SS-GB (TV series)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Series title over a swastika and a leaden sky of fighter planes
Created byLen Deighton
Based onSS-GB
by Len Deighton
Written byNeal Purvis and Robert Wade
Directed byPhilipp Kadelbach
ComposerDan Jones
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series1
No. of episodes5
Executive producers
  • Sally Woodward Gentle
  • Lee Morris
  • Neal Purvis
  • Robert Wade
ProducerPatrick Schweitzer
Production locationLondon
CinematographyStuart Bentley
EditorDavid Blackmoore
Running time60 minutes
Production companySid Gentle Films Ltd
Original release
NetworkBBC One
Release19 February (2017-02-19) –
19 March 2017 (2017-03-19)

SS-GB is a 2017 British drama series produced for the BBC[1] and based on the 1978 novel of the same name by Len Deighton. It is set in a 1941 alternative timeline in which the United Kingdom is occupied by Nazi Germany during the Second World War.


Europe as described in the show nine months after the Royal Air Force lost the Battle of Britain to the German Luftwaffe. The southern part of Great Britain is controlled by the German Reich while the northern part is an unoccupied zone even though there is still conflict in the area.

In the alternative world, it is November 1941, nine months after a successful German invasion of Britain. Winston Churchill has been executed, and King George VI is a prisoner who has not been seen in public for some time. His queen, Elizabeth, and their daughters Elizabeth and Margaret have escaped. A British government in exile, led by Rear-Admiral Conolly, exists but is not recognised by the United States. Germany has also maintained friendly relations with the Soviet Union, and Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov has just flown in to oversee the removal of the body of Karl Marx to the Soviet Union.

Douglas Archer, a Scotland Yard murder squad Detective Superintendent with a stellar reputation, is working under a German superior from the Schutzstaffel's (SS) Security Service, the security force of the Nazi Party. Though his wife was killed by a German bombing raid in the Blitz, Archer avoids involvement in political crimes and views resistance to the Nazis as futile. A routine murder investigation becomes political when it appears to have been perpetrated by agents of the British Resistance. An aggressive SS officer arrives and takes control of the investigation, which is of interest to the SS because the victim may have possessed data from the German Army's programme to produce an atomic bomb. Archer also learns that his secretary and lover, Sylvia Manning, is a member of the British Resistance, and he is reluctantly drawn into a conspiracy against the Germans.


In November 2014, it was announced that the BBC had commissioned writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade to adapt Len Deighton's novel SS-GB.[2]

In August 2015, it was announced that Sam Riley was in talks to star in the lead role of Detective Superintendent Douglas Archer of Scotland Yard.[3] Riley's casting was confirmed in late September 2015.[4]

Production began in October 2015 and ended in January 2016. The series was produced by Sid Gentle Films Ltd. It was broadcast on BBC One in five one-hour episodes from 19 February 2017 and 19 March 2017.

The series filmed various scenes for episodes 1 to 4 at the Chatham Historic Dockyard in Kent. The location was used as a double for London streets and the mortuary that is featured in episode 1.[5]



