The Chinese Detective

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The Chinese Detective
GenrePolice procedural
Created byIan Kennedy Martin
Written byIan Kennedy Martin
Edward Boyd
StarringDavid Yip
Derek Martin
Arthur Kelly
Larrington Walker
Robert Lee
Allan Surtees
John Bott
Richard Rees
Composer(s)Harry South
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series2
No. of episodes14 (list of episodes)
Producer(s)Terence Williams
CinematographyPeter Chapman
Editor(s)Bill Wright
Running time60 minutes
Production company(s)BBC Studios
Original networkBBC One
Picture format4:3
Audio formatMono
Original release30 April 1981 –
5 November 1982

The Chinese Detective is a British television police procedural drama series, first transmitted by the BBC between 1981 and 1982. The series was created by Ian Kennedy Martin, who had previously devised The Sweeney and Juliet Bravo. The series starred British Chinese actor David Yip as Detective Sergeant John Ho, the first Chinese lead actor in a British television drama series.[1] The series offered traditional police procedural storylines in a setting of occasional prejudice and distrust within the police force, and the prejudice displayed by those Ho encounters whilst doing his job. Like many other television detectives of the time, Ho was something of a maverick, often using unorthodox methods to solve crimes. The series was set in and around London's docklands, before redevelopment began in the 1980s.[2]

His immediate superior in the force, Detective Chief Inspector Berwick (Derek Martin), often provided him a source of stress, often reprimanding him for his approach towards the cases he was investigating. Ho is also often seen visiting his father, Joe (Robert Lee), at his restaurant for advice. Like many other television detectives of the era, Ho drove a 'classic' car. In this case, Ho's vehicle of choice was a Morris Minor Traveller.[3]

DVD Release[edit]

Both series were released on DVD in the UK in a complete box set on 14 April 2008.[4]


  • David Yip — Detective Sergeant John Ho
  • Derek Martin — Detective Chief Inspector Berwick
  • Arthur Kelly — Detective Sergeant Donald Chegwyn
  • Larrington Walker — Ezra (Series 1—2)
  • Robert Lee — Joe Ho (Series 1)
  • Allan Surtees — Ex-Detective Chief Inspector Marley-Harris (Series 1)
  • John Bott — Detective Chief Superintendent Halsey (Series 1—2)
  • Richard Rees — Dr. David Li (Series 2)


Series 1 (1981)[edit]

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateUK viewers
1"Release"Ian ToyntonIan Kennedy Martin30 April 1981 (1981-04-30)N/A

A released prisoner, a smashed window and a terrified wife lead Detective Sergeant John Ho to discover that past crimes breed present strife and future violence.

Guest stars: Alan Ford (Jack Arthur Bross), Shirley Stelfox (Arlene), Ahmed Khalil (Jamshid Kamal), Jack Le White (Old Harry Rose), Sarah Lam (Mei)
2"Hammer And Nails"Terry GreenIan Kennedy Martin7 May 1981 (1981-05-07)N/A

The murder of a Chinese club owner sets John Ho in the middle of a gangland struggle for power – and into the bad books of Chief Inspector Berwick.

Guest stars: Vincent Wong (Mr. Hong), Helen Keating (Sandra Beatty), Brian Croucher (Jack Mangan), Matthew Scurfield (Det. Insp. Gratton), John Judd (Roy Kinnock), James Marcus (Charlie), David Sibley (Derek), Keith Hodiak (West Indian club member), Andy Ho (Wung Ling)
3"The Four from Fulham"Ian ToyntonIan Kennedy Martin14 May 1981 (1981-05-14)N/A

Mr Hong holds the key to a big prize which the Fulham gang are desperate to win. John Ho observes them all, and witnesses the evil result of ambition and greed.

Guest stars: Vincent Wong (Mr. Hong), Helen Keating (Sandra Beatty), Brian Croucher (Jack Mangan), Brian Croucher (Jack Mangan), Matthew Scurfield (Det. Insp. Gratton), John Judd (Roy Kinnock), Michael Melia (Milner), Peter Dean (Greg), Anthony Heaton (Hartley), Albert Moses (Mr. Banerjee), Jim McManus (Eel & Pie Shop Proprietor), James Marcus (Charlie)
4"Income Tax"Ian ToyntonIan Kennedy Martin21 May 1981 (1981-05-21)N/A

An-ex villain wants to put his dishonest ways behind him, so is not best pleased to be reminded of his past by the tax man and John Ho.

Guest stars: Lee Montague (Reg Purnell), Nicholas McArdle (David Melvyn), Marc Zuber (Sheik Ahmed Mahmoud), Renu Setna (Mr. Patel), Jacob Witkin (Mr. Shamal), Kenneth Gilbert (Sgt. Porritt), Bill Treacher (Bus driver), Dicken Ashworth (Large man), Ishia Bennison (Consulate receptionist)
5"Washing"Tom CleggIan Kennedy Martin28 May 1981 (1981-05-28)N/A

Ho becomes involved in a complex Chinese puzzle when a dancer becomes the victim of a hit-and-run.

Guest stars: Fiesta Mei Ling (Anna Wo), Kay Tong Lim (Scarface), Fred Lee Own (Chung Ling), Chua Kahjoo (Li Wo), Phillip Tan (Chinese villain), Frank Coda (Det. Sgt. Carrier)
6"Ice And Dust"Tom CleggIan Kennedy Martin4 June 1981 (1981-06-04)N/A

Ho gambles his own life to accomplish his personal mission.

