned near the Royal Palace make a bizarre discovery which appears to be a threat against Paul Harkemer, well known editor of a right wing magazine, and/or his 19 year old daughter. At first it appears that it may be nothing more than a publicity stunt for the left wing rock band Emerald Scorpion, and Harkemer himself seems totally unconcerned. The case seems to over before it started, but then the police receive a cassette tape from someone claiming to be the kidnapper of Harkemer's daughter.
5"Thicker Than Water"Geoffrey GilbertDavid Wickes11 October 1972 (1972-10-11)
A body dredged up from a canal is tentatively identified as the son of a British MP, but when she views the body she says it is not her son. Van der Valk refuses to believe this and calls on his British colleagues to help prove the boy's identity. The boy's face is well-known in Amsterdam's transvestite and transsexual scene and van der Valk's inquiries there lead him deeper and deeper into a dark world of sexual depravity and exploitation involving some of the most prominent public figures in Europe. Samson desperately advises him to proceed with extreme caution. In the face of the mother's refusal to co-operate van der Valk finds his best hope is to look elsewhere in the family for help.
6"The Adventurer"Michael ChapmanPeter Duguid18 October 1972 (1972-10-18)
Why would German Wolf Gebhardt (Paul Eddington) decide, in middle age, to take up an apprenticeship in stonemasonry in Amsterdam? Why would a man killed in a car accident be carrying a newspaper cutting with a photo of Gebhardt? Van der Valk senses that Gebhardt is in danger and even attempts to have him taken into protective custody when he refuses to co-operate with inquiries. Short on options, van der Valk makes a fatal misjudgement before he finally unravels this complex and frustrating case.

Series 2 (1973)

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate
1"A Death by the Sea"Philip BroadleyDon Leaver29 August 1973 (1973-08-29)
Van Teesling (Patrick Allen), a wealthy and influential banker, is found unconscious in his car on the beach. He tells police that the night before he and his wife went for a drunken midnight swim. His wife drowned while he barely escaped with his life. Van der Valk's nose is twitching, but he is put under pressure not to pursue the case. When Kroon discovers than van Teesling is a former Olympic swimmer, van der Valk is convinced that he staged the incident to get rid of his wife. Van der Valk is determined to use any means to ensure that justice is done.
2"A Man of No Importance"Arden WinchDouglas Camfield5 September 1973 (1973-09-05)
Van der Valk investigates when the body of a man wearing only pyjama trousers is discovered on a canal barge.
3"A Rose for Mr. Reinhart"Peter YeldhamMike Vardy12 September 1973 (1973-09-12)
Arlette van der Valk is concerned about the safety of Karen Seger, an attractive young woman that she and the children know from visits to the park. She asks her husband to meet the woman and consider whether she might need police protection.
4"A Dangerous Point of View"Jeremy PaulJim Goddard19 September 1973 (1973-09-19)
The body of a man who has been stabbed to death is discovered in a flat. Van der Valk must find out why the dead man was there and who could have known about it.
5"Season for Love"Philip BroadleyMike Vardy26 September 1973 (1973-09-26)
Van der Valk agrees to help a rich American woman (Lisa Daniely) who is looking for a young man who has gone missing in Amsterdam, but soon discovers that it is the woman who may be in real danger.
6"Rich Man, Poor Man"David ButlerDouglas Camfield3 October 1973 (1973-10-03)
A worker at a firm that reconditions farm machinery is injured in an explosion at the premises. The man insists he caused the accident himself, but van der Valk is convinced that he is covering up the truth.
7"The Rainbow Ends Here"Philip BroadleyGraham Evans10 October 1973 (1973-10-10)
The sister of tycoon Evert Stolle is kidnapped, but her brother does not want the police to get involved.

