Silk (TV series)

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Silk (TV series).jpg
Genre Drama, crime, legal
Created by Peter Moffat
Written by
  • Peter Moffat
  • Steve Thompson
  • Debbie O'Malley
  • Mick Collins
  • Colin Teevan
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 3
No. of episodes 18 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Hilary Salmon
Peter Moffat
Producer(s) Cameron Roach (Series 1)
Richard Stokes (Series 2)
Matt Strevens (Series 3)
Running time 60 minutes
Original network BBC One
ABC1 (Syndication)
Picture format 1080i (HDTV)
Original release 22 February 2011 (2011-02-22) – 31 March 2014 (2014-03-31)
Related shows North Square
Criminal Justice
External links

Silk is a British television drama series produced by the BBC which was broadcast over three series on BBC One between 22 February 2011 and 31 March 2014. Created by Peter Moffat, the series follows the daily goings on of Shoe Lane Chambers and its members in their personal and professional lives.


The series' writer, Peter Moffat, also wrote the series Criminal Justice and North Square, as well as an episode of Kavanagh QC. Before the series started, Moffat said in an interview, "I wanted Silk to be full of politics and intrigue. From my experience at the Bar, I felt life in chambers had all of those components, with big stories and lots of courtroom drama—but I wanted to make it as much about barristers and their life in chambers as about the trials".[1]

Silk was commissioned by Jay Hunt, then-Controller of BBC One and Ben Stephenson, BBC Controller of Drama Commissioning, and started filming in July 2010.[2] It is based on Moffat's experiences at the Bar. In an interview with The Guardian, he said "I want to tell it as it really is. The extreme pressure, the hard choices, the ethical dilemmas, the overlap between the personal and the professional, principles fought for and principles sacrificed, the Machiavellian politics, the sex, the drinking, the whole story—life at the bar is the richest possible drama territory."[3]

The series' title is a colloquial reference to someone who has attained the status of Queen's Counsel, which entitles the person to wear a certain design of gown in court, which is usually made of silk.[4]


Silk follows a set of barristers from a chambers in London. The series' main focus is on Martha Costello (Maxine Peake) and her ambition to become Queen's Counsel as well as on her rival, Clive Reader (Rupert Penry-Jones). Martha achieves her ambition at the end of Series One, leaving Clive disappointed. He however becomes a QC in the opening episode of Series 3. The chambers' senior clerk, Billy Lamb (Neil Stuke), also features heavily in the series.[1]

Silk ended with series 3 because creator Moffat and lead actress, Maxine Peake, were keen to end at a high point.[5] Rupert Penry-Jones commented that:
"It’s a courtroom drama so it could go on and on and there is a whole echelon of stuff we could go into but it will be interesting to see what people make of this series because the way it is left, we as a cast aren’t sure whether it’s been written as, 'This is it', or whether it’s got more to come because it feels like everyone gets blasted in different directions at the end of this series, so maybe the writer has thrown a grenade in and blown the whole show up. But it will very much depend on how people react to it".[citation needed]

In March 2014, it was announced there will be a radio spin-off following the lives of the clerks of Shoe Lane Chambers.[6]

In October 2014, it was announced that the series would be adapted by ABC for USA television. Peter Moffat is due to executive produce with the pilot being written by Marty Scott.[7]


Main Cast[edit]

Character Actor Role First Appearance Last Appearance Episode count
Martha Costello QC Maxine Peake Defence Barrister
QC (S1, E6)
S1, E1 S3, E6 18
Clive Reader QC Rupert Penry-Jones Barrister
QC (S3, E1)
Head of Chambers (S3, E6)
S1, E1 S3, E6 18
Billy Lamb Neil Stuke Senior Clerk S1, E1 S3, E6 18
John Bright John MacMillan Clerk S1, E1 S3, E6 18
Jake Milner Theo Barklem-Biggs Junior Clerk S1, E1 S3, E6 18
Alan Cowdrey QC Alex Jennings Head of Chambers (S1, E1 - S3, E6)
S1, E6 S3, E6 13
Nick Slade Tom Hughes Pupil - Shadows Martha Costello S1, E1 S1, E6 6
Niamh Cranitch Natalie Dormer Pupil - Shadows Clive Reader S1, E1 S1, E6 6
Kate Brockman Nina Sosanya Prosecution Barrister S1, E1 S1, E6 6
Jimmy Johnson Jamie Di Spirito Junior Clerk S1, E1 S1, E6 6
Caroline Warwick QC Frances Barber Prosecution Barrister S2, E1 S3, E6 12
Bethany Brassington Amy Wren Junior Clerk S2, E1 S3, E6 12
Mickey Joy Phil Davis Solicitor (S2,E1 - S2, E6)
Police Informant (S3, E5)
S2, E1 S3, E6 7
George Duggan Indira Varma CPS Solicitor S2, E1 S3, E6 6
Daniel Lomas Shaun Evans Pupil - Shadows Martha Costello S2, E4 S2, E6 3
Harriet Hammond Miranda Raison Practice Manager S3, E1 S3, E6 6
Amy Lang Jessica Henwick Pupil - Shadows Martha Costello, Clive Reader & Caroline Warwick (S3, E2 - S3, E5)
Barrister (S3, E5)
S3, E2 S3, E6 5

