Vigil (TV series)
|Created by||Tom Edge|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||1|
|No. of episodes||6|
|Production company||World Productions|
|Picture format||2:1 1080p|
|Original release||29 August 2021 –|
Vigil is a British police procedural television serial created by Tom Edge and produced by World Productions. The six-part series aired on BBC One in August 2021. It stars Suranne Jones, Rose Leslie, Shaun Evans, Paterson Joseph, and Martin Compston. The series is set in Scotland and much of the action takes place on a fictional ballistic missile submarine of the Royal Navy.
The series received generally positive reviews from critics, with praise for the writing, pace, acting, visual style, set design, tone, and atmosphere, but it was criticised for the dialogue, plot, and inaccuracies. In March 2022, the series was renewed for a second series.
Detective Chief Inspector Amy Silva of the Scottish Police Service is sent to HMS Vigil, a nuclear-powered Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarine, to investigate a death on board, which takes place shortly after the mysterious disappearance of a Scottish fishing trawler. Her investigations, and those of her colleagues ashore, bring the police into conflict with the Royal Navy and MI5, the British Security Service.
The loss of the fictional trawler Mhairi Finnea in the series bears similarities to the sinking of the FV Antares by Royal Navy nuclear-powered submarine HMS Trenchant in the Firth of Clyde in 1990. Families of the Antares' crew expressed upset at scenes of the Mhairi Finnea foundering; however, the BBC denied that the drama was inspired by or based on a specific real-life event.
- Suranne Jones as Detective Chief Inspector Amy Silva
- Rose Leslie as Detective Sergeant Kirsten Longacre
- Shaun Evans as Warrant Officer Class One Elliot Glover, the coxswain of HMS Vigil
- Martin Compston as Chief Petty Officer Craig Burke, a sonar mapping expert on HMS Vigil
- Paterson Joseph as Commander Neil Newsome, the Captain of HMS Vigil
- Adam James as Lieutenant Commander Mark Prentice, the Executive Officer of HMS Vigil
- Gary Lewis as Detective Superintendent Colin Robertson
- Lauren Lyle as Jade Antoniak, a peace activist
- Therese Bradley as Laura Michaels, an MI5 officer
- Parth Thakerar as Jay Kohli, an MI5 officer
- Lolita Chakrabarti as Lieutenant Commander Erin Branning, Shaw's aide
- Dan Li as Lieutenant Commander Hennessy, the Weapons Engineer Officer on HMS Vigil
- Lorne MacFadyen as Chief Petty Officer Matthew Doward, a sonar mapping expert transferred from HMS Virtue
- Connor Swindells as Lieutenant Simon Hadlow, an engineering officer on HMS Vigil
- Lois Chimimba as Chief Petty Officer Tara Kierly, a sonar mapping expert of HMS Vigil
- Daniel Portman as Chief Petty Officer Gary Walsh, an engineer on HMS Vigil
- Anjli Mohindra as Surgeon Lieutenant Tiffany Docherty, the medical officer on HMS Vigil
- Anita Vettesse as Petty Officer Jackie Hamilton, chef on HMS Vigil
- Stephen Dillane as Rear Admiral Shaw, Head of the Royal Navy Submarine Service
- Orla Russell as Poppy, the daughter of Silva's boyfriend
- Reuben Joseph as DS Porter
- Cal MacAninch as Ben Oakley, peace activist
In a 2021 interview, writer Edge was approached by development producer George Aza-Selinger to develop a submarine project for television. It was inspired by the UK's Continuous At-Sea Deterrent (CASD) and the life of its submarine crews. The show was filmed and primarily set in Scotland. Production designer Tom Sayer created elaborate studio sets to represent the interior of the submarine.
The programme's theme music is the song "Fuel to Fire" from the 2013 album Aventine by Danish singer, songwriter and musician Agnes Obel. Other music included in the series is composed by Afterhere (Berenice Scott and Glenn Gregory). Episode 4 includes the song "Anchor" by Welsh singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Novo Amor, released as a single in 2015 and included on his 2017 EP Bathing Beach.
