‘Vigil’ (BBC) issues

The problem with dragging a show out and a possible solution

BBC Execs: "that's great!!.. we are desparate at the moment to fill the gigantic void that line of duty has left and to be honest we are struggling to justify robbing people each month for a license fee that seems decades past its function. Also pretty much everyone now has left us to go to Netflix, HBO, Amazon, Hulu, Apple. All we have these days is match of the day and that dancing thing... a new drama sounds great......... however..... we will need it to be 6 parts at least. But don't worry, we can help there.

What you need to do is pad out the run time on every single scene. Yes this will completely ruin the drama and pacing of the show but it will buy us those all important minutes......... then we can add a massively unrealistic, awkward and forced relationship into the mix that we can show in constant flashbacks through every single episode.

Nobody will care about it but again it will really eat up the run time. And we should do these flashbacks every single time things start to get exciting, to really kill the drama and piss people off.......... also, I know we could address the protagonists anxieties and previous trauma in the first episode through well written and carefully exposition... but let's not do that. Instead we will replay the same scene over and over through all 6 episodes so that people really get the message. It will seem completely unnecessary and really poorly thought out but think of all the minutes we can kill of through just filming one scene!.......... oh, and at the end, when it's all over, we can run for at least another 15 minutes and go over the really badly written romance again.. no reason for this, just really gets us to that 60 minute mark"

Tom Edge: " won't all of this completely ruin any sense of pace, drama, threat??? Won't the viewer get bored of the same pointless scenes being played out??"

BBC Exec " money.... we like money"

The solution?..

We drop to 4 episodes, 60 minutes per episode. We focus on the crippling claustrophobia that effects the protagonist and we go heavy on this. We drop the entire espionage and spy stuff. It was so badly developed and convoluted that all it did was detract from the pacing of the show and in many scenes killed off the tension. We swap to a pure murder mystery. The submarine becomes the ‘haunted house… trapped inside with a killer’ trope. It’s simple but it works and as the bodies mount up and the tension increases so will the audiences involvement and investment in the growing sense of dread.

We cut out all exterior scenes. From the second the protagonist enters the sub and the hatch shuts we get nothing on land. No investigation, no driving to and from pointless locations, no hunting badly written ‘russian spys’, no visits to estranged kids and tension killing afternoon teas. We focus on the basics of what the show should have been, a murder investigation.

We get the character exposition done in the first 15 minutes, simple and effective. We ignore the romance, we focus on the accident, the family trauma that has caused the claustrophobia. We hit this hard and fast. Our protagonist is shown at their lowest, they lose so much, more than they can ever really recover fully from.

The hatch closes and from that second everything is enclosed and on a timer. There is a body, a killer and the protagonists own issues to deal with. The killer is simple and effective. Hiding in plain sight they kill simply because they can, the enjoyment of it, the power and the excitement of ‘getting away with it’. The submarine becomes their hunting ground, nobody is safe. Main and central characters get killed and the crew rapidly descends into chaos. Mob rule threatens to take over as our Detective struggles to find their killer. We get short updates from the shore via communications regarding the case but these are limited and simply serve as a way to push the plot forward when needed not detract.

By episode 4 the submarine has taken on a physical change. The organised, professional, clean and sterile environment of episode 1 has given way to a dark corridors and emergency lighting that creates a kind of pseudo hellscape that mirrors the growing frenzy of our killer. Flooded compartments and groups of crew hiding together mark out territories and both our killer and protagonist have to navigate this for their own reasons. Our hero is now fully alone, no back up, no flashing blue lights and the promise of rescue, just good versus evil, cop versus criminal, one on one. A true journey into the heart of darkness.

We build towards a satisfying conclusion. Simple yet effective. Not leading to a season 2.

It’s a much different and darker take on the story but in the past the BBC has proved it isn’t afraid to be dark when needed to. Recent shows such as ‘I may destroy you’ and ‘its a sin’ have proved that if the story and writing is good and treats the viewer as an adult they will accept what you put out nomatter how dark, I personally would have found this a bold and engaging watch. To be fair it would be better than the inflated 6 part mainstream water cooler show we got.

Enjoy… or don’t



liverpool lad, insomniac, crippling mid life crisis, I write TV and Film reviews, opinion pieces and features for Medium, IGN and Purple Revolver

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Brian James

liverpool lad, insomniac, crippling mid life crisis, I write TV and Film reviews, opinion pieces and features for Medium, IGN and Purple Revolver