ITV's David Tennant and Olivia Colman drama Broadchurch will finish with a story centred around a serious sexual assault.
The first episode of series three - the final series of the programme - will open with the aftermath of the attack on shop worker Trish Winterman, played by former Coronation Street actress Julie Hesmondhalgh, when it starts on ITV later this winter.
Writer Chris Chibnall explained that he believed Broadchurch was a “good forum to be telling this story” explaining that the drama has always concerned itself with the emotional impact of serious crime on ordinary people.
Series one focused on identifying the killer of schoolboy Danny Latimer with the second series dealing with the trial of the main suspect and the fallout from that.
The third series represents something of a clean slate with Tennant’s DI Alec Hardy and Colman’s DS Ellie Miller heading the investigation of a story without a murder.
Tennant said at a screening of episode one today: “Chris told us quite early on that that was his intention [to do the rape storyline] and it made sense that there couldn’t be another body on another beach. That wouldn’t have had the kind of truthfulness you expect from this series.”
Chibnall told RadioTimes.com that he thought now was the right time to take on a story like this.
“In the crime statistics alone there has been… an increase in reports of serious sexual assaults in this country and the dissonance between the number of crimes being reported and the number of crimes going to court and the number of guilty verdicts. This is all part of the mix. Plus, the general mood of the nation around these issues compared with five or ten years ago.”
Hesmondhalgh said she was drawn to the part for a number of reasons but was particularly impressed at the way the script cast an “ordinary middle aged woman” as a rape victim. “That for me is an interesting take on it,” she said. "This isn't an act of sexual desire it is an act of violence."
The new drama sees a number of new characters including Lenny Henry who plays shop owner Ed Burnett and Sarah Parish’s Cath Atwood, a friend and colleague of Hesmondhalgh’s character.
Returning faces include Jody Whittaker and Andy Buchan as grieving parents Beth and Mark Latimer and former Doctor Who star Arthur Darvill as the local vicar Paul Coates.
Beth Latimer is drawn into the drama because she works as a sexual violence advisor while Mark is still coming to terms with the death of their son Danny.
The new series will, once again, run for eight episodes and is set three years after the end of series two.
There is still considerable secrecy around the plotlines of the new series and Chibnall, who is due to take over as Doctor Who showrunner next year, revealed that all his scripts were password protected.
He said that his name and the name of the show did not appear on the front page of the printed scripts to deter curious minds who may have come across a copy from picking it up.
Asked if Broadchurch could come back for a fourth run or even as a movie spin off he said: “I have got another job!” adding that to properly answer the question he would have to deliver a potential spoiler.
“I don’t want to give anything away about the ending,” he said.
Broadchurch series 3 begins Monday 27 February at 9pm on ITV