BBC Drama controller announces new commissions and writer initiatives

BBC Drama controller announces new commissions and writer initiatives

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Friday, 5th May 2017
Piers Wenger, Controller for BBC drama

BBC Drama Controller Piers Wenger, has announced over 47 hours worth of new drama commissions, as well as a new commissioning team and writer initiatives.

He announced his vision for BBC Drama at an event with Director-General Tony Hall, who said that delivering high quality drama that engages and excites the public is a priority.

Wenger has said that he wants a "strong sense of Britishness" to run through all everything BBC drama does, as it enables Britain to have a strong identity internationally. 

After 5 years away from the BBC, Wenger has been moved by how much programmes have changed. He said that BBC drama became a place where they challenged "creative risk and conventional wisdom".

He added: "In a world where there is just so much content, it’s never been more important for BBC Drama to deliver the unexpected and for us to be clear and strong on what sets us apart."

Wenger has also announced a brand-new commissioning team for BBC drama, and has said that this new structure has "bolstered the commissioning team to ensure greater plurality of taste and vision".

He has also announced a new Head of Development role, in which he has appointed Ben Irving.

Irving's role will be to ensure a good relationship with international partners and continue to be the place that commissions the broadest and most diverse range of drama. 

The BBC Writersroom has also launched its third TV Drama Writers Programme, with 14 new writers from a diversity of backgrounds.

For the first time, the BBC Writersroom has worked directly with a wide range of Indies, placing writers with them to have their scripts developed.

Over the next year the writers will attend masterclasses and workshops with other established writers and productions teams, with the aim of commissioning the writer’s original scripts.

Below are the eleven shows that BBC drama have commissioned to be shown in the coming months.


Giri/Haji (Duty/Shame)

Eight-part series written by Joe Barton (Our World War) is about a Tokyo detective named Kenzo who travels to London in search of his thought-to-be-dead younger brother Yuto. However, Yuto is now believed to be posing as a gangster in London and wanted for the murder of a Japanese businessman.

Giri/Haji is a dark crime story which cuts between London and Tokyo, exploring the butterfly effect between two cities.

This series will premiere on BBC One and Netflix will stream the series globally outside of the UK.


Produced by Neal Street productions (Call the Midwife), comes Informer, a thriller about a young, second generation Pakistani man from East London who is coerced by a Counter-Terrorism officer to go undercover and inform for him.

The officer himself has a past he is unwilling to expose and as he pushes his informant deeper. This is a story about identity in a world where lines are being drawn and sides are being taken.

The War of the Worlds

Written by Peter Harness, this series will be the first British television adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel The War Of The Worlds.

The three-part drama follows one man's attempt to escape the Martians who are determined to destroy all human life as they attempt to conquer the earth. Surrey is struck by a meteor and the people of Earth fall victim to a vicious invasion.

Harness said: “I'm feeling phenomenally lucky to be writing The War Of The Worlds. Wells’ book is ground zero for all modern science fiction, and like all the best sci-fi, manages to sneak in some pretty astonishing comments on what it is to be a human being too.”

The War of the Worlds will begin filming in 2018.

Black Narcissus

Amanda Coe (Apple Tree Yard) brings an adaptation of Rumer Godden’s tale of sexual repression and forbidden love in the 1930s.

This series follows Sister Clodagh and the nuns of St Faiths, who travel to Nepal to set up a branch of their order in the palace of Mopu.

However Sister Clodagh finds herself attracted to the handsome land agent, Mr Dean. But as the repressed memories of Clodagh’s past become entangled with the tragic history of Princess Srimati, the Nepalese princess driven to suicide in the palace after her own tragic love story, is history going to repeat itself?

A Suitable Boy

Screenwriter Andrew Davies will adapt Vikram Seth’s bestseller A Suitable Boy, which has never before been adapted for the small screen before.

This is a classic about a young woman’s search for love and identity in a newly independent India.

A Suitable Boy looks at the story of Lata, a young woman coming of age in northern India in the 50s. Her mother is determined to find her a husband, but after her sister’s arranged marriage, Lata is not convinced she wants the same path.

Torn between duty to her family and the excitement of romance, Lata embarks on an journey of love, desire and heartache as three very different suitors compete for her hand in marriage.

Little Women

Creator of Call the Midwife Heidi Thomas brings Little Women to BBC One. Based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott, this three-part adaptation will bring life to the iconic March sisters.

Vanessa Caswill (Thirteen, My Mad Fat Diary) will direct all three episodes.

Little Women is a coming of age story, as relevant and engaging today as it was in 1868. The story follows four sisters Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy March on their journey from childhood to adulthood.

With the help of their mother Marmee, while their father is away at war, the girls navigate what it means to be a young woman; from gender roles to sibling rivalry, first love, loss and marriage.

A Very English Scandal

Based on the book A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies And A Murder Plot At The Heart Of The Establishment, by journalist John Preston, the drama is written by Russell T Davies (Doctor Who) and directed by Stephen Frears (Florence Foster Jenkins).

A Very English Scandal is the true story of the first British politician to stand trial for conspiracy and incitement to murder.

It is set in the 1960s, homosexuality has only just been decriminalised and Jeremy Thorpe, the youngest leader of any British political party in a hundred years, has a secret he's desperate to hide.

Come Home

Come Home is a deeply emotional family drama written by Danny Brocklehust. It explores the messy realities of parenthood, marriage, and what happens when a mother switches the reset button on their life.

Brocklehurst said: “Come Home is a bold family drama tackling big themes of responsibility, regret and identity, unafraid of going to dark and painful places. But there is also levity, laughter and an emotional truthfulness about the difficulties of parenting." 

The Wilsons (w/t)

Ruth Wilson in BBC One's Luther. (Credit: BBC)

Inspired by a true story and written by Anna Symon, this three-part drama is set in 1960s London, 1940s London and 1930s India.

Alison Wilson thinks she is a regular, happily married woman. But when her husband Alec suddenly dies, a woman turns up on her doorstep, claiming that she is the real Mrs Wilson.

Alison is determined to prove the validity of her own marriage and her husbands love for her, but is led into a world of dark and troubling secrets.

Ruth Wilson (Luther), who will star and executive produce said: "I am so excited to bring to the small screen the extraordinary lives of my grandparents. Theirs is a profoundly moving story and the BBC is the perfect home for it."


Summer of Rockets

Stephen Poliakoff’s semi-autobiographical Summer Of Rockets is to become a six-part series for BBC Two.

Set in the UK during the year of 1957, fear and excitement of the future permeates the lives of all. Britain tests its first hydrogen bomb, the Soviets launch their first ballistic missile and beat the Americans by successfully sending a Satellite into space.

Executive Producer Helen Flint said: "Summer Of Rockets is set in the Cold War period and the series follows Samuel, a Russian born Jewish inventor and designer. Samuel is approached by MI5 to demonstrate his work. Yet it is not his inventions the operatives require - instead Samuel is tasked with the secret mission of obtaining information about his newly and proudly acquired friends Kathleen and Richard Shaw."

BBC Three


Based on Eva O’Connor’s play, Overshadowed tells the story of a young girl called Imogene whose life spirals out of control when she meets the monster of anorexia personified.

Imogene used to be energetic and outgoing, but as of recent she's become withdrawn and obsessed with exercise. Her new best friend is casting a dark shade over Imogene’s life and won’t rest until she is a shadow of her former self.

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BBC Drama Controller Piers Wenger, has announced over 47 hours worth of new drama commissions, as well as a new commissioning team and writer initiatives.