Guest stars: Ian Hendry (Eddie Dwyer), Roger Sloman (Roger Horrabin), Peter Schofield (Det. Chief Insp. Maunsell), Michael Melia (Milner), Peter Dean (Greg), Paul Barber (Ned)

Series 2 (1982)[edit]

Episode # Title Directed by Written by Original air date UK viewers
(in millions)
1"Trials"Ian ToyntonIan Kennedy Martin10 September 1982 (1982-09-10)N/A

It is the first day of a trial at the Old Bailey and Ho has to deal with a couple of O.A.P's, a twelve-bore shotgun and a fleet of three-wheeled cars.

Guest stars: Maurice Denham (Edwrad Ruthven), Frank Gatliff (Defending Counsel), Neil Hallett (Mr. Fisher), Nat Jackley (Rex Madden), John Kidd (Judge)
2"Oblomov"Terence WilliamsIan Kennedy Martin17 September 1982 (1982-09-17)N/A

Ho has viral pneumonia and Dr Li prescribes 'ten days horizontal' - but a visit from informer, Jack Bross, rouses Ho from his sickbed.

Guest stars: Alan Ford (Jack Arthur Bross), Paul Antrim (Chief Insp. Seddon), Michael Barrington (Chief Supt. Nuttall), Ron Emslie (Det. Sgt. George Whatley), John Savident (Don Lidell), Robert Russell (Eric Leggatt), Albert Moses (Mr. Patel), Merdelle Jordine (Myra), Barry Smith (Doctor)
3"Wheels Within Wheels"David GreenIan Kennedy Martin24 September 1982 (1982-09-24)N/A

Jack Longman's good with figures - but a stolen Mercedes and a ledger set Ho on course for another result - but not the one he had in mind.

Guest stars: Rudolph Walker (Terence Villiers), George Sewell (Jack Longman), Rosemary Martin (Greta Longman), Brian Coburn (Smith), Philip Dunbar (Mr. Elderton), Keith James (Pete)
4"Tapdancer"Ian ToyntonIan Kennedy Martin1 October 1982 (1982-10-01)N/A

A mother's cry for help sends Ho in search of a missing boy. With tap shoes and a cassette player, Tommy is no ordinary boy.

Guest stars: Edward Hardwicke (Det. Chief Insp. Lovell), Bryan Marshall (George Bourne), Linda Marlowe (Greta Mancey), Ron Emslie (Det. Sgt. George Whatley), Ben Howard (Dave Mancey), Marc Gilbey (Tommy Mancey), Pam St. Clement (Aunt Daisy)
5"Bounty Hunter"Laurence MoodyEddie Boyd8 October 1982 (1982-10-08)N/A

When a Glaswegian gunfighter rides into Limehouse there's blood on the streets - but Doc Halliday's fantasies explode in other people's faces.

Guest stars: Maurice Roëves (Doc Halliday), Michael Attwell (Harry Foss), John Horsley (Dr. Green), Tony Calvert (Menace), Stevan Rimkus (Brush), Arnold Yarrow (Old Man), Martin Gower (Barman)
6"Chorale"Jeremy SummersIan Kennedy Martin15 October 1982 (1982-10-15)N/A

Jack Balfe, a well-known East End fence, wants distinguished Tenor Robert Tear to sing at his daughter's birthday party - but no one, least of all Ho, is going to stop him.

Guest stars: George Baker (Jack Balfe), Derren Nesbitt (Gunther Esslin), Roy Pattison (1st German), Roy Scammell (2nd German), Valentine Palmer (SDP Candidate), Peter Craze (SDP Agent), Reg Woods (Sergeant)
7"Pasts"Leonard LewisEddie Boyd22 October 1982 (1982-10-22)N/A

Routine searches and an irritable Berwick don't appeal to Ho. When a pile of bones is found in a derelict house, Ho sees a chance to escape both.

Guest stars: James Ellis (Father Gorman), Peter Copley (Cunninghame-Price), John Collin (Arbuckle), Patsy Smart (Mrs. Jenkins), Albert Moses (Mr. Patel), Declan Mulholland (Foreman), Ray Float (Postman)
8"Secret State"Brian LighthillIan Kennedy Martin5 November 1982 (1982-11-05)N/A

Ho deals with a fatal shooting, but discovers there is no corpse. The only witness is an old lady and her budgies, but soon other parties begin to show interest in the case.

Guest stars: Paul Antrim (Chief Insp. Seddon), Tony Caunter (Pollitt), Patrick Malahide (Colin Bennett), Michael Robbins (Caretaker), Anna Wing (Alice Walden), Maurice O'Connell (Loughlin), Peter Spraggon (Charlie Miller), John Rolfe (Special Branch Man)


  1. ^ "The Chinese Detective (1981–82)". BFI Screenonline. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  2. ^ "The Chinese Detective - Episode guide". BBC One. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  3. ^ Lee, Matthew (2004). "The Chinese Detective". Action TV. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  4. ^ "The Chinese Detective - Series 1 and 2 - Complete". Amazon. 14 April 2008. Retrieved 8 October 2018.

External links[edit]