Series 3 (1977)

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate
1"Enemy"Paul WheelerMike Vardy5 September 1977 (1977-09-05)
The lives of Piet and Arlette van der Valk are threatened.
2"Accidental"Ted ChildsTom Clegg12 September 1977 (1977-09-12)
An international scandal over charges of corruption in high places emerges, and the chief prosecutor disappears.
3"The Runt"Leslie SandsMike Vardy19 September 1977 (1977-09-19)
A likeable rogue, a small time thief and con-man, for whom Van der Valk develops a grudging affection. But the thief suddenly becomes wealthy and also seems to be connected with an important family. The pressures are on Van der Valk to find out why, but without embarrassing too many people.
4"Wolf"Philip BroadleyMike Vardy26 September 1977 (1977-09-26)
A young German is murdered in his bed. The apartment is littered with clues. For Van der Valk there is a clue too many.
5"Man of Iron"Michael ChapmanWilliam Brayne3 October 1977 (1977-10-03)
When one of Van der Valk's close friends suffers a series of apparently pointless attacks, he finds himself looking for a mysterious hidden enemy who could strike at any second.
6"Everybody Does It"Philip BroadleyBen Bolt10 October 1977 (1977-10-10)
Arlette van der Valk picks up a dubious bargain and inadvertently gets her husband caught up with a crime syndicate.
7"Face Value"Robert WalesMike Vardy17 October 1977 (1977-10-17)
Van der Valk investigates a case of forgery and uncovers a dead artist and a strange collection of pictures.
8"Dead on Arrival"Patrick O'BrianTed Childs24 October 1977 (1977-10-24)
A Dutch clairvoyant is invited to Britain to assist with an old murder investigation. Bob Hoskins had a role in this episode.
9"The Professor"Roger MarshallTed Childs31 October 1977 (1977-10-31)
10"In Hazard"Paul WheelerWilliam Brayne7 November 1977 (1977-11-07)
Van der Valk has reason to doubt a beautiful woman's story.
11"Gold Plated Delinquents"Roger MarshallTom Clegg14 November 1977 (1977-11-14)
Some spoiled rich kids in search of new thrills cause a headache for van der Valk.
12"Diane"Philip BroadleyMike Vardy21 November 1977 (1977-11-21)
A woman who has been trying to escape the past finds that it catches up with her in Amsterdam.

Series 4 (1991)

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate
1"Doctor Hoffman's Children"Jonathan HalesAnthony Simmons16 January 1991 (1991-01-16)
Van Der Valk investigates a series of murders, including A fall, a burning, a drowning, a dog attack, and a shooting. He discovers that all of the victims attended the same school. Struggling to crack the case, Van Der Valk turns to his daughter to help him get the clue to solve them.
2"Dangerous Games"Don ShawJim Goddard23 January 1991 (1991-01-23)
Van der Valk plays cat and mouse with a leak in police headquarters when his son Wim is accused of leaking vital police intelligence.
3"A Sudden Silence"Keith DewhurstHerbert Wise30 January 1991 (1991-01-30)
A senior official is shot. Piet suspects his wife knows more about his murder than she says.
4"The Little Rascals"Peter BuckmanAlan Cooke6 February 1991 (1991-02-06)
An ageing alternative comedian has been strangled. Van der Valk finds his investigation into the murder hampered at every turn. The body of the comedian's widow is fished out of a canal. The manager of the club where the comic worked is the next to die. All three had been members of a society known as the Little Rascals at university. A group of ex hippies known as 'The Little Rascals' find themselves the targets of a series of attacks. Piet investigates and worries about a young lady whose parents have been affected by the incidents.

Series 5 (1992)

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate
1"The Ties That Bind"Kenneth WareAnthony Simmons5 February 1992 (1992-02-05)
The wife of a diamond merchant is shot and killed as she leaves a restaurant. Meanwhile, a former judge is shot dead and Van der Valk is brought in to solve the case. A suspect is apprehended, but confesses that someone else got to the judge first. Moreover, what is the connection between the judge's killing and a drug case Wim is investigating?
2"Proof of Life"Keith DewhurstTom Clegg12 February 1992 (1992-02-12)
When a businessman and his son are kidnapped, van der Valk must establish whether the man's wife is involved.
3"Still Waters"Stuart HepburnHerbert Wise19 February 1992 (1992-02-19)
A new sea barrier is at the centre of a row between senior Dutch politicians and the radical Green Party. When the row leads to murder, van der Valk is called in to investigate.


A new series of three 90 minute episodes, with Marc Warren in the title role, is in production with a planned release date in late 2019.[3][4]


  1. "Van Der Valk - Series 1-5 - Complete [DVD] [1972]". 22 October 2007 via
  2. Guns Before Butter, BBC Radio 4, 8 November 1993
  3. Van Der Valk Returns Peter White, 2 April 2019 at; retrieved 15 October 2019
  4. Van Der Valk (2019-) at IMDb
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