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Ahearne's career began when the short film Latin for a Dark Room won an award at the Edinburgh Festival in 1994, and shortly afterwards he began working for the independent television production company World Productions. Among his work for World were episodes of the 1997 series the BBC Two drama This Life, for which Ahearne wrote two and directed another three episodes, making him the only person to both write and direct episodes for the series.
His next major production for World was the six-episode Channel Four vampire series Ultraviolet, which Ahearne both wrote and directed. Ultraviolet was broadcast in 1998 to high critical acclaim, and has subsequently been released on both VHS and DVD. The series also ran on the Sci-Fi Channel in the United States, and the Fox Network in that country produced a pilot for their own version in 2001, although this did not lead to a series.
In 2002 Ahearne directed the pilot for the Big Bear Productions horror-fantasy drama Strange, written by Andrew Marshall and broadcast on BBC One. The pilot was successful enough for a series to be commissioned the following year, with Ahearne helming three of the six episodes, although the series was not a success and a second did not follow.
Ahearne both wrote and directed the two-part drama-documentary series Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets for the BBC and the Discovery Channel in 2004. He was the director of five episodes of the 2005 series of the BBC's Doctor Who, for which Ahearne was nominated for his first BAFTA.
In December 2006 his drama Perfect Parents, starring Doctor Who lead Christopher Eccleston, was aired on ITV1. The following month, Ahearne returned to This Life to direct the one-off reunion episode "This Life +10", shown on BBC Two on 2 January 2007.
- Liz Thomas (7 April 2006). "Eccleston swaps time for crime in first post-Doctor drama". The Stage. Retrieved 26 January 2008.