Recurring Cast[edit]

Character Actor Role Series Episode count
HHJ Malkin Pip Torrens Judge 1-3 4
Gary Rush Paul Hilton Represented by Martha Costello 1 4
Mark Draper Reece Noi Represented by Martha Costello 1 3
Noah Ziegler Darian Schiller Barrister 1 3
Michael Connolly Will Keen Mark Draper's Solicitor 1 3
Hugo Milson QC Malcolm Sinclair Barrister 2-3 3
Fatima Ali Shanaya Rafatt Represented by Martha Costello & Clive Reader 2 4
Jody Farr Finbar Lynch Represented by Martha Costello & Alan Cowdrey 2 2
Nicola Kirsty Bushell CPS Solicitor 3 4
Sean Kieran O'Brien Friend of/Represented by Martha Costello 3 3


Series Episodes Originally broadcast DVD release date
Series premiere Series finale Region 2
1 6 22 February 2011 29 March 2011 11 April 2011[8]
2 6 15 May 2012 20 June 2012 25 June 2012[9]
3 6 24 February 2014 31 March 2014 7 April 2014

Critical reception[edit]

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, barrister Sarah Palin praised Silk, saying that "the opening episodes do a good job of capturing the relentless pressure of the criminal Bar" and that "the competition for silk, while a useful plot device, also accurately reflects the fiercely competitive nature of the Bar", but added "the characters featured are a little more youthful than their real-life counterparts" and that the storyline in which one of the pupil barristers shoplifts his wig and gown struck "an absurd note".[1] The Telegraph's television reviewer, James Walton, compared the series to Moffat's previous production, North Square, but said that Silk was "more viewer-friendly" and the characters "far easier to divide into heroes and villains". He concluded that the first episode was "a perfectly OK hour of telly—marred only by the fact that we’ve come to expect a bit more than that from Moffat."[10] Alex Aldridge of The Guardian, meanwhile, called the series "underwhelming" and stated that it implied that cocaine use was "rife" amongst criminal barristers.[11] Also writing in The Guardian, Lucy Mangan implied that the series was predictable and called it "a rare misfire by Peter Moffat [...] and aggravated by the squandering of Peake, whose usually overflowing talents seem to have been dammed here rather than encouraged to irrigate an oddly bloodless role."[12]

The first series averaged 5.85 million viewers. The second series averaged 5.74 million viewers.[13]


  1. ^ a b c Palin, Sarah (22 February 2011). "Silk, BBC One: a lawyer's verdict". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 March 2011. 
  2. ^ Maxine Peake and Rupert Penry-Jones called to the bar in new BBC legal drama Silk BBC Press Office, 13 July 2010
  3. ^ Deans, Jason (13 July 2010). "Maxine Peake to star in BBC1 legal drama Silk". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 March 2011. 
  4. ^ "Why is law such a fertile ground for drama?". BBC News. 22 February 2011. Retrieved 7 March 2011. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "TV drama Silk in radio spin-off". BBC News. Retrieved 26 August 2015. 
  7. ^ Morgan Jeffery (Oct 27, 2014). "BBC One's Silk to be remade for US television by ABC". DigitalSpy. 
  8. ^ "Silk - Series 1 [DVD]". Retrieved 26 August 2015. 
  9. ^ "Silk - Series 2 [DVD]". Retrieved 26 August 2015. 
  10. ^ Walton, James (22 February 2011). "Silk, BBC One, review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 March 2011. 
  11. ^ Aldridge, Alex (3 March 2011). "Alex Aldridge: Is there a cocaine culture at the criminal bar?". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 March 2011. 
  12. ^ Mangan, Lucy (23 February 2011). "TV review: Silk, Heston's Mission Impossible". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 March 2011. 
  13. ^ "Viewing data". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board. Retrieved 2013-09-11. 

External links[edit]