The BBC has decided not to commission a second series of First World War drama The Crimson Field.
Writer Sarah Phelps took to Twitter to reveal the news, saying “gutted doesn’t even touch the sides of how I feel”.
RadioTimes.com understands that Phelps had long-term ambitions for the drama about nursing on the Western Front, which starred Oona Chaplin, Hermione Norris and Suranne Jones. The writer is believed to have sketched out storylines for an estimated four more series.
Series one opened in the first year of the war in 1914, meaning that it aired precisely 100 years after the fictionalised action.
In April the drama’s star Oona Chaplin told RadioTimes.com that Phelps “knew exactly where the characters were on the 11th of November 1918” – the date of the Armistice, and the end of the war – and said she believed she had plotted a series for each centennial year. This means that a new run could have potentially aired in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
The BBC declined to comment on this but issued a statement suggesting that it needed to free up the drama’s budget for other shows.
“The Crimson Field was our landmark drama series that launched the start of the BBC’s World War One coverage. We are very proud of The Crimson Field and are hugely grateful to all those who worked so hard on it.
“However in order to create space for new shows and to keep increasing the variety of BBC1 drama it will not be returning for a second series. Coming up this Autumn on BBC1 further WW1 drama content includes The Passing Bells and War Poems.”
A BBC drama source said that one of the factors in the decision was that The Crimson Field did not attract sufficiently high audiences or critical praise to warrant a return.
The drama opened with more than 6 million viewers according to the overnights, but its audience steadily declined over the course of the run, falling to a series low of 4.4 million viewers for its penultimate episode. However, it did at least manage to rally for the final episode, which drew 5.1m viewers according to the overnights.
In her interview with RadioTimes.com, Chaplin said she was frustrated over the delay about making a decision on the show.
“The way these things are financed are so bloody complicated and ridiculous if you ask me. I am sure it must make sense for someone.”
Ben has worked as a professional journalist specialising in TV and the arts for nearly twenty years. After a two year stint on local newspapers in the mid 1990s, he spent more than 5 years as the broadcast reporter at the Stage newspaper. Following that he enjoyed staff reporting positions at the Sunday Mirror and the Sunday Times breaking stories and writing features before settling as a full time freelance writing for an array of newspapers and magazines - but mainly for the Guardian, Evening Standard, Broadcast, Independent and the New Statesman where he wrote a column.