|Only Fools and Horses
Rock & Chips character
|Portrayed by||David Jason (1981–2003)
James Buckley (2010–11)
2010–11 (Rock & Chips)
|First appearance||Big Brother|
|Last appearance||Sleepless in Peckham|
|Created by||John Sullivan|
|Rock & Chips (2010–11)|
|Occupation||Market trader (1960–2001)
Derek Edward Trotter, better known as "Del Boy", is the fictional lead character in the popular BBC sitcom Only Fools and Horses and one of the main characters of its prequel, Rock & Chips. He was played by David Jason in the original series and was portrayed as a teenager by James Buckley in the prequel. Del is known for his catchphrase "You plonker!" which he usually says to Rodney.
Del Boy is a lively, happy-go-lucky, confident character. While not always successful, his general confidence and occasional forcefulness often persuade people to believe in him. From the sixth series on, he becomes a stereotypical yuppie of the late 1980s, pretending to be much more wealthy than he really is, as he tries to associate with the upper classes despite being obviously working class.
He is a habitual liar, particularly to women, customers, policemen and even his family and doctors. He lies even when it is against his best interests, such as when he claims to be a health freak while suffering from stomach pains, leading to his spending several days under observation in hospital rather than receiving an immediate diagnosis.
Del reckons he can speak some French, though nearly all the time none of his phrases make any sense in the context he uses them in (e.g. Saying "Au revoir" to say "hello" and "bonjour" to say goodbye). He also thinks he has knowledge in subjects like history, art and other academic subjects (his lack of knowledge in history is shown well in "To Hull and Back" in which he calls Albert "the finest little sailor this country has produced since Nelson lost the Armada".)
Del Boy is not always keen to express his love for his family and others, but this side of his nature is shown in numerous episodes, such as "Diamonds Are for Heather", "Strained Relations", "Dates", "The Yellow Peril" and "Little Problems". His care for his grandfather ("Grandad" – Lennard Pearce) is shown in "The Second Time Around", when Grandad confesses to having Trigger phone to tell Del that his fiancée, Pauline Harris, has killed her husband Bobby Finch by poisoning him.
Although engaged many times, he never marries. He has had many girlfriends, a fact that is the subject of numerous sarcastic jibes by Rodney. He finally meets his partner Raquel Turner (whom he calls his "significant other") in the 1988 special "Dates".
Del's mother Joan dies on 12 March 1964, apparently after a long string of illnesses. His lazy father Reginald leaves three months later, taking most of their money and even Del's birthday cake, leaving the teenage Del as the family's sole breadwinner, looking after his grandfather and Rodney, his half-brother who was born fifteen years after him in 1960. He lives with Rodney, Cassandra, Raquel and their son Damien at door 368 on the twelfth floor of the fictional Nelson Mandela House in the Dockside Estate, Peckham, London. Before that, he lives in an old detached house in 39 Orchard Street with his mother, father and grandfather.
Relationship with other characters
Del Boy has many girlfriends during the series. His friends include Trigger, Denzil, Boycie, Marlene and Mike. His greatest enemy is DCI Roy Slater. Del is optimistic and, although not intellectual, he is quick witted and frequently gets Rodney into trouble. In "Wanted", when a mentally unstable woman accuses Rodney of attacking her, Del makes a joke of it and says that the police have named Rodney "The Peckham Pouncer". Del is afraid of doctors and dentists. His favourite song is "Old Shep", and his favourite band is The Who. In "Rodney Come Home", Del hints that he supports Millwall F.C., but in "The Long Legs of the Law" he implies that he supports Chelsea. He believes himself fluent in French but confuses bonjour and au revoir. He cannot swim – the certificate in his possession doesn't belong to him – nor fly a hang glider well. He is not very intelligent, but can be very kind, such as when he tried to help Rodney get over his wife Cassandra's miscarriage of their first baby. He never hesitates to remind people about how he brought Rodney up practically on his own after their mother died and father left, often using this fact to win arguments with Rodney.
Del and Rodney often tease Uncle Albert about his appearance and resemblance to Captain Birdseye, although they show kinder feelings for him when he dies in "If They Could See Us Now". Rodney apologises for the way he treats Albert in "Sickness and Wealth".
In Rock & Chips, Del Boy is shown to have a particularly strong relationship with his mother Joan, whom he loves dearly. (He is Joan's favourite, to the point that she refuses to run away with Freddie Robdal until she is certain of Del's financial security.) His relationship with Grandad is the same in Rock & Chips as in Only Fools and Horses, but he has a strained relationship with his father Reg. It is clear that they love each other, but they are sometimes at odds, particularly regarding Reg's lazy lifestyle and when Reg verbally abuses Joan, when Del threatens to hurt him if he does it again. Del is also visibly disgusted to hear that Joan is pregnant with what he incorrectly believes to be Reg's second child. By the end of the pilot episode, their relationship begins to improve somewhat, although in Only Fools and Horses it is clear that Del has still not forgiven Reg for abandoning the family after Joan's death. This is demonstrated in "Thicker than Water" when he nearly throws Reg out of the flat. But Del still appears to feel some familial loyalty to Reg, shown when he gives him some money just before his departure.
