Ripper Street

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Ripper Street
Alt=Series title against printers typefaces
Genre Drama
Created by Richard Warlow
Written by Richard Warlow
Starring Matthew Macfadyen
Jerome Flynn
Adam Rothenberg
Theme music composer Dominik Scherrer
Composer(s) Dominik Scherrer
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 2
No. of episodes 16 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Greg Brenman
Will Gould
Simon Vaughan
Andrew Lowe
Ed Guiney
Polly Hill
Producer(s) Stephen Smallwood
Katie McAleese
Location(s) Dublin, Ireland
Cinematography Julian Court
PJ Dillon
Peter Robertson
Camera setup Single-camera setup
Running time 58–60 minutes
Production company(s) Tiger Aspect Productions
Lookout Point
Distributor Endemol UK
Original channel BBC One
Picture format HDTV 1080i
Original run 30 December 2012 (2012-12-30) – present
External links

Ripper Street is a BBC TV series set in Whitechapel in London's East End in 1889, six months after the infamous Jack the Ripper murders. The series stars Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn, and Adam Rothenberg. The first episode was broadcast on 30 December 2012 during BBC One's Christmas schedule. It began airing in the US on BBC America on 19 January 2013.[1] Ripper Street returned for a second eight-part series on 28 October 2013.[2][3]

On 4 December 2013, Digital Spy reported that series two would be the last; this was due to lower viewing figures than expected.[4][5] Then on 11 December 2013, Variety reported negotiations between Tiger Aspect, the show's producer, and LOVEFiLM to fund future episodes, similar to Netflix's funding of episodes of Arrested Development.[6]

On 26 February 2014, it was confirmed that Amazon Prime Instant Video (formerly known as LOVEFiLM) will revive the show, with filming to begin in May 2014.[7]


Series 1[edit]

The series begins in April 1889, six months since the last Jack the Ripper killing, and in Whitechapel H Division is responsible for policing one and a quarter square miles of East London: a district with a population of 67,000 poor and dispossessed. The men of H Division had hunted the Ripper and failed to find him. When more women are murdered on the streets of Whitechapel, the police begin to wonder if the killer has returned.

Among the factories, rookeries, chop shops (food establishments), brothels and pubs, Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) and Detective Sergeant Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn) team up with former US Army surgeon and Pinkerton agent Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) to investigate the killings.[8] They frequently cross paths with Tenter Street brothel madam Long Susan (MyAnna Buring), who came to London with Jackson from America and lets him reside at the brothel. Their relationship becomes strained due to Jackson's attraction to one of her most profitable girls, Rose Erskine (Charlene McKenna), and because of his close involvement with H Division and Reid.

Sensationalist newspaperman Fred Best (David Dawson) knows a dark secret about Reid's daughter's death. Although still being troubled by her daughter's death, Emily Reid (Amanda Hale) determines to make a new life by helping the fallen women of Whitechapel despite her husband's reservations.

Series 2[edit]

Set in 1890, much has changed since the last series; Inspector Reid's wife, Emily, has left him after he gave her false hope that their daughter may not have drowned; Rose Erskine has left Long Susan's brothel to work as a waitress at the music hall, Blewett's Theatre of Varieties, Sergeant Drake has married another of Susan's girls, Bella; a new detective constable, Albert Flight (Damien Molony) is introduced.

Reid crosses swords with the ruthless Inspector Jedediah Shine (Joseph Mawle). Ten years an Inspector on the Hong Kong police force, Shine has used that experience to exert a firm grip over Limehouse’s neighbouring "K" Division and the emergent Chinatown that grows within it. Long Susan, happy as brothel keeper, is in debt to Silas Duggan (Frank Harper), who lent her funds to start the business, unbeknownst to Jackson who wants to leave London.

Backdrops to episodes in series 2 include Chinese immigration, the London matchgirls strike of 1888, electrical War of Currents, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Joseph Merrick, known as the Elephant Man and the Baring crisis.


