BBC Four Acquires ‘The Plague’, Orders New Mark Gatiss Ghost Story ‘The Dead Room’ & More

BBC Four has acquired Spanish period drama The Plague in a deal with international distributor Sky Vision and given the green-light to The Dead Room, a new one-off ghost story from Mark Gatiss starring Simon Callow, Anjli Mohindra, Susan Penhaligon and Joshua Oakes-Rogers.

Additionally, the channel has ordered a new factual series about the Yorkshire Ripper and a science documentary about eugenics. The programming announcements were made today by BBC Four Controller Cassian Harrison during a joint Meet The Controller session with BBC Two Controller Patrick Holland at the Edinburgh TV Festival. You can see the BBC Two shows that were announced here.

“I’m immensely proud of how BBC Four continues to stand as a truly unique offer in UK broadcasting, and of the ongoing support of our audiences, with the channel showing some of its best figures ever this year”, Harrison said. “This selection of upcoming titles gives a glimpse of the diversity of programming we have coming down the line, with bold new narrative forms, hard-hitting journalism, the best of international drama and eclectic partnerships with some of the UK’s biggest creative talents.”

The Plague is a historical thriller set during the time that the Black Death descended on 16th century Seville, one of the richest and most significant cities in the world. It is the doorway to Europe for gold rich migrants from the New World, and it is a city cloaked in Catholic piety. Pursuit of power is fuelled by fear and greed, and hypocrisy abounds. Convents are lax, brothels are regulated and hospitals are used as graveyards. Mysticism and chaos rule. Mateo, a former heretic, must now return to the city that sentenced him to death.

He must honour the dying wish of his best friend: to save Valerio, his friend’s bastard son. On arrival in Seville, Mateo is arrested, but the Holy Office offers Mateo a proposal for absolution: solve the murders in the city which all seem to be part of a demonic ritual and he will be pardoned. For Mateo this is life or death and he is drawn into a conspiracy which reaches the very heights of power in Seville. As the plague begins to consume the city, the walls are closed and the pursuit to find the murderer intensifies. The drama series is is based on an original idea from Alberto Rodgríguez and Rafael Cobos and stars Pablo Molinero, Paco Leó, Sergio Castellanos, Patricia López Arnaiz, Manuel Solo, Tomás Del Estal, Paco Tous, Manuel Morón, Cecilia Gómez, Antonio Gil, Lupe Del Junco, Pedro Lanzas and Antonio Dechent.

The Dead Room tells the story of a long-running radio horror series and its veteran presenter and national treasure Aubrey Judd. But times are changing. Tastes are shifting. There’s a new young producer. Whatever happened to the classic ghost stories? The good old days? Aubrey soon discovers that all is not quiet in the eerie radio studio and that elements of his own past are not as dead and buried as he perhaps hoped.

Mark Gatiss, who previously penned The Tractate Middoth for BBC Two, penned the script for the one-off half-hour drama and also serves as director. It is being produced by Can Do Productions and stars Simon Callow (Victoria & Abdul), Anjli Mohindra (Bodyguard), Susan Penhaligon (Doctor Who) and Joshua Oakes-Rogers (Little Crackers). Isibeal Ballance is the producer. The executive producer is is Ben Irving for BBC Four.

The Yorkshire Ripper is a three-part series in which filmmaker Liza Williams will re-investigate this infamous Sutcliffe case from a wholly new perspective, asking whether prevailing attitudes of the time, towards women and prostitutes in particular, influenced the investigation and meant that Peter Sutcliffe was caught years too late. She will meet the relatives and friends of those Sutcliffe murdered as well as survivors of his attacks – some of whom have never spoken before. Going back to original sources and meeting police officers who worked on the case, as well as journalists who covered it, she’ll re-examine the story with contemporary eyes

Her investigation will bring into focus the complex realities and social forces at play in the North of England in the 1970s that meant Britain’s most notorious serial killer evaded capture for too long, leaving 23 children motherless. The series was commissioned by BBC Four Controller Cassian Harrison and the BBC’s Head of Commissioning for Natural History and Specialist Factual Tom McDonald. WB’s Wall To Wall Media are producing, with Leanne Klein and Nancy Bornat serving as the executive producers.

You, Me And Eugenics is a two-part science documentary presented by author and science journalist Angela Saini and reporter and disability campaigner, Adam Pearson. It explores the history and modern versions of eugenics, the attempt to manipulate our genetic inheritance, to change human evolution and to breed a “better” human. The series will reveal the roots of Eugenics in the liberal, progressive world of Gower Street, Bloomsbury, London which held great sway in Britain and America and shaped the way our societies were structured and organised to this day. There is an idea that ‘genetic determinism’ refuses to die and eugenics is making a comeback in academia, science, social policy and is being discussed at the highest levels.

Scientists now possess a potential undreamt of by the eugenicists of old – the power to completely reshape the human genome and to transform the mechanisms of human evolution. Gene editing has opened up a whole new world of ethical quandaries and complex debate; it has huge medical benefits, but are we entering the era of the New Eugenics? The docu was commissioned by BBC Four Controller Cassian Harrison and the BBC’s Head of Commissioning for Natural History and Specialist Factual Tom McDonald. Furnace are producing, with Paul Sen serving as the executive producer.