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The Three and The Serpent - BBC One announces two epic new drama series

BBC One has commissioned two epic eight-part drama series:The Three - a multi-stranded, international thriller based on the trilogy of books, and The Serpent, based on the phenomenal true story of how one of the most elusive criminals of the 20th century was finally caught and brought to trial.
Piers Wenger says: “It’s my ambition to deliver original, bold and unexpected drama to BBC One, drama that is set apart from what is on offer elsewhere and which allows us to explore new worlds. These two new series do just that, each offering a big emotional story in an international setting with iconic characters at their heart.

"Peter Straughan’s adaptation of Sarah Lotz’s spine-chilling novel The Three is a unique and epic story which shifts shape as it unfolds - what begins as a tale of human tragedy becomes an international conspiracy thriller with a supernatural edge.

"The Serpent tells the story of Charles Sobhraj, who preyed on the lives of young backpackers in Thailand in the 1970s. Richard Warlow’s scripts will bring this notorious story to life on BBC One, for the first time showing the great lengths Dutch embassy diplomat Herman Knippenberg went to get justice for Sobhraj’s innocent victims.

"I’m thrilled that the BBC is home to these to these exceptionally compelling stories and would like thank both The Forge and Mammoth Screen alongside BBC Executive Elizabeth Kilgarriff for bringing them to BBC One.”

The Three

Based on the trilogy of books by Sarah Lotz, it will be adapted by Golden Globe winner Peter Straughan (Wolf Hall, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and is a multi-stranded international thriller with a supernatural twist. Commissioned by Piers Wenger, Controller of BBC Drama, and Charlotte Moore, Director of BBC Content, The Three will be executive produced by Kate Sinclair and George Faber for The Forge, and Elizabeth Kilgarriff for the BBC.

Four planes crash on the same day in four different countries. Three children miraculously survive...

Elspeth Martin, a no-nonsense crash investigator with the NTSB in Washington, is under pressure to find out what caused the crashes. A rationalist, she is dogged in her determination to get at the truth, but this process is obstructed by conflicting evidence, media scrutiny and conspiracy theories.

Then there are rumours that a fourth child has survived one of the crashes, and a mysterious message is discovered on a passenger’s mobile phone.

Author Sarah Lotz says: “I’m beyond thrilled that the BBC has chosen to green light the adaptation of The Three. Working with the brilliant Kate Sinclair and genius writer Peter Straughan on the project has been one of the highlights of my career, and I'm honoured and humbled that it's in such creative, insightful and passionate hands.”

Screenwriter Peter Straughan said: “The Three looks at how fear and paranoia can affect society on a global level, while interrogating the effects of trauma on ordinary lives. Working on the project so far has been a fascinating journey, and I can’t wait to continue with our exciting team.”

At the heart of the story are the three surviving children - 'The Three’: Bobby in New York, Jess in England and Hiro, a Japanese boy who has become selectively mute. They are six or seven years old and all seem strangely changed by what has happened to them.

Elspeth’s journey to discover the truth takes her across four continents - to the townships of South Africa, the Florida swamps, the depths of the Atlantic and the notorious Aokigahara ‘suicide forest’ in Japan. It’s a journey that will utterly change her and force her re-evaluate her everything she believes in…

Kate Sinclair, Executive Producer for The Forge, says: “When I first read Sarah Lotz’s stunning proposal for The Three four years ago, I knew in my gut she was brilliant, that it was so unique that I HAD to have it, and that I needed to get someone as truly extraordinary as the exceptional Peter Straughan to adapt it. What a complete joy to get this green light from the BBC and to be working so closely with such wonderful, talented folk.”

George Faber, Executive Producer for The Forge, adds: “The Forge is privileged to be producing such an ambitious international show across four continents and to be working with such a talented team.”

The Three is an 8x60’ series produced by The Forge and will be executive produced by Kate Sinclair and George Faber for The Forge, and Elizabeth Kilgarriff for the BBC.

The Serpent

BBC One has commissioned new eight-part drama series The Serpent, a brand new original drama written by Richard Warlow (Ripper Street) based on the phenomenal true story of how one of the most elusive criminals of the 20th century was caught and brought to trial. The series will be directed by Tom Shankland (The Missing) and produced by Mammoth Screen (Poldark).

Con man, escape artist, thief, master of disguise and psychopath, Charles Sobhraj was the chief suspect in the sensational unsolved murders of up to 20 young Western travellers across India, Thailand and Nepal through 1975 and 1976. Having slipped repeatedly from the grasp of authorities worldwide, by 1976 Sobhraj was Interpol's most wanted man and had arrest warrants on three different continents.

When Herman Knippenberg, a junior diplomat at the Dutch Embassy in Bangkok, unwittingly walks into Sobhraj’s intricate web of crime, he sets off an extraordinary chain of events that will see these two diametrically opposed men engaged in a chase across the porous borders of the Asian Hippie Trail in its twilight years.

Writer, Richard Warlow says: “I’ve been hoping for this news since Tom Shankland first told me the tale of Herman Knippenberg’s pursuit of Charles Sobhraj across the nexus points of the Hippie Trail. That the story happens to be entirely true is a gift. I don’t think I could ever invent the corrupt magnetism of Sobhraj’s evil charisma, nor the everyman’s decency with which Knippenberg - now our friend and collaborator - brought some measure of justice to those who went to seek new horizons but never returned."

Director Tom Shankland says: "Bringing the lost era of the hippie trail back to life has been a dream of mine, ever since I first went travelling in Asia and heard the name ‘Charles Sobhraj’. Before mobile phones, before the internet, a generation of idealistic kids set out on an iconic overland journey from Istanbul to Kathmandu in search of wild adventures. Some of them had their minds expanded forever and some found a monster waiting in paradise. I want to give a voice to those brave kids who set out with big dreams but never made it home."

Preethi Mavahalli, Executive Producer at Mammoth Screen, says: “We have spent several years researching and collecting the first-hand testimony of the brave survivors who helped unravel Sobhraj’s dark web of deceit, crime and murder. Now we can finally tell this truly stranger than fiction story of the so-called Serpent, one of the most elusive killers of all time, and Herman Knippenberg’s quietly obsessive pursuit to catch him. We couldn't ask for better than our all-talented team of Richard Warlow and Tom Shankland at the helm!"

The Serpent is an 8x60’ series produced by Mammoth Screen for BBC One. It is written by Richard Warlow, directed by Tom Shankland and executive produced by Richard Warlow, Tom Shankland, Preethi Mavahalli and Damien Timmer for Mammoth Screen, and Elizabeth Kilgarriff for the BBC.


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