A joint BBC and BBC America production written by Richard Warlow, Julie Rutterford, Declan Croghan and Toby Finlay and directed by Andy Wilson (4 episodes) Colm McCarthy (2 episodes) and Tom Shankland (2 episodes). The series includes scenes of the seedier side of life during the late Victorian era, including bare-knuckle boxing, early pornography and prostitution.[9]

Director Tom Shankland said of the series, "Whitechapel's not an area that was short of vicious murders and any woman found murdered with a knife in the consequent months was held up as a Ripper murder... So we’ll touch on Ripper in that way but not dig anybody up or change the canonical five... All the period depictions I’d seen of that particular crime story had almost been a bit too well behaved in a slightly slower way and shots have to be a bit wider to show off the nice furniture, but if you can think of something awful, it was happening [in Victorian London]."[9]


The three leads of the show, Macfadyen, Flynn and Rothenberg, have discussed how they got the roles in recent interviews. Macfadyen claims his involvement was all down to his interest in the 'fresh' script: "I had a few months of nothing, then a load of scripts all came at once, and this was by far the best. It's such terrific writing; it just barrelled along. I saw the title and thought, 'This has been done before', but it was so fresh, and it had all the qualities, interest and depth of a period drama."[10]

Rothenberg's involvement in the show was more straightforward, as he auditioned during pilot season. In an interview with both Flynn and Rothenberg, the latter states: "I auditioned for it, got it, and then showed up. That’s as simple as it was for me." to which Flynn chimes in, claiming: "it was very funny, though, ‘cause when he [Rothenberg] did show up, he was like, “I don’t know how the f*** I got here!". Flynn's casting experience was similar: "It was pretty basic for me. The writer, Richard Warlow, had seen me in Game of Thrones, playing Bronn, and asked about casting me."[11]


The series was filmed entirely in Dublin, Ireland, in locations that included the former Clancy Barracks beside Clancy Quay and Trinity College, Dublin.[12] Macfadyen discussed the sets in Dublin in an interview with The Daily Mail, saying, "The barracks were like a big playground, big enough to recreate a huge area of Whitechapel, and we filmed in Dublin Castle and Kilmainham Gaol, all as if it was the East End of London."[13] The same article claims that "a second series [was] commissioned even before the first episode has been publicly screened".[13]

The Leman Street police station and "The Brown Bear" public house used in the series are still in Leman Street,[14] and the Jews Orphan Asylum still exists, renamed and relocated first to Norwood, south London, and then to Stanmore, north London.[15]

The BBC's promotional television trailers for the show use Jay-Z and Kanye West's song titled "No Church in the Wild".

Main cast[edit]

L-R: MyAnna Buring, Adam Rothenberg, Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn, and Charlene McKenna



Critical reception of the first two episodes was divided, with many praising the show's gritty script and good acting performances whilst other critics felt the show was an unoriginal mix of ITV's Whitechapel and Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes.[16] Many agreed following episodes improved each time, due to its development of the three main characters and their back stories, setting up the rest of the series for a big climax. In his weekly review of the show, Jamie-Lee Nardone wrote of its continued improvements, "more of this please, just perhaps not before dinner", referencing the show's gory nature.[17] Sam Wollaston of The Guardian discussed the pros and cons of the show, claiming "It would be easy to be negative about Ripper Street. Do we really need more on a story that's been not just done to death, but then carved up, and had its insides torn out?" but he concludes his review stating "[ the] script is real, alive and human. It's beautifully performed, and beautiful to look at – stylish, and stylised. The bare-knuckle fight scenes are brutal and memorable. It's proper, character-based crime drama, gripping, and yes – I'm afraid – ripping as well".[18] Benji Wilson of The Daily Telegraph reviewed the first episode positively, praising the performances of the three leads, which he said compensated for the "dull grind of all the exposition" and "tedious" historical references.[19]

J.C. Maçek III of PopMatters reviewed the debut episode, remarking "writer/creator Richard Warlow and episode director Tom Shankland’s attention to the period details: streets are sooty, gaslight creates flickering shadows, and stone floors make footsteps seem chilling. These details help make Ripper Street a compelling procedural, its long form narrative and deliberate pace different from the CSI and Law & Order clones. But the show also bears traces of contemporary influences: an underground boxing club sequence in the first episode resembles similar scenes in Sherlock Holmes (2009) so much that a coincidence is hard to imagine. Equally derivative, some overt efforts to shock viewers deliver graphic violence and some nudity, courtesy of the evolving technology of photography, as it’s inspiring an evolving “smut” industry."[16]

