First look at Benedict Cumberbatch in new BBC drama The Child In Time

The Sherlock star will play Stephen Lewis in the adaptation of Ian McEwan's 1987 novel, a father whose daughter has gone missing and whose life has fallen apart

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The first image of Benedict Cumberbatch starring in new BBC1 drama The Child In Time has been released, showing the actor dressed in sombre clothing and walking through the woods.

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Sherlock star Cumberbatch is taking on the BBC1 adaptation of Ian McEwan’s harrowing 1987 novel, where he plays children’s book author Stephen Lewis whose daughter went missing two years ago.

Other key cast have just been announced, with Trainspotting’s Kelly Macdonald joining as Stephen’s estranged wife Julie. Their relationship was destroyed by the loss of their daughter, with each taking a separate path as they cope with their grief.

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The History Boys actor Stephen Campbell Moore will play his close friend Charles, while Luther’s Saskia Reeves will star as friend Thelma. Both have retired to the countryside, “battling demons of their own”, leaving Stephen behind.

Filming has now begun on Stephen Butchard’s 90-minute one-off adaptation, in which Cumberbatch also serves as a producer.

“I read the novel years ago and it stayed with me – profound, beautiful and very moving,” Cumberbatch previously said. “Only Ian McEwan could write about loss with such telling honesty.”

The last time Cumberbatch starred in an adaptation of a McEwan novel was back in 2007, when he played chocolate manufacturer Paul Marshall in Atonement.

McEwan said: “I have fond memories of Benedict playing a brilliant and key part in the movie adaptation of Atonement.

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“Now, it’s a great honour to have this actor of such immense resource, experience and subtlety in the lead role of The Child In Time.”