The State (2017 TV series)

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The State
Written byPeter Kosminsky
Directed byPeter Kosminsky
Composer(s)Debbie Wiseman
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes4 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)Andrew Boswell
Liza Marshall
Kris Thykier
Producer(s)Steve Clark-Hall
CinematographyGavin Finney
Editor(s)David Blackmore
Running time48 mins[1]
Production company(s)Archery Pictures
Original networkChannel 4
Picture formatHDTV 1080i
Audio formatStereo
Original release20 August (2017-08-20) –
23 August 2017 (2017-08-23)

The State is a four-part British television drama serial, written and directed by Peter Kosminsky, that dramatises the experiences of four young British Muslims who fly to Syria to join Islamic State. The series was originally broadcast in the UK by Channel 4, with all four parts airing on successive nights between 20 and 23 August 2017. The series was green-lit in July 2016, following extensive research by Kosminsky.[2][3]

Ony Uhiara, Sam Otto, Shavani Cameron and Ryan McKen were later cast as the four principal characters, Shakira, Jalal, Ushna and Ziyad.[4] Most of the series' location filming was undertaken in Spain later that autumn.[5] The series was broadcast worldwide by National Geographic, airing in Australia from 23 August,[6] and premiering in the United States as a two-night special event on 18 and 19 September,[7][8] In France, the series was broadcast by Canal+ from 4 September.[9][10][11] The series was released on DVD in the United States on 28 November 2017.[12]


The first episode was watched live by 1.4 million viewers, which was described by Broadcast magazine as a "solid start".[13] However, Channel 4 is unlikely to make money from the series; according to outgoing chief creative officer Jay Hunt, the channel needs to cross-subsidise such dramas with more populist programmes such as Great British Bake Off.[14] The figure increased to 2.33 million taking into account catch-up viewing over the next seven days, and 2.49 million after a month.[15]

The series was widely praised by viewers and critics.[16][17] The Guardian wrote that "this Isis drama is ... gripping and genuinely enlightening",[18] and The Telegraph noted that "viewers on Twitter praised its stars and creators for 'capturing how barbaric and evil ISIS are'."[19] Before the drama aired, Richard Kemp, a former advisor to the UK government on counter-terrorism, warned that it would be a "recruiting sergeant" for ISIS, a view prominently reported by several tabloid newspapers.[20] However, the idea that the drama made ISIS glamorous or attractive was rejected by most reviewers.[21][22][23][24]

Most reviewers found the drama powerful, immersive, and compelling, with both its direction and acting widely praised. However, many questioned the portrayal of the protagonists' apparent initial ignorance and naivety, and of their subsequent antipathy to brutality and hatred, and doubted that either were representative of real jihadis.[25] Although a few references were made to IS's online engagement and misinformation, the decision not to present detailed back-stories for the characters led some critics to suggest that the series failed to explore why people might become radicalised, and that such apparently reasonable people would never have gone to Syria to support it.[25][26] On the other hand, as former Conservative minister Baroness Warsi commented, "There are many proud parents who cannot understand why their children find an affiliation with Isil... So often we have lazily defined those attracted to violent ideologies promulgated in far-off countries as mad, bad misfits and yet the reality is far more complicated."[27]


Main cast[edit]

  • Ony Uhiara as Shakira Boothe; a British doctor and single mother to nine-year-old Isaac who travels to Syria in the hope of working in a state hospital.[28][29]
  • Sam Otto as Jalal Hossein; a teenager who follows his deceased elder brother to Syria, wanting to understand what he had experienced.[28][30]
  • Shavani Cameron as Ushna Kaleel; a teenager seeking to be a "lioness for lions".[28][31]
  • Ryan McKen as Ziyad Kader; Jalal's closest friend, who accompanies him hoping for adventure.[28][32]

Supporting cast[edit]

  • Hiam Abbass as Umm Salamah; educator and spiritual leader
  • Jessica Gunning as Umm Walid; leader of the new arrivals house
  • Nana Agyeman-Bediako as Isaac Boothe; Shakira's nine-year-old son
  • Ali Suliman as Abu Omar; Jalal and Ziyad's unit commander
  • Haaz Sleiman as Dr. Rabia; a colleague of Shakira's
  • Amir El-Masry as Sayed; a Syrian pharmacist and suspected CIA spy
  • Nitin Ganatra as Munir Hossein; Jalal's estranged father
  • Yannick de Waal as Abu Abbas Al-Hollandi
  • Yasen Atour as Abu Issa
  • Samer Bisharat as Abu Sahl
  • Karim Kassem as Abu Akram
  • Sebastian Griegel as Abu Lut Al-Almani
  • Jack Greenlees as Abu Ibrahim Al-Brittani
  • Charles Mnene as Abu Ayoub Al-Brittani
  • Fayez Bakhsh as Abu Jihad Al-Brittani
  • Zafer El-Abedin as Maqqir Amir


