Digital-only BBC3 has made its first (and only) drama commission for 2016: Thirteen, a mystery thriller from writer Marnie Dickens, who has previously written for the second series of Ripper Street and Hollyoaks.
Thirteen will tell the story of a young woman who escapes from a cellar after 13 years and is reunited with her family. It will be a five-part series consisting of hour-long episodes. Dickens said of her first original drama: “I’ve always been fascinated by the resilience of the human spirit in even the most extreme situations and am thrilled to have the opportunity to bring this story to life.”
The commission comes in the wake of a turbulent week for BBC3. The BBC Trust’s public consultation about its proposed closure as a broadcast channel opened yesterday, while thousands of fans are campaigning after the cancellation of zombie drama In The Flesh last Friday. The corporation cited that the channel’s new online guise only has the budget for “one original drama series a year”, and that “they have to make hard choices to bring new shows through and create room for emerging talent.”
Expanding further in a blog yesterday, Damian Kavanagh, controller of BBC3, explained the decision to axe the drama. “We announced on Friday In The Flesh would not be recommissioned. The show has been amazing for BBC Three just like Being Human and The Fades before that, but with a falling income and increased costs BBC Three can only make one drama a year and I want the latest and freshest ideas, ideas that will break new talent on and off-screen.
“This is part of what BBC Three does and should do. I’m sure those guys will do amazing things just like James Corden and Ruth Jones and Matt Lucas and David Walliams did before them. We will have some exciting news on a new BBC Three drama very soon.”
BBC3 outlined their online plan last month. It entails focusing on comedy and serious factual offerings by theming its programming according to two mottos “make me laugh” and “make me think”. The channel has since confirmed that its budget will shrink from the current figure of £55m spent on programming to £30m when it ceases to be a broadcast channel, subject to approval by the BBC Trust, next autumn.