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date ||UK viewers (millions)|
7 day 
|UK viewers (millions)|
28 day 
|1||"Episode 1"||James Strong||Tom Edge||29 August 2021||9.96||12.75[a]|
|Chief Petty Officer Craig Burke, a member of the crew of a ballistic missile nuclear submarine HMS Vigil, reports his concerns over unusual sonar readings while on patrol. Confined to quarters following insubordination, he is later found dead in an apparent drug overdose. The Scottish police are asked to investigate and DCI Amy Silva and a man called Doward, Burke's replacement on the crew, are airlifted to Vigil's classified location. Unable to contact her colleagues by radio due to the sensitive nature of the patrol mission, she suspects the sailor was murdered, but the captain and other officers disagree. On land, Silva's DS and former lover, Kirsten Longacre, has begun a parallel investigation into Burke's movements and his acquaintances. She finds a clue during a search of Burke's room which she keeps hidden from the Royal Navy. Vigil loses power suddenly when the reactor SCRAMs and the boat lurches in an uncontrollable dive.|
|2||"Episode 2"||James Strong||Tom Edge||30 August 2021||8.80||11.81|
|The crew rush to restart the reactor and restore power. DCI Silva finds evidence to support her murder theory, but encounters resentment from most of the crew, apart from the coxswain Elliot Glover, in whom she confides the reason for her claustrophobia and fear of being underwater. Silva is also haunted by memories about the death of her fiancé during a car accident and having to make the difficult choice to save their daughter Poppy. After locking her in her cabin, Lieutenant Commander Mark Prentice, the Executive Officer, admits to striking Burke and concealing this when Burke was found dead in his bunk. Silva doubts the blow was fatal and thinks Burke may have been poisoned. DS Longacre is attacked when she arrives home to find two burglars ransacking her house. She makes contact with a young anti-nuclear weapons activist, Jade, who had been dating Burke and agrees to talk to her. On arriving at the rendezvous, she discovers that Jade has drowned.|
|3||"Episode 3"||James Strong||Ed Macdonald||5 September 2021||9.43||12.48|
|The police find that Burke held compromising material on the crew following a mission to Florida where two US contractors died; his findings include a compromising photo of medical officer Doherty with an unknown tattooed man. On land, the news of Burke’s death is leaked to the media. Longacre learns that Jade was the daughter of Scottish MP Patrick Cruden, who also reveals that Burke shared incriminating information through Jade. The missing fishing trawler is revealed to have been dragged down by an American submarine, raising questions as to why it was in British waters. The Navy believe that the Americans were still uneasy following the Florida incident. On board the Vigil, CPO Gary Walsh gets drunk, steals a gun and attempts suicide, but is stopped by Silva and Glover. Longacre is tracked down by MI5 officers and questioned about her investigation. Silva identifies Glover as the tattooed man.|
|4||"Episode 4"||Isabelle Sieb||Chandni Lakhani||12 September 2021||9.28||11.88|
|MI5 reveal to the police that the suspected murderer of Jade was a Russian GRU spy with diplomatic immunity. The police, MI5 and the navy present their findings to the Secretary of State for Defence, and speculate that there may be a Russian spy on board the Vigil. Shaw reluctantly makes the decision to recall the submarine, but there is no response because Vigil's communications are down as a result of sabotage. On Vigil, suspicion falls on the chief cook, Jackie Hamilton, whose son was imprisoned in Indonesia on drug charges, which have suddenly been dropped. Hamilton is later found dead by Silva and Silva is attacked by an unknown assailant wearing a mask.|
|5||"Episode 5"||Isabelle Sieb||Tom Edge||19 September 2021||9.78||12.07|
|The masked man turns out to be Glover, who is trying to save Silva from a nerve agent which he thinks killed Jackie Hamilton and which continues to be present in a key part of the submarine. Silva and Longacre's past relationship continues to be told in flashbacks. Longacre visits Silva's deceased boyfriend's daughter Poppy and her grandparents. Working with MI5, Longacre and DS Porter continue their investigation into Russian espionage. Ben Oakley from the peace camp is revealed to have been abetting the Russians; posing as a whistleblower on Britain's nuclear activities, he persuades Patrick Cruden, the Scottish MP and Jade Antoniak's natural father, to arrange political asylum for him at a foreign embassy. Longacre identifies Doward, the sonar operator who replaced Burke, as a probable Russian agent. Glover and Silva don protective gear in a dangerous assignment to examine Jackie Hamilton's body and the surrounding sealed-off area to investigate her death and make the area safe from further contamination. When Silva returns, she is overpowered by Doward, who traps her in one of the torpedo tubes and starts to fill it with seawater.|