Ahead of its debut in the US, IGN's Roth Cornet reviewed the first episode, discussing how "the setting is handled with absolute care and a razor-sharp attention to detail, from costume and production design to the varied vocal cadences of the players, the texture and flavor of London's East End are brought to vivid life." The review continues to discuss the show's depiction of London's streets in the Victorian era: "Ripper Street provides a gritty look at the evolving streets of London and the advent of technology at the time; be it the "moving-picture-machine" that is featured in "I Need Light" or the introduction of early forensics that follows through the series. More interesting still is that it is the dirt and bones look at the uses of said technology that is in play here. This is no wink-wink "look at how charming early cameras were" depiction, but rather a portrayal of the underbelly of what those cameras would have been used for. Additionally, there is engaging interplay between those who would usher in necessary change and those who are, as Jackson says, "the barriers to progress.""[20] Hollywood Reporter gave it significant praise "Ripper Street is a well-acted, well-written and compelling mystery series. And even better, there’s no waiting around, wishing it would improve. It’s alluring from the start."[21] Los Angeles Times called it "Well-written and acted."[22]

Some female critics have not been so positive about the show, disappointed by its two-dimensional portrayal of women as either repressed wives and mothers or prostitutes. Jan Moir of the Daily Mail wrote that "the torture and murder of women" is "enthusiastically depicted", claiming "there is terrible violence meted out to men and children, too, but the focus of the viciousness is always on the knicker-dropping molls and the ‘tarts’".[23] Grace Dent of The Independent was more satirical about the show, but was still unamused by the portrayal of women, stating "centuries may shift and fashions may change, yet raping and murdering women has really never been as popular."[24]

The show was later voted best show of 2013 in a UK public poll for the Radio Times TV guide and magazine shortly after the series had ended, ahead of Doctor Who.[25][26]

Slang used in various episodes[edit]

  • Catamite – homosexual
  • Cracksman – a burglar, a safecracker.
  • Crusher – policeman.
  • Cut-throat – murderer
  • Filcher – thief
  • Gamahuching – oral sex
  • Haruspex – fortune-teller
  • Leucotomy – lobotomy
  • Lurk – place of concealment.
  • Mandrake – male homosexual
  • Molly house – homosexual, specifically transvestite, brothel.
  • Nipper – young child.
  • Pig – policeman, usually a detective.
  • Rookery – slum or ghetto.
  • Scratch – money or line drawn in the ground where boxers stand at the beginning of a round.[27]
  • Snide – counterfeit money.
  • Sodomite – homosexual
  • The City – The City of London, London's financial district
  • Thomas – prostitute's client.
  • Toff – well-dressed or upper-middle class person, generally male.
  • Toffer – high class prostitute.

Historical references and accuracy[edit]

Ripper Street is set firmly in the Victorian period. Although the show provides generally accurate portrayals of historical events, the chronology of these events may occasionally be shifted for dramatic effect by some decades. For example, there is almost a century between Dr John Snow's epidemiology of cholera in water pumps and the development of transorbital leucotomy. Also, the term 'molly house' would be distinctly archaic by this time.

Captain Homer Jackson uses a Smith and Wesson "Triple Lock" Revolver as his main sidearm. These revolvers were not produced until 1915.

In her blog, hosted by the Guardian Online, Vanessa Heggie explored the science of Ripper Street and its historical accuracy. Heggie looked at poisoning by antimony-contaminated flour; Abortion by pennyroyal; Robbery by chloroform (or ether); Lobotomy by icepick; Intoxication by amphetamine and explosions using picric acid. The type of lobotomy was unusual in Victorian England (but not impossible) and only the intoxication by amphetamine was found by Heggie to be totally incorrect, with the others being historically accurate.[28]

Historical persons/events/themes in the series include:

Home media[edit]

A region 2 (Europe), 3-disc set and 3-disc Blu-ray Disc set was issued on 18 March 2013. The same DVDs in region 1 (US and Canada) were released on 12 March 2013.

