Much of the process of writing Ripper Street over the last five years has been, in one way or another, about dealing with disappointment. Which sounds a bit glum, I know. But then this is Ripper Street, and one of my maxims over the last few years has been that there are diamonds to be mined from pain.
Not that the frustration of having your TV show cancelled is all that much when compared to the stark sense of failure that Detective Inspector Reid and his team have had to negotiate over an equivalent period.
But it is in this context that I’d like the show’s followers to consider where we left Mr Reid at the end of series three; and to wonder where we might now lead him in series four.
The show was, as anyone minded to care will remember, decommissioned by the BBC during its second run before then being brought back to life by Amazon. But when we set about constructing the conclusion of series three, there was no reason to assume that our new benefactors’ good grace would continue beyond that run.
So I was determined that our characters, and their followers, would not be left in the lurch this time. Edmund Reid would be handed a peace; Long Susan Hart some measure of justice; Bennet Drake and Homer Jackson would be delivered some kind of reward for their eventual devotion to the loved ones of their lives.
If Ripper Street needed to finish there, I would have been happy with that.
Edmund Reid, played by Matthew Macfadyen
But my overriding feeling was that there were stories still to tell; that our Whitechapel was still teeming with the vivid and filthy histories which the show feeds off; and – most importantly – that there was justice still to be served.
And then Amazon suggested we might like to produce another series. We said we would.
But only if they gave us another two series. Series four and series five.
I didn’t want to crack open the lives of our heroes again without being given enough scope to take them to hell and back…
And then finish the show for good.
That would be it. No open ends. No series six. Please, Amazon, gives us thirteen instalments over two series. We’ll shoot them back to back; it will be one long story that begins in the high summer of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee celebrations and ends on the stroke of midnight as Whitechapel steps in to the twentieth century.
Bless them: they said yes.
The BBC agreed too. And given the serialised scale of what’s proposed – the dark ambitions of it – would we agree that BBC2 might be a more natural home?
Yes we would.
No further cancellation, as some folk have only too gleeful to report: we – the writers, producers and cast – all decided that this would be it. H Division would not be stepping into the year 1900; not on our beat.
And this time Edmund Reid, Bennet Drake, Long Susan Hart and Homer Jackson would really get what was coming to them.
Thirteen episodes, two series. And then Ripper Street will fall silent.
Hope you enjoy the ride.
Ripper Street series four begins tonight at 9pm on BBC2. The drama will conclude on Amazon – and later BBC2 – in 2017