1 9 8 7 – 2 0 0 0 (UK)
86 x 60 minute episodes
Inspector Wexford first appeared in the 1964 novel From Doon with Death and, according to his creator Ruth Rendell, was “born at the age of 52”. His first TV appearance, in the shape of the then 55-year-old George Baker, came in August 1987, with the ITV serialisation of Wolf to the Slaughter. This four-part pilot, produced by John Davies and adapted by Clive Exton, set the template for all subsequent Wexford adaptations that remained largely unchanged.
Set in the fictional town of Kingsmarkham, the series was actually filmed on location in Romsey, Hampshire. Initially, episodes were made entirely on video and paced somewhat languidly but as the series became more successful, the decision was made to shoot Wexford on film, to make it glossier and faster-paced.
This was further emphasised in later editions when Wexford travelled to London, France and even as far as China.
George Baker was near-perfectly cast as the well-educated, intelligent but frequently abrasive, crotchety and combative policeman. Although a traditional family man, Wexford seemed a positive radical when compared with his decidedly puritanical assistant Mike Burden, uncompromisingly played by Christopher Ravenscroft.
Although prone to quick moral judgements, especially about young or unorthodox people, the ultra-conventional (and appropriately named) Burden was not without humour and frequently provided genuine insight for the solution of cases.
Most episodes also featured Wexford and Burden’s domestic complications, with Burden’s wife Jean (Ann Penfold) appearing throughout the first series. By the beginning of series two, Burden was a widower, left alone to cope with his two young children, John and Emma. In series three he met Jenny Ireland (Diane Keen), his daughter’s history teacher, and the two eventually married.
After the death of his first wife, in 1993 George Baker married Louie Ramsay, who played his on-screen wife Dora.
A total of 55 episodes centred on the Wexford stories. The remaining episodes of Ruth Rendell Mysteries did not feature Wexford.
DCI Reg Wexford