The season 2 DVD, plus a 6 disc box set containing both seasons is scheduled to be released on 27 January 2014. Region 1 DVDs of Season Two will be released on 15 April 2014.[29]

See also[edit]

  • Sergeant Cork (1963–1968), a British detective television series (66 episodes) and police procedural which followed the efforts of two police officers and their battle against crime in Victorian London.
  • Cribb (1979–1981), a British television detective series (14 episodes) police drama of a sergeant in the newly formed CID. department.
  • Copper (2012–2013), a BBC America crime series set in 1860s New York during the American Civil War.
  • Murdoch Mysteries (2008–), a Canadian detective series set in Victorian Toronto.


  1. ^ "Ripper Street". BBC America. Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  2. ^ Brown, Maggie (2013-01-29). "Ripper Street to return for second series". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2013-07-03. 
  3. ^ "'Ripper Street' series two premiere date confirmed by BBC One – Ripper Street News – Cult". Digital Spy. 2013-10-02. Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  4. ^ "Ripper Street not returning for third series, BBC One confirms". Digital Spy. Retrieved 4 December 2013. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "‘Ripper Street’ May Return with Funding from Amazon’s LoveFilm". Variety. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  7. ^ Ripper Street to return: Axed drama will get third series
  8. ^ "Ripper Street – New drama for BBC One starring Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn and Adam Rothenberg". BBC. 2012-11-28. Retrieved 2013-01-10. 
  9. ^ a b Gee, Catherine (25 September 2012). "Ripper Street: gruesome new crime drama set in the east end of London". The Daily Telegraph. 
  10. ^ "MacFadyen couldn't resist Ripper St". 2013-01-19. Retrieved 2013-07-03. 
  11. ^ "Jerome Flynn and Adam Rothenberg Talk BBC America's New Crime Drama Ripper Street". Collider. 2013-01-24. Retrieved 2013-07-03. 
  12. ^ "'Ripper Street' gets Dublin preview". The Irish Times. 10 October 2012. 
  13. ^ a b Wigg, David (2012-12-28). "EXCLUSIVE: Matthew Macfadyen shares all the GORY details from his new TV series Ripper Street". London: Daily Mail. Retrieved 2013-07-03. 
  14. ^ [1][dead link]
  15. ^ "Jews’ Hospital and Orphan Asylum banner". The Jewish Museum. Retrieved 2013-10-26. 
  16. ^ a b Macek III, J.C. (2013-01-19). "'Ripper Street': The Famous Killer Inspires Anew". PopMatters. Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  17. ^ "Ripper Street episode 3 review: The King Came Calling". Den of Geek. 2013-01-14. Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  18. ^ Sam Wollaston (30 December 2012). "TV review: Ripper Street; Neil Armstrong – First Man on the Moon; The Hotel | Television & radio". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  19. ^ Wilson, Benji (30 December 2012). "Ripper Street, BBC One, review". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  20. ^ "Ripper Street: "I Need Light" Review – IGN". 2013-01-19. Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  21. ^ Goodman, Tim (2013-01-17). "BBC America's Ripper Street: TV Review". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2013-07-03. 
  22. ^ McNamara, Mary (2013-01-19). "Review: BBC America's 'Ripper Street' a fine dose of mystery". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-07-03. 
  23. ^ Moir, Jan (2013-01-07). "Who decided to make the BBC's Sunday night period drama an anti-women orgy of gore?". London: Daily Mail. Retrieved 2013-07-03. 
  24. ^ Grace Dent (2013-01-05). "Grace Dent on TV: Ripper Street, BBC1 – Reviews – TV & Radio". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  25. ^ Georg Szalai (2013-012-30). "BBC's 'Ripper Street' Tops U.K. Poll of Best TV Shows of 2013". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2014-01-13. 
  26. ^ Ellie Walker-Arnott (2013-012-30). "Ripper Street fans protest against BBC axing by voting crime drama the best TV show of 2013". Radio Times. Retrieved 2014-01-13. 
  27. ^ "What is the origin of the expression "coming up to scratch"? – Yahoo! UK & Ireland Answers". Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  28. ^ Heggie, Vanessa (2013-02-03). "The (Victorian) science of Ripper Street | Vanessa Heggie | Science". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  29. ^ Lacey, Gord (14 March 2014). "Ripper Street – Season 2 Press Release". Retrieved 18 March 2014. 

External links[edit]