The Lakes (TV series)

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The Lakes
Principal filming location: Inn on the Lake Hotel
Created by Jimmy McGovern
Starring John Simm
Emma Cunniffe
Mary Jo Randle
Paul Copley
Robert Pugh
Elizabeth Bennett
Nicholas Day
Kaye Wragg
Charles Dale
Clare Holman
Kevin Doyle
Annabelle Apsion
Matt Bardock
Amanda Mealing
Barbara Wilshere
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 2
No. of episodes 14
Running time 90-minute (series 1, episode 1)
50 mins (series 1, episodes 2–4)
40 mins (series 2)
Production company(s) Company Pictures
Original network BBC One
Original release 1997 – 1999

The Lakes is the title of a television drama series in the United Kingdom, made by the BBC and created and principally written by Jimmy McGovern. The Lakes brought writer Jimmy McGovern and actor John Simm a great deal of critical praise in 1997. Following a particularly dry period for British TV drama, the show's realistic characters and their painfully honest decisions hit audiences hard. Simm plays Danny Kavanagh; a twenty-something trapped in a life of compulsive gambling, theft, and being on the dole in Liverpool. On a whim he heads north to the Lake District. He expects to find countryside quiet where he might explore his hidden poetical leanings, but gets caught up in a community like any other. Lies, temptation and tragedy beset every household just as much as the big city. As time races by, Danny's link to the Lakes becomes an exercise in torment when he is suspected after the accidental deaths of three schoolgirls. Stoking the flames of a series of secondary explosions in waiting are a pair of affairs, one adulterous, the other complicated by religion.

In the far longer sequel series that came two years later, these back-stories would come to the fore. The series explores a Hitchcockian murder scenario, with series two expressing more black humour that was obvious in series one. The second series received very mixed reviews, with most critics saying it had left realism for high melodrama and contrived plots. Critics said that McGovern's lower level of participation in the writing about his characters and situations, resulted in deviations from their consistency from the first series.


The core of both series is the relationship between Danny Kavanagh (John Simm) and Lucy Archer (Kaye Wragg). In Series One, Danny is a compulsive gambler and philanderer, who escapes from the dole queues in Liverpool to live in the Lake District. After he meets and marries local girl Emma Quinlan, they move back to Liverpool. Emma finally returns home because of Danny's gambling. He follows her, gets a job looking after a rowing boat concession, and starts to patch up his relationship with Emma, who now has a daughter.

Danny rejects unsubtle advances from the attention-seeking Lucy Archer, who determines to gain revenge. When three schoolgirls are drowned in a boating accident while Danny is on the phone to the bookies, Lucy lies to implicate him. Danny is unwilling to tell the truth, as he has promised to stop gambling. The community looks for someone to blame, and Lucy is exposed as a liar in the subsequent inquest. Phone call records provide Danny with an alibi.

In Series two, Lucy is raped by three locals. Only Danny, enduring the claustrophobic hostility of the Quinlan family home, can testify as a witness, putting him at odds with the village, his wife and her family.


The series was critically acclaimed when first broadcast. It caused controversy because of its hard-hitting portrayal of an immoral British sub-culture, and scenes of sex and violence. The Lakes was the springboard for the British TV drama careers of many of the cast.


The Kavanaghs[edit]

The Quinlans[edit]

  • Emma Cunniffe as Emma Kavanagh, Danny's wife
  • Mary Jo Randle as Bernie Quinlan, Emma's devout Catholic mother
  • Paul Copley as Peter Quinlan, Emma's pent-up, unsophisticated father
  • James Thornton as Pete Quinlan, Emma's pent-up, unsophisticated brother
  • Jessica Perry as Annie Quinlan, Bernie and Peter's youngest child
  • Tony Rohr as Grandad, Bernie Quinlan and Sheila Thwaite's father
  • Caitlin Frain as Samantha Kavanagh, Danny and Emma's daughter

The Archers[edit]

  • Elizabeth Bennett as Doreen Archer, the stuck-up hotelier
  • Nicholas Day as Cecil Archer, Doreen's downtrodden husband
  • Kaye Wragg as Lucy Archer, the Archers' manipulative and provocative daughter

The Hotel staff[edit]

The Thwaites[edit]

  • Elizabeth Rider as Sheila Thwaite, Bernie's sister
  • David Westhead as Arthur Thwaite, Sheila's husband
  • Jenna Scruton as Paula Thwaite, their daughter

The Fishers[edit]

  • Kevin Doyle as John Fisher, a schoolteacher who has been driven mad by his adulterous wife
  • Clare Holman as Simone Fisher, wife of the schoolteacher and one of the many women who succumb to Chef's large manhood
  • Annabelle Apsion as Beverly, Simone's sister
  • Note: John and Simone's surname was Parr in series one

