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Writer Neil Cross on Series 5 of Luther

Neil Cross


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How did it to feel to be back for a fifth series?

It feels surprising, and inevitable, and happy. Every time we finish a series of Luther we assume that’s the end. Then as soon as it’s over Idris and I start to miss it. We have a little period of mourning and a little period of sadness, then I begin to squirrel away ideas and writing notes to myself and we always end up coming back. Which is always great.

Where do we find Luther at the beginning of Series 5?

We find him in an uncharacteristically happy and settled place. He’s got his life sorted out and he’s got a nice house, but it doesn’t last.

Luther's back with a bang

For those who haven’t watched yet, what can viewers expect from Series 5?

One of the criteria that we set ourselves when we talk about coming back is that there is no point in doing another series unless we can make it the biggest, scariest, most exciting and most thrilling series that we’ve done. If we’ve done our job correctly, then that’s what the viewers can expect.

What was new in Series 5?

First of all, this series does find Luther at the beginning in a happier and more settled place, which in itself is new because we are not used to seeing a happy and settled Luther. That was fun to do because we see a new aspect of the character that we haven’t seen before, and even more so because we blow it up and take it away very quickly. We also for the first time, instead of doing two two-parters, for our main villain story we have one story stretched over the four episodes. This has allowed us to tell a more complex, darker and scarier crime story than what we’ve been able to do before.

Tell us a bit about the decision to focus Series 5 on a single case?

Idris and I are always wary about resting on our laurels and just doing what we have done before. We are always trying to finding new ways to tell stories about John Luther. No matter what else happens in the series it’s all about John Luther and the effect of these crimes on him. We have told many and various crime stories in the past, what we haven’t had the chance to do is immerse him in something that he can’t solve very quickly. Luther has always got too much to do. There’s always a story in his personal life and always a crime that he has to solve. It was really good fun, exciting and new to see him even less in control of things than he ordinarily is. To see this crime, spiral out of control and run out of control and have circumstances such that he wasn’t always able to run to the scene and solve it and catch the bad guy.

Tell us about the Crime in Series 5?

We want to make the show as exciting and scary as possible. One of the reasons that people respond so positively to Luther is because they are terrified by the crimes in Luther. They are not designed by us as an exploitation. Every scary event that I write is not what I would like to do to other people it’s more what I am scared that other people would do to me. Although it’s big and exaggerated it’s all rooted in some kind of truth, some kind of real fear.

The terrifying bus killer scene - *SPOILER if you haven't yet watched Series 5*

How do you come up with the storylines in Luther?

Usually the idea of a crime or criminal in Luther will come to me in one of two ways: One of which is when I’m sitting with my wife watching TV and I’ll suddenly burst out laughing, then she’ll know that I have just had a really scary idea. The other way springs from events in my own life and the fact that I’m a very anxious and scared person. The experience of existing in London, although nothing has ever happened to me here, gives rise to these genuine moments of terror, which are exaggerated by my nervous and anxious demeanour. Every time I ride on a night bus, every time I hear a tap-tap-tapping at the window, every time I’m walking down a long empty street and the trees are blowing in the darkness, I mentally step into Luther land. All of my fears of the worst thing that could possibly happen to me or to my loved ones, that’s the origin point of where the Luther killers lurk.

Alice Morgan (RUTH WILSON) in Luther (Image Credit: BBC / Des Willie)

Why do you think people love Luther?

The reason people love and respond to John Luther is essayed by Idris Elba. It is the fact that he is doing what he thinks is right despite the cost to himself, despite the fact that he knows he’s going to get hurt, despite the fact that it’s damaging his life and his happiness. Ultimately it’s that willingness to be hurt that makes him a hero and that willingness to suffer that makes people love him.

Luther is an old-fashioned hero in that if you were in trouble, if you were walking down a long dark street, if you needed help to sort out your life, people feel that they can trust him. Again by definition that kind of character has a universal appeal.

Do you have any plans for more series of Luther?

I would without hesitation or equivocation continue writing Luther until I drop off my perch or he does. When I type the end of any series I immediately start to miss him and I wonder what he’s up to or what he is doing. I will always live with him in everyday of my life.

Watch the complete Luther, Series 1-5 now on BBC iPlayer

Download and read Luther scripts from our script library

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