Episode Title Directed by Written by Viewers
Original airdate
1"Episode 1"Peter KosminskyPeter Kosminsky2.1120 August 2017 (2017-08-20)
Four young British muslims make the journey to Syria to join Islamic State. Best friends Jalal (Sam Otto) and Ziyad (Ryan McKen) are placed into an extensive four-week training campaign under the guidance of commander Abu Omar (Ali Suliman). Former doctor Shakira (Ony Uhiara) tries to persuade house leader Umm Walid (Jessica Gunning) to allow to her work in the local state hospital. Meanwhile, teenager Ushna (Shavani Cameron) struggles to cope with the stress of the transition, and looks to Shakira for support.
2"Episode 2"Peter KosminskyPeter Kosminsky1.7821 August 2017 (2017-08-21)
Shakira is forced to take action when the hospital becomes the target of a bomb attack. Jalal tries to find out more about his brother and befriends Sayed (Amir El-Masry), a pharmacist with British connections. Ushna struggles with the reality that she will soon have to marry.
3"Episode 3"Peter KosminskyPeter Kosminsky1.6822 August 2017 (2017-08-22)
Shakira is angered to discover that Isaac wishes to undertake unit training. Ushna is devastated after receiving a visit informing her that her husband has died a martyr. Jalal tries to dissuade Ziyad from driving a truck full of explosives into an enemy base.
4"Episode 4"Peter KosminskyPeter Kosminsky1.5723 August 2017 (2017-08-23)
Shakira decides to leave Syria and return home to the UK after receiving news of her husband's death, but struggles to convince Isaac of her plans. Stricken with grief following Ziyad's death, Jalal tries to help Ibtisam and her daughter cross the border to safety. Ushna discovers that she is pregnant.


  1. ^ Tom Houghton, Nine-year-old to star in Channel 4 ISIS drama, Wales Online, 1 March 2017
  2. ^ Leo Barraclough, National Geographic, Channel 4 Greenlight ISIS Drama, Variety, 20 July 2016
    Lucy Morris, Channel 4 taps Wolf Hall's Peter Kosminsky to write new scripted ISIS drama, Digital Spy, 20 July 2016
  3. ^ Georg Szalai, U.K.'s Channel 4 Developing ISIS Drama, The Hollywood Reporter, 22 October 2014
  4. ^ Lisa de Moraes, Peter Kosminsky Made ‘The State’ As Antidote To Simplistic Thinking About ISIS Recruits – TCA, Deadline Hollywood, 25 July 2017
    Reid Nakamura, Nat Geo’s ISIS Drama ‘The State’ Aims to Humanize Terrorist Group, The Wrap, 25 July 2017
  5. ^ Peter Kosminsky, tweet, 8 November 2016
  6. ^ The State, National Geographic Australia. Retrieved 23 August.
  7. ^ Stewart Clarke, First Look at Channel 4 and Nat Geo’s ISIS Drama ‘The State’, Variety, 13 July 2017
  8. ^ The State, National Geographic channel. Retrieved 22 August 2017.
  9. ^ THE STATE à partir du 4 septembre sur CANAL+, Canal+. Retrieved 22 August 2017.
  10. ^ Canal+ achète The State, une série sur l’État islamique, Le Figaro tv mag, 28 July 2017
  11. ^ Fox Seals First Sale for Nat Geo ISIS Drama ‘The State’ With Canal Plus Deal, Variety, 3 August 2017
  12. ^
  13. ^ Alex Farber, The State recruits 1.4m, Broadcast, 21 August 2017
  14. ^ Tim Dams, Jay Hunt warns of impact of ad downturn on budgets, Televisual, 23 August 2017
    Cameron Clarke, Channel 4 chief expects Great British Bake Off ratings to fall well short of BBC's 14m,, 23 August 2017
  15. ^ Weekly top 30 programmes for Channel 4 for 14–20 August 2017, Broadcasters' Audience Research Board. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  16. ^ The State: Viewers and critics praise Channel 4 IS drama, BBC News, 24 August 2017
  17. ^ Joe Nerssessian, Channel 4’s The State lauded for ‘important’ insight into Isis, Press Association, 23 August 2017 (via Irish Independent)
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ eg Ben Lawrence, The State, finale review: Kosminsky's Isil drama was no recruitment video, The Daily Telegraph, 24 August 2017
  22. ^ Keith Watson, Daesh drama tells a story that the world needs to hear, Metro, 24 August 2017
  23. ^ "EYE tv" column, Private Eye 1451, 25 August 2017. "even casual viewing revealed that, as the characters are deluded idealists who rapidly became disillusioned by the psychopathic murders, rapes and gender apartheid practised by IS, it was hard to accuse the show of sanitising IS or promoting Syrian jihad as an alternative to university entrance"
  24. ^ Jamie Grierson and Graeme Ruddick, Channel 4 defends Isis drama The State after criticism, The Guardian, 21 August 2017
  25. ^ a b Rachel Cooke, Isis drama The State shows the sheer stupidity of these young fanatics, New Statesman, 24 August 2017
    Jasper Rees, The State, Channel 4 review – dishonest portrait of British jihadis, The Arts Desk, 21 August 2017
    Peter Crawley, The State review: What has driven 1,000 UK people to fight with Isis?, Irish Times, 24 August 2017
    Stuart Jeffries, The State review – Peter Kosminsky’s disillusionment dramas fail to satisfy, The Guardian, 24 August 2017
    Chris Harvey, The State, C4 — drama grows in depth and power, Financial Times, 18 August 2017
    Phil Harrison, The State: a meticulous, human examination of radicalisation, The Guardian, 20 August 2017
    David Patrikarakos, How new drama The State 'captures the essence of IS', BBC Global News Ltd, 19 September 2017
  26. ^ Rachel Cooke noted that "somewhat weirdly" some further motivating back-story information was available, but only in a press pack
  27. ^ Baroness Warsi, The new British drama that's daring to humanise terrorists, The Daily Telegraph, 17 August 2017
  28. ^ a b c d Character biogs for The State, Channel 4, 8 August 2017
  29. ^ Interview with Ony Uhiara, who plays Shakira Boothe, Channel 4, 8 August 2017
  30. ^ Interview with Sam Otto who plays Jalal Hossein, Channel 4, 8 August 2017
  31. ^ Interview with Shavani Cameron, who plays Ushna Khaleel, Channel 4, 8 August 2017
  32. ^ Interview with Ryan McKen who plays Ziyaad Kadar, Channel 4, 8 August 2017

External links[edit]