Del Boy appears to be closer to Jumbo Mills than the rest of his gang and seems to be quite promiscuous, as shown when he becomes "engaged" to several girls by presenting them with fake diamond rings.
His relationship with Frederick "Freddie the Frog" Robdal is not much elaborated on, as they share few scenes. During the series, Robdal becomes closer to the Trotters, primarily Joan, and Robdal is shown to respect Del's ability to look after himself, his hard work and his devotion to his mother. In Sleepless in Peckham, Del tells Raquel that was told to call Robdal "Uncle Fred", not knowing until years later that Robdal was Rodney's father. In the final scene, Del labels Robdal as "a professional burglar, disloyal to his friends, a womaniser, a home-breaker, a con-man, a thief, a liar, and a cheat". This is long after he has realised that Robdal is Rodney's real father, so this knowledge apparently causes him to resent Robdal greatly.
Confusion over age
Del Boy's year of birth is contradicted in several episodes. In "Sleepless in Peckham" (2003), Rodney shows Cassandra a photo of the 1960 Jolly Boys' outing, saying that Del was 15, making his date of birth around 1945. In "Go West Young Man" (series 1, 1981), it is implied that he is 35, giving him a birth year of 1945/46. In "A Losing Streak" (series 2, 1982) and "Thicker than Water" (series 3, 1983), he claims that their father left in 1965, on his 16th birthday, making his birth year 1949. In "Tea for Three" (series 5, 1986), Rodney tells Trigger's niece Lisa that Del's 46th birthday is coming up, making the year of birth 1940, although in that scene Rodney may be lying to make Del appear older. "The Class of '62" (series 7, 1991) sees Del and friends attending a class reunion, suggesting a birth year of 1946 or 1947.
The prequel drama Rock & Chips, set in 1960, shows Del Boy at 15, before Rodney has been born. This is confirmed when the teacher complains about the boys having to stay at school for another year because of a change in the law. (The school leaving age in the UK was raised to 16 in 1972.) This, however, is inconsistent with "Big Brother" (Series 1, 1981), when Del states that he is 13 years older than Rodney. If this were so, Del should have been 12 or 13 in Rock & Chips.
Del Boy works as a market trader, running his own company, Trotters Independent Traders (T.I.T.), either from out of a suitcase or from the back of his bright yellow Reliant Regal supervan. With a never-ending supply of get-rich-quick schemes and an inner belief in his ability to sell anything to anyone, he embroils "the firm", as he calls the family business, in a variety of improbable situations. This unwavering confidence had given rise to his oft-proclaimed ambition "This time next year, we'll be millionaires!" His business acumen is described in the episode "Mother Nature's Son", when Del is depressed about his financial situation and Rodney says, "The old Derek Trotter could smell a fiver in a force 9 gale. They used to say that if Del Boy fell into a Viper's Pit, he'd come up wearing snake-skin shoes."
While maintaining a tough exterior, Del still mourns the death of his mother and runs T.I.T. with Rodney. He takes great pride in having raised Rodney after their mother's premature death and has never forgiven his father for running away when Rodney was an infant. Despite their often minimal income, Del insists on caring for his elderly grandfather. When Grandad dies, his role in the family trio is taken by his younger brother Albert, who receives the same level of respect (and light-hearted abuse).
Del Boy is a petty criminal and makes no attempt to hide it unless directly confronted by the authorities. On one occasion, he claims that at least half his possessions are illegal, including the furniture. He dabbles in theft, but mostly receives stolen goods and sells them on. He pays no tax, claiming that, since he and his family do not benefit from the Welfare State, they should not have to contribute to it. An early episode implies that he is legally dead and therefore does not pay tax.
In the feature-length episode "If They Could See Us Now", the Trotters' business is liquidated, Del Boy is declared bankrupt, and he receives a two-year suspended sentence for his years of tax evasion, with a condition that he pay off the outstanding balance within twelve months to avoid being sent to prison. Rodney becomes the Managing Director of a reformed T.I.T., but this doesn't stop Del acting as if he runs the business. He fails to make enough to pay his tax bill, but an inheritance from the recently deceased Uncle Albert gives him the money he needs.
- Only Fools and Horses (64 Episodes)
- The Green Green Grass (1 Episode)
- Rock & Chips (3 Episodes)
- This Morning - David Jason portrayed Del Boy "for the last time" when introducing the competition segment of the show, saying "this time next week, you could be a quarter of a millionaire" this referencing back to one of Derek's famous quotes; "This time next year, we'll be millionaires".