No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [9]
11"Episode 1"Philipp KadelbachNeal Purvis and Robert Wade19 February 2017 (2017-02-19)8.68
Detective Superintendent Douglas Archer is looking into a routine murder in German-occupied London when SS officer Oskar Huth arrives and assumes control of the investigation. Archer learns that his secretary and lover, Sylvia Manning, is involved with the British Resistance against the Nazis.
22"Episode 2"Philipp KadelbachNeal Purvis and Robert Wade26 February 2017 (2017-02-26)5.54
Archer and Huth foil a plot by the Resistance to abduct Archer's son for leverage. Archer later lets Sylvia escape again. He is approached by a cabal of British gentlemen who appear to be conspiring against the Germans, and he goes home with American reporter Barbara Barga. She warns Archer that if he refuses to co-operate with the Resistance, it may kill him. Archer deduces that his murder victim, William Spode, was an atomic physicist working for a German faction outside the SS and was presumably killed by the Resistance. Police Constable Jimmy Dunn is murdered by Resistance vigilantes, who believe that he collaborated with the Nazis.
33"Episode 3"Philipp KadelbachNeal Purvis and Robert Wade5 March 2017 (2017-03-05)4.30
A Resistance operative tries to kill Archer, who later interrogates Spode's brother, John, who is killed by cyanide cigarette. George Mayhew and General von Ruff are plotting to rescue King George from Nazi captivity as a means for the German Army to discredit the SS. Archer finds a film canister left behind by William and has its contents developed in secret. The Resistance detonates a bomb at a German-Soviet ceremony to remove Karl Marx's body to the Soviet Union.
44"Episode 4"Philipp KadelbachNeal Purvis and Robert Wade12 March 2017 (2017-03-12)3.79
Archer sends his son out of the city to the unoccupied zone. Harry Woods and Sylvia are picked up as the Nazis impose martial law on London. Archer agrees to help Mayhew free the king and entrusts Barbara with Spode's negatives, which contain images of atomic calculations. Fritz Kellermann arranges for Harry's release, and Archer shelters Sylvia at his flat. One of Mayhew's conspirators is murdered, but the rescue plan proceeds. Barbara is taken by the SS.
55"Episode 5"Philipp KadelbachNeal Purvis and Robert Wade19 March 2017 (2017-03-19)3.54
Archer and Harry transport King George, who is gravely ill, but they have engine trouble and call Sylvia for aid. The US embassy secures Barbara's release before Kellermann can interrogate her with torture. Archer, Harry and Sylvia flee with the King as Kellermann learns of the escape and sends men in pursuit. They are ambushed by Huth at the rendezvous point, and Sylvia and the King are killed. Working with the Resistance, an American battleship attacks and destroys the German atomic research centre at Bringle Sands, the King's escape being a diversion to lure the security forces. Having placed all blame on Huth, Kellermann executes him by firing squad. Archer escapes with the negatives into the countryside, with Kellermann uncertain whether he's dead or alive.


SS-GB received highly-positive reviews,[10] with The Telegraph giving the series 4 out of 5 and saying that the "alt-history thriller deserves a follow-up series".[11] The main criticisms were against the sound quality and the reportedly-inaudible dialogue for some viewers in the first episode, which the BBC offered to "look at" for future episodes.[12][13]

The first episode achieved good ratings, with over 8.5 million viewers tuning in. However, as the series went on, ratings gradually fell, with only 3.5 million watching the final episode.[9]

The review by The Guardian awarded three of five stars based on a viewing of the first two episodes. It commented that the series "holds up handsomely on the big screen, favouring film noir style over pulp content" but added that "it would be helpful to see more of the minutiae of London life under the Nazis, to get some fresh air after being confined to the corridors of power".[14]

The series was released on DVD and BD on 10 July 2018; approximately a year later, the Rotten Tomatoes site showed a Critic's Consensus of 89% favourable and commented, "SS-GB is a convincingly wrought slice of hypothetical history, drenched in noir style and dense with moral quandaries".[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ellis-Petersen, Hannah (10 February 2017). "SS-GB's dystopian parallel universe – a drama for our time". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  2. ^ "James Bond Writers to Adapt Len Deighton NovelSS-GB for BBC". Variety. 19 November 2014. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  3. ^ "Sam Riley In Talks To Star, Philipp Kadelbach On Board To Direct James Bond Scribes Purvis And Wade's SS:GB". Deadline Hollywood. 7 August 2015. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  4. ^ "Maleficent and Control star Sam Riley to play the lead in new BBC Nazi thriller SS:GB". Radio Times. 29 September 2015. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  5. ^ Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office SS-GB Article".
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h "Sam Riley and Kate Bosworth take the lead in ambitious new BBC One Drama SS-GB". BBC. 7 October 2015. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  7. ^ "Meet the cast of SS-GB". Radio Times. 9 June 2017. p. 4. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  8. ^ "BBC - SS-GB - Media Centre". BBC.
  9. ^ a b "Weekly Top 30 Programmes". (Search relevant dates for figures.)
  10. ^ "SS-GB: Miniseries". Rotten Tomatoes.
  11. ^ Rees, Jasper (19 March 2017). "SS-GB, episode 5, review: alt-history thriller deserves a follow-up series". The Telegraph.
  12. ^ "SS-GB: BBC to 'look at' sound levels after mumbling complaints". BBC News. 21 February 2017. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  13. ^ Weaver, Matthew (19 February 2017). "'I will mumble this only once': BBC's Nazi drama SS-GB hit by dialogue complaints". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  14. ^ "SS-GB review – London is falling in chilling alt-history of second world war". the Guardian. 15 February 2017. Retrieved 18 November 2022.
  15. ^ "SS-GB". Rotten Tomatoes.

External links[edit]