No one was more surprised than me by the success of the first series of Line of Duty. After a writing career of what might be called cult hits – and one or two misses – it was extraordinary to be part of a programme that was BBC Two’s highest performing drama series in a decade. I was reminded of the final scene of the early 70s political satire “The Candidate”. Robert Redford plays the outsider in a Senate election. He conducts an eccentric campaign on the assumption he’s doomed to lose, but his candour wins over voters and he triumphs. As his team celebrate, he pulls his campaign manager aside and asks, in bemusement, “What do we do now?”

Detective Constable Kate Fleming played by Vicky McClure

The development process on the second series of Line of Duty began as soon as the recommission was confirmed in August 2012. Shooting of six new episodes was scheduled to begin in April 2013. Storylining meetings involved my pitching ideas at World Productions to Simon Heath, Executive Producer, and Priscilla Parish, Script Editor, after which we conferred with Stephen Wright, Head of Drama at BBC Northern Ireland, and Ben Stephenson, Controller of Drama at the BBC.

Detective Inspector Lindsay Denton played by Keeley Hawes

Line of Duty had originally been conceived as a returnable drama, with the premise being that the fictional anticorruption unit AC-12 would move on to a new case in each series, centred on a high-profile antagonist accused of corruption. The character of Detective Inspector Lindsay Denton would be a contrast to DCI Tony Gates (Lennie James) from Series 1, and we would also depart from the open mystery whereby the audience witnessed Gates’ secrets and dilemma while AC-12 played catch-up. Denton hides her secrets from both the audience and AC-12, making Series 2 more of a whodunit (and whydunit). It was also very important for the long-term development of the returning characters that we portrayed more of their personal lives.

Detective Sgt Steve Arnott played by Martin Compston

I was grateful that the BBC and World Productions agreed that I could write the whole series, which meant it was possible to employ the same process as before. I would write episode by episode and would try to avoid revealing too much about how the later story develops. This approach allows the series to be constructed along the model of how the audience will watch it. I was concerned that too rigid an adherence to defined plot points in later episodes would restrict the dramatic potential of the preceding ones.

Supt Ted Hastings played by Adrian Dunbar

In general, I delivered a two-page outline of the episode, Simon, Priscilla and I would discuss improvements, and then I’d write the episode. Sometimes I found it necessary to depart from the outline, if things didn’t work, or they seemed too dull on the page. Once an episode was in good shape, usually after a couple of drafts, I’d move on to the next. As we neared production, the drafting process got more intense, with input from all departments, the cast and the directors. Episode 6 went through about 10 drafts!

Line of Duty returns to BBC Two on Wednesday 12 February 2014 - find out more about the series including character profiles, clips and photos

Catch up with episodes after broadcast on BBC iPlayer

Read the script for Episode 1 of Series 2 in our Script Library

Read a blog by Jed Mercurio about Series 1 of Line of Duty

Comments

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  • Comment number 24. Posted by Tony

    on 21 Mar 2014 13:12

    Excellent series, better than the first. So much depth in the story. I had to watch all the episodes again from the start to make sure I caught everything. However, I have a couple of questions.

    It wasn't clear how long it took Akers to persuade the honest Denton to accept the bribe. Surely not just in one visit to her house?

    Was the 'vengeance is mine' headline reference in episode 1 a crafty clue to Denton's evolving story to blame Dryden?

    Don't police password protect their mobiles? Even Dot's dodgy phone was easily read.

    Also, putting (sorry) Dot on the golf course at the end - was that meant hint he is the caddy?

    Great stuff.

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  • Comment number 23. Posted by dev67

    on 20 Mar 2014 00:27

    Very good program best thing on TV but what an ending? almost as if you run out of steam or could not think of a better ending I think you have left the door open for part 2 Clearing her name as we still have too many loose ends was it her daughter that she was trying to help? is Hastings bent. dont like the copper with the pointy face he's bent the sargent he's up to his neck in it who put the tracker on her car and why her car when it should have been the other one and the caddy was never found or have i missed something? still too much not finish with this get your pen out and tell us what happens next?

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  • Comment number 22. Posted by Lee44

    on 19 Mar 2014 09:18

    Whilst Jed quotes in another feature: "In real constabularies, the relevant department that is the subject of Line of Duty is called Professional Standards. However, Line of Duty is set in a fictional anticorruption department, AC-12, in order to prevent any unintentional resemblance to actual units, cases or individuals." I myself am determined to demonstrate that whilst Jed writes his own stories that are fictional, the fact remains some Police are as corrupt as what The Line of Duty portrays. I know because I have witnessed it!

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  • Comment number 21. Posted by Lee44

    on 19 Mar 2014 04:33

    Firstly, this show has become my favorite program.

    Secondly, The main cast are fantastic actors.

    Thirdly, Jed Murcurio is a fantastic writer and he masters so many twists and turns it keeps me glued to the screen.

    And finally, he has inspired me to write about my own real life experience of Police Corruption. Admittedly no one would believe me how they all collude with each other but when they do so, mistakes are made and a different picture emerges but only by those who can see past the false smiles and disingenuous words.

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  • Comment number 20. Posted by Laura

    on 10 Mar 2014 07:38

    Agree with other posts, this should have been promoted a lot more. It's the best thing on tv right now

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  • Comment number 19. Posted by Laura

    on 10 Mar 2014 07:35

    Just wanted to say this series is FANTASTIC, my only issue is having to wait a week for the next episode.

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  • Comment number 18. Posted by Jane Saunte

    on 7 Mar 2014 09:15

    CJ- even more topical in the light of news announcements in the last 24 hours!

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  • Comment number 17. Posted by CJ

    on 4 Mar 2014 10:26

    A very tense and gripping series. I would however observe one thing. It portrays a corrupt and malicious police force and prison system, which is being soundly pushed into the viewers minds. With recent statements from the Police Commissioner regarding winning back public trust in our Police force, I wonder if the themes being portrayed in Line Of Duty are somewhat misplaced, or dare I say it damaging, at this moment in time. It might even raise an eyebrow in the Police establishment. Having said that, I'm still glued to every episode.

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  • Comment number 16. Posted by Linda Kennedy

    on 1 Mar 2014 13:40

    The two prison warder characters we saw in the last episode were brilliant. Pure evil! Worse than any Bond villains. Of course I'd like to see them eventually get their come uppance - big time!!

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  • Comment number 15. Posted by wendyk

    on 28 Feb 2014 10:14

    What a terrific series this is: realistic,gripping and intriguing.
    Each episode breaks new ground and the characters are entirely plausible,being flawed, unpredictable and ambiguous.
    This is without doubt one of the best,most realistic dramas I have seen,and I'm not easily pleased.
    Congratulations to Jed Mercurio and the crew and I hope that a third series will follow.

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