BBC Drama boss Ben Stephenson sets out his vision

Speaking at an event for writers, actors, industry and press, Ben Stephenson yesterday set out his vision for BBC Drama and announced a range of new commissions.

As we reported yesterday Atlantis is just one of a host of new dramas from the beeb while Death in Paradise and Call the Midwife are both set to continue.

Drama and the BBC are inseparable – it is written through the BBC like a stick of rock. No other broadcaster in the world has drama so firmly in its DNA” adding, “Lord Hall and I have had early talks about the BBC as a cultural organisation with an international reputation,” he notes of the new era with the arrival of another Director General, “I want to make BBC drama a cultural institution – a touchstone for quality and modernity with all the excitement and glamour of a curtain going up.


“My aim is to build a BBC drama department that has an enormous international reputation. That means making us more British than ever – it is about applying the Danny Boyle vision to our work – a bold, adventurous, authorial approach that exports because of its Britishness not despite it. A BBC that feels inspiringly creative – Ben Stephenson

And so his legacy of quality production begins with a list of programming for BBC One starting with a three part serial Death Comes To Pemberley. Written by Juliette Towhidi of Calendar Girls fame the story is adapted from P.D James’ international bestselling novel.

In this 200th anniversary year of the first publication of ‘Pride & Prejudice’, P.D James’ remarkably inventive homage to Austen brings the much-loved world to life in a dazzling and original way. Set six years after ‘Pride & Prejudice’ ends and centering on Austen’s best-known characters, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy, the three–hours of drama combines a classic period tale with a highly suspenseful and brilliantly crafted murder mystery plot.

Breakdown is eight hour-long episodes following the story of Tony whose son is snatched while on holiday in France. He begins an exhaustive search which fractures his marriage and destroys his life. Exploring the emotional cost of hope and finding when to let go, this relationship thriller shows the impact of a child’s abduction. The production has been written by Jack Williams and Harry Williams.

Another eight part series is The Interceptor which over its hour-long episodes promises to provide a high-octane series about a top secret, state of the art law enforcement team whose unswerving mission is to hunt down some of Britain’s most dangerous and ruthless criminals. The series has been written by Tony Saint.

Jamaica Inn, written by Emma Frost, is a three part saga based on the classic Daphne du Maurier novel, set in 1820 against the foreboding backdrop of windswept Cornish moors, this highly charged, gothic romance follows young Mary Yellan as she becomes entangled in a dangerous criminal world ridden with smuggling and murder, testing her resolve and morality to the very core.

In Remember Me the BBC air another three part mini series which is described by the corporation as a ‘haunting mystery’. Written by Gwyneth Hughes the tale begins on the day a frail old Yorkshireman leaves his own home to move into residential care, he becomes the sole witness to a violent death. His teenage care assistant tries to unravel the riddle of his strange and secretive life, and is drawn into an eerie and dangerous world of lost love and betrayal.

BBC Two is also in line for drama as David Hare returns to the channel with the second and third parts of the trilogy Turks And Caicos and Salting The Battlefield. Made in 2011, directed and written by David Hare, Page Eight was the first film in an intended trilogy about the British domestic security service, M15.

After the death of the Head of the organization, Johnny Worricker, an intelligence officer, is aware of a plot to hand control of the organization directly over to the Prime Minister, Alec Beasley. The Emmy-winning film was seen on BBC Two and PBS, and starred Bill Nighy, Rachel Weisz, Ralph Fiennes, Judy Davis and Michael Gambon. While over on BBC Four Burton And Taylor is a one-off 90-minute ‘factual’ docudrama of the romance between movie stars Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

Written by William Ivory the production has Dominic West and Helena Bonham Carter in the lead roles. The story encapsulates the volatile ex-lovers in the story of their ill-fated appearance in a 1983 revival of Noel Coward’s stage play, Private Lives.

Burton and Taylor is a drama about one of the most fascinating, glamorous and tempestuous relationships of the 20th century, that of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, the two most famous movie stars of their day who played out every  high and low of their love affair, their marriages and divorces right in the public eye.

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