“Who is really the victim?” asks BBC1 thriller The Victim.
Starring John Hannah, Kelly Macdonald and James Harkness, the drama explores an assault on an ordinary man who has been identified online as a notorious child killer – and the fallout from that attack.
But is this really the right man – and is this truly justice?
The Victim has already aired in the UK: it began on Monday 8th April on BBC1 at 9pm and aired across the week with episodes on Tuesday 9th, Wednesday 10th and Thursday 11th April.
The series premieres in Australia on Monday 29th July at 8:30pm on BBC First, then continues on Mondays at the same time.
What is The Victim about?
“In law, there is the accused and the victim. In life, it’s not that simple,” the BBC teased.
Written by Rob Williams, this four-part thriller opens on day one of a criminal trial in Edinburgh’s High Court, and is told through the eyes of both the plaintiff and the accused.
Hardworking bus driver and family man Craig Myers (James Harkness) has been the victim of a vicious attack. This assault came immediately after he was identified online as notorious child murderer Eddie J Turner, with an anonymous internet commenter claiming to reveal his ‘true’ identity and posting a photograph of him outside his home.
But is he simply the tragic victim of mistaken identity?
Also in the courtroom is Anna Dean (Kelly Macdonald), a nurse whose young son Liam was murdered 15 years ago by an older child. She is accused of having “revealed” online that Craig was her son’s killer living under a new identity – and of conspiring to have him murdered. Has the anger of a grieving mother turned her into a criminal too? And is Craig the man she thinks he is?
The Victim follows the legal proceedings, while also covering the events leading up to the trial as DI Grover (John Hannah) investigates the attack on Craig and tries to discover who made the online accusation against him.
According to the BBC, “Craig and Anna are pitted against each other, but our sympathies will be divided. New potential suspects will be revealed and long-buried secrets are unearthed as the story builds to a final, devastating climax.”
Screenwriter Rob Williams has previously taught and volunteered in prisons. Reflecting on how that experience has informed his writing, he tells RadioTimes.com: “What has become really clear to me is that there is always a story behind every crime, from the seemingly trivial to the biggest crimes.
“We look for the black and the white, not least because the law demands black and white, it demands a goodie and a baddie and a villain and a hero. Life’s not like that, it seems to me. And when you dig into the reasons behind crimes, all sorts of crimes, they’re always just far more nuanced and fascinating as a result of going beyond the surface.”
Speaking to press at a preview screening, he adds: “This isn’t a legal game, this is a woman’s life and a man’s life at stake. And so that’s incredibly interesting. ”
Kelly Macdonald stars as Anna Dean, a mother whose child was murdered 15 years ago when he was just nine years old. Macdonald has previously played Margaret Thompson in Boardwalk Empire, and has also appeared in Trainspotting and its sequel, as well as The Child in Time, Goodbye Christopher Robin, No Country for Old Men, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.
James Harkness, who plays assault victim (and possible child murderer) Craig Myers, has appeared in Star Wars Rogue One, In Plain Sight, Silent Witness, and Macbeth.
John Hannah stars as DI Stephen Grover, the detective assigned to the case. The Scottish actor starred as Matthew in Four Weddings and a Funeral, is also known for roles in The Mummy Trilogy, A Touch of Cloth, and Spartacus.
Further cast include Isis Hainsworth as Anna’s grown-up daughter, Georgie Glen as the judge, Karla Crome as Craig’s wife, Andrew Rothney as Danny Callaghan, John Scougall as Craig’s friend, and Joanne Thomson as DS Lisa Harvey. Robin Laing plays Andy Tait, and Cal MacAninch appears later in the series as Anna’s ex-husband (and the murdered child’s father).
Is The Victim based on a true story?
The Victim is not based on a true story, and is not inspired by any one case in particular.
Asked about “parallels” with the 1993 murder of two-year-old James Bulger and subsequent attempts to expose the new identities of his ten-year-old killers Robert Thompson and Jon Venables after their release from prison, writer Rob Williams tells press: “Well it’s not based on any one case, on any existing case.
“It explores a territory that sadly, there are many cases in which juveniles have committed horrific offences, and not been named for legal reasons. Some of who have been given new identities. So it’s a territory we explore – it’s not about any single case… it’s hopefully a very even-handed treatment of a very emotive issue, and it is entirely fictional.”
But Williams did research real-life court cases and crimes to make the drama as accurate as possible, sitting in courtrooms and watching documentaries and reading books, newspapers and magazines.
He tells RadioTimes.com: “I read about a huge amount of cases, but only really to inform the characters that we already had cast in our drama. And hopefully it’s distinctive and stands on its own two feet.”
He adds: “The worst thing in the world, for me, would be to be accused of treating the murder of a child in a TV way… we certainly haven’t, I can say hand on heart, there has never been any intention to use this subject matter for entertainment and nothing more.”
Who is Eddie J Turner?
One big question hangs over The Victim: is Craig actually Eddie J Turner – and if he isn’t, who is?
Williams tells us that all will be revealed by the end of the four-part drama, explaining: “Obviously we’re making a dramatic piece of TV, hopefully, that keeps people guessing and there are hooks, but it’s really important to me that we don’t lie to anybody. We haven’t lied to anybody, we’ve been honest with the viewers, so yeah – I hope that at the end of the four hours, there is understanding.”
As for Craig, Williams says: “I always knew if he was Eddie J Turner or not. And that sort of leads onto, if he isn’t, who is? And that’s because I think, you sort of have to have that. If you want the elephant in the room, the big bad – the big bad is Eddie J Turner as far as Anna is concerned.
“I had that from the beginning, and so when hopefully people are arguing about, ‘but it could be him, and it could be him,’ I hope that never feels tacked on because it’s heading towards somewhere that was there from the very beginning.”
That said, even some of the stars of the show don’t know how the drama ends.
“There are still people who have played quite big roles on the show, who don’t know,” Williams reveals. “And there are also one or two who don’t want to know, who are desperate just to watch it.”