Tahar Rahim and Doctor Who’s Jenna Coleman star in BBC One’s upcoming true crime drama The Serpent, providing the perfect alternative festive viewing for those who prefer intrigue over saccharine.
In The Serpent cast, Rahim plays the titular role of international serial killer Charles Sobhraj (nicknamed “The Serpent” and “The Bikini Killer”), who was eventually captured and put on trial in 1976. You can find out more about The Serpent true story here.
Read on for everything you need to know about The Serpent.
When is The Serpent on TV?
The Serpent began on New Year’s Day, 1st January at 9pm on BBC One.
The Serpent premiered on BBC One in the UK, and on Netflix elsewhere.
Who’s in the cast of The Serpent?
French actor Tahar Rahim took on the lead of murderer Charles Sobhraj. Currently most famous for starring in Oscar-nominated French crime drama A Prophet, Rahim will soon star in Damien Chazelle’s Netflix series The Eddy. Rahim has also starred in BBC2’s The Looming Tower (where he played Ali Soufan) and Mary Magdalene (Judas).
Victoria and Doctor Who actress Jenna Coleman plays the role of his partner and frequent accomplice, Marie-Andrée Leclerc.
Also in The Serpent cast are Billy Howle (MotherFatherSon) as Herman Knippenberg, a junior diplomat at the Dutch Embassy in Bangkok who unwittingly walks into Sobhraj’s intricate web of crime.
Ellie Bamber (Les Miserables) plays Angela Knippenberg.
The Serpent’s main cast will also feature Alice Englert, Mathilde Warnier, Gregoire Isvarine, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Fabien Frankel, Chicha Amatayakul, Surasak Chaiyaat, Ruby Ashbourne-Serkis, Armand Rosbak, Ellie de Lange, Ilker Kaleli and Amesh Edireweera.
The Serpent is penned by Ripper Street writers Richard Warlow and Toby Finlay.
What is The Serpent about? Who is Charles Sobhraj?
The Serpent documents the crimes of Charles Sobhraj, a man who was the chief suspect in the unsolved murders of up at least 12 Western travellers across India, Thailand and Nepal through 1975 and 1976.
He became known as The Serpent due to his skills at deception and evasion, but also was labelled The Bikini Killer on account of the clothes worn by some of his victims.
The BBC tells us: “Posing as a gem dealer, Sobhraj and his girlfriend Marie-Andrée Leclerc travelled across Thailand, Nepal and India in 1975 and 1976, carrying out a spree of crimes on the Asian ‘Hippie Trail’ and becoming the chief suspects in a series of murders of young Western travellers.”
A con man, thief, and a master of disguise, Sobhraj regularly slipped through the net of police. By 1976 he had arrest warrants on three different continents.
However, Sobhraj’s web of crime was pulled apart by Herman Knippenberg, a junior diplomat at the Dutch Embassy in Bangkok. Without giving too much away about The Serpent plot, Knippenberg unwittingly sparked a chase that finally saw the mass murderer behind bars.
Is there a trailer for The Serpent?
Yes, you can watch it here.
The show was previously teased in this reel of clips from upcoming BBC shows.
Have there been screen adaptations of Charles Sobhraj before?
Several. Most famous, however, is the semi-fictionalised Bollywood film Main Aur Charles (in English: Me and Charles) which tells the story of Sobhraj’s crimes.