|6||"Episode 6"||Isabelle Sieb||Tom Edge||26 September 2021||10.63||12.08|
|Prentice rescues Silva from the torpedo compartment but is murdered by Doward, who also sabotages the submarine’s valves so that it begins to take in water. Walsh and other maintenance personnel manage to stop the leak and get communications back on, and Captain Newsome receives orders from the Admiralty and the information about Doward. Silva is taken hostage by Doward in an effort to force Newsome to resurface and contact a Russian vessel. Newsome has the submarine tilt rapidly upward, throwing Doward off balance; he is overpowered by other crew members and is arrested by Silva. Longacre and her team arrest Oakley outside the Chinese consulate, and he confesses that he was an accessory to Jade's murder. Silva returns to dry land and rekindles her relationship with Longacre, and they visit Poppy. Doward is interviewed by MI5, and reveals to them that the plan was meant to discredit Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent, at a time when Parliament was to vote on whether to retain Trident. Shaw persuades Cruden to go along with the official story that the sinking of the fishing trawler was caused by a Russian submarine.|
- In an October 2021 press release, the BBC claimed 13.8 million viewers for Episode 1, citing BARB 28 day consolidated data as the source. BARB 28 day consolidated data is not directly available to the public.
In India, the series is streaming on LionsgatePlay.
In Germany and France, the series was distributed from 13 January 2022 by Arte.
Episode 1 attracted an audience of 10.2 million viewers across its first seven days, making Vigil the BBC's most watched new drama of the year.
The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the series a 85% approval rating, with an average rating of 6.6/10, based on 20 reviews. The critical consensus reads, "Vigil is ludicrous just as often as it is suspenseful, but a committed cast and pulpy pace make it worth diving in”. On Metacritic, the series has a weighted average score of 83 out of 100 based on 5 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim”.
Lucy Mangan of The Guardian found the first episode intriguing, awarding it five stars and describing it as "solid, old-fashioned entertainment". The Independent gave the first episode four out of five stars, praising the cast and Tom Edge's writing. In a four-starred review for London's Evening Standard, Katie Rosseinsky said: "Even scenes set in the depths of the sub are visually striking, lit up in reds and blues. Add in some jump scares, a handful of near-catastrophes and a couple of cliffhangers and you have all the makings of a taut mystery with intriguingly murky depths. Sunday nights are stressful again – I wouldn’t have it any other way." In a five-starred review, Empire magazine described Vigil as "[a] relentless conspiracy drama bursting with performers who know how to keep their cards close to their chests. British TV doesn’t get more thrilling than this." Hugo Rifkind in The Times described "[s]etting a whodunnit on a submarine" as "a masterstroke". Giving the programme four stars, Suzy Feay of the Financial Times said that "The submarine setting has the welcome effect of pressure-cooking some fairly standard ingredients into a tasty concoction".
Other reviewers were less complimentary, citing the unrealistic sets and other technical inaccuracies, the implausibility of numerous elements of the plot, and the political bias of the production. James Delingpole in The Spectator described it as "amateurish and implausible", noting that among other issues, "the uniforms are wrong; the ceilings are too high and the sub generally far too spacious" and criticised "the hackneyed dialogue, the implausible plotting and the box-ticking". Anita Singh in The Telegraph described the series as "so bad it could be Russian propaganda", and her colleague Ed Power noted that "the story was nonsense" and that "the premise was wasted". The Telegraph also reported that the naval advisor working on the series was an SNP councillor and anti-nuclear campaigner, leading to accusations of bias. Carol Midgley in The Times said that "this subpar ocean drama made my heart sink", and described it as "stultifying".
|2022||GLAAD Media Awards||Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series||Vigil||Nominated|||
|2022||British Academy Television Awards||Drama Series||Vigil||Nominated|||
|2022||International Emmy Awards||Best Drama Series||Vigil||Won|
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- Sawyer, Patrick (18 August 2021). "BBC's Vigil naval adviser is an anti-nuclear campaigner and SNP councillor". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 29 September 2021.
- Midgley, Carol (6 September 2021). "Vigil review — this subpar ocean drama made my heart sink". The Times. Retrieved 29 September 2021.
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