The Kilbrides[edit]

  • Barbara Wilshere as Dr Sarah Kilbride, hiding her lesbian past from her husband
  • Robert Morgan as Charles Kilbride, Sarah's husband
  • Amanda Mealing as Jo Jo Spiers, the lesbian teacher who replaces John Parr. Used to have an affair with Sarah Kilbride


  • Robert Pugh as Father Matthew, the repressed parish priest
  • Anthony Newley as the Bishop
  • Bob Mason as Sergeant Slater, the local bobby
  • Sally Rogers as Juliet Bray, owner of the boatyard
  • Joel Phillimore as Thomas Alcock, Chef's Son


The series was principally filmed in and around Patterdale and The Ullswater Hotel, Glenridding. The lake is Ullswater.

DVD release[edit]

Released as a 4-disc set in 2003. Series 1, episode 1 has commentaries by John Simm and David Blair.

The Lakes is rated R16 in New Zealand and for offensive language and sex scenes.


Writer Director Synopsis
1-1 Jimmy McGovern David Blair Compulsive gambler Danny arrives in a small Lake District village and gets a job working under a tyrannical, sex-mad chef in a hotel. He loses the job after making local girl Emma pregnant, and takes charge of hiring out boats. But then there’s a tragic accident while he’s phoning in a bet.
1–2 Jimmy McGovern David Blair Despite’s Danny's efforts, three schoolgirls have drowned in the lake and the angry villagers make him the scapegoat.
1–3 Jimmy McGovern David Blair The funerals take place and Danny tries to discover the truth behind the tragedy, but he’s not helped by the lies of Lucy Archer. Bernie Quinlan’s passion for Father Matthew grows.
1–4 Jimmy McGovern David Blair Everyone gets to hear Chef having sex with Lucy. The inquest is held with Danny in the dock, putting a strain on his relationship with Emma. The passion between Bernie and Father Matthew boils over.
2-1 Jimmy McGovern Bill Anderson Danny is contemplating suicide after being made to feel an outcast after admitting to his wife Emma that he had been gambling again. John Fisher can no longer cope with his wife's affairs and he bludgeons her to death in the bath.
2-2 Jimmy McGovern Bill Anderson The forbidden passion between Father Matthew and married parishioner Bernie Quinlan is about to erupt. Parr is struggling to summon up the courage to dispose of his wife's body when his sister-in-law Beverly turns up.
2–3 Joe Ainsworth Bill Anderson With flies buzzing round the boot of his car, John is finding it harder to hide his wife's murder from her flirtatious sister. Danny is trying to be a responsible father, but he also wants some fun. Bernie is still troubled by her conscience. Dr Kilbride is called to school to treat a pupil where her former lesbian lover Jo Jo is the new teacher.
2–4 Joe Ainsworth Sallie Aprahamian Beverly is still besotted by John and helps him to destroy all the evidence of Simone's murder. Lucy plays with fire when she joins the local lads for a game of pool. Jo Jo wants to restart her relationship with Dr Kilbride.
2–5 Joe Ainsworth Sallie Aprahamian Lucy has to decide whether to report her rape by Billy, Ged and Peter, fearing that her previous lies about Danny's involvement in the drownings could count against her. Danny tells Emma that her mother is not as saintly as she tries to make out.
2–6 Julie Rutterford Sallie Aprahamian Bernie discovers she is pregnant with Father Matthew's baby. Danny tells Lucy that he knows she was raped. Sergeant Slater's dog Syndrome uncovers something interesting in the lake.
2–7 William Gaminara David Moore John Parr gets his revenge against Chef by kidnapping his son, while the police start to piece together the facts about Simone's murder. Danny is thrown out by the Quinlans when he tells them he will be a witness on behalf of Lucy Archer, against Pete Quinlan and his two co-defendants. Mrs Archer is upset about the backlash that has resulted from her daughter's allegations. Bernie tells Father Matthew about her pregnancy.
2–8 Jimmy McGovern David Moore Father Matthew and Bernie visit the Bishop (Anthony Newley) for advice on how to deal with the unwanted baby. Sergeant Slater tries to get the truth out of John. Danny and Lucy talk about their true feelings for each other.
2–9 William Gaminara Roberto Bangura Lucy takes to the stand in court to give her account of the night she was raped. Her evidence reveals to Emma that Danny has been telling her the truth. Peter reacts with fury when he learns of Bernie's affair. Beverly pays a visit to John in jail.
2–10 Joe Ainsworth Roberto Bangura Bernie must choose between Peter and Father Matthew. Danny tries to save his marriage to Emma, in light of Lucy's announcement in court. The audience is also led to believe that, eventually, Chef's 'judgement day' arrives as, he waits in a hotel room, whilst tied to a bed.

External links[edit]