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18 June 2014
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Developing Ghostwatch

Or How Stephen Volk nearly created The X Files

BBCi: I read an article stating that your agent suggested a drama in the vein of Edge Of Darkness. How much did that drama influence the original concept of Ghostwatch?

Stephen Volk: My agent Linda Seifert said the BBC was looking for more 6-part thrillers in the style of Edge of Darkness. So I thought, ‘great, [here’s] my chance to do a supernatural thriller film serial on the BBC… dark, moody, grainy, etc. Maybe featuring an investigative team who’d go on to have other stories.

Anyway I did this treatment of six one-hour episodes, starting with a poltergeist in a North London housing estate, which is investigated by an eccentric young psychical investigator (male) and a TV Roger Cook-ish journo (female). I also had a scientist who was investigating psychic people in a lab, but that was lost along the way, along with the reporter’s clash with her bosses.

It worked in a conventional drama serial sense, structured a bit like a Stephen King mini-series, not pretending to be ‘real’. Except Episode 6 was to be a ‘live’ broadcast from the haunted house in North London, and all hell breaks loose.

Then one day the producer Ruth Baumgarten said to me, look, there’s no way the BBC are going to commit to this as a series, is there any way we can do it as a one-off 90 minute drama? I remember very clearly sitting in her office and saying, "Look, I had this idea: what if we do the whole thing like Episode 6 and pretend it’s going out live?" There was this look on her face and I thought ‘oh my God, there’s no going back now. How the hell do I pull this off’?

Read our review of Ghostwatch >>

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