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The Undeclared War writer talks real-life inspiration for chilling drama

The series may be fictional, but there's nothing unrealistic about the new Channel 4 thriller.

Adrian Lester as Andrew Makinde in The Undeclared War.
Published: Tuesday, 21st June 2022 at 12:01 am
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Channel 4's hot new drama is The Undeclared War, an unnerving thriller set in 2024 that sees the UK face a series of cyber-attacks in the run-up to a general election.

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The series comes from BAFTA Award-winning writer/director Peter Kosminsky (The Promise, The State), and while it may be set in the future, Kosminsky was quick to note when speaking at an event attended by RadioTimes.com and other press that nothing in the six-episode run is far-fetched.

Kosminsky said: "There is a hot war going on in cyberspace between a number of antagonists, in this particular case of Britain and Russia. And it's really dangerous. I think I was really shocked by the fragility of our hugely internet dependent society. And I just wanted people to be more aware of this.

"The Undeclared War is a cautionary tale. It's very thoroughly researched, it took five years to make. I'm not saying this is the way things will turn out but I'm saying there's nothing in this show that either hasn't happened, or is not being sort of 'war-gamed' by the people here and in other countries who try to prepare for this kind of thing."

Kosminsky continued: "There are no techniques shown or strategies described that aren't happening and aren’t real. The characters are fictional, completely fictional. And I call it a cautionary tale because I think that if we're not careful this hot war will escalate to the point where it threatens our civilisation. I think it's as serious as that. So that's why I wanted to tell the story."

Simon Pegg as Danny in The Undeclared War.
Simon Pegg as Danny in The Undeclared War. Channel 4

The series sees the team at GCHQ fighting an online battle with unpredictable enemies that could grind the UK's infrastructure to a halt, with devastating impacts.

It stars Hannah Khalique-Brown as Saara Parvin, who finds herself on work experience at GCHQ when the first attack hits, while Simon Pegg plays Head of Operations at GCHQ Daniel Patrick and Adrian Lester plays new Conservative Prime Minister Andrew Makinde.

Producer Colin Callender explained that "the show came about as a result of a conversation that Peter and I had five years ago".

"There was actually an article in The New Yorker about active measures, about the role that governments have played in meddling in foreign governments’ political process," he said. "And this is obviously coming on the heels of the 2016 election, and we thought this was rich territory.

"My thought was, 'Let's do something historical' and it was Peter that said, 'No, no, no, let's do something set in the future, but about this notion that the new frontier is the cyber frontier'. So the show grew out of that, and as Peter researched it more fully with access that only a filmmaker of Peter's calibre and track record could actually get, all the pieces of the story began to fall into place."

Callender also explained that creating a show set in the near future presents the challenge of making sure the present day doesn't catch up with you – particularly in the era of COVID, with regulations around masks and social distancing changing so rapidly.

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However, he said: "I have to pay tribute to Peter, I think he has navigated that piece rather brilliantly. And as you watch it sitting, not post-COVID because we don’t know whether COVID’s gone away, but sort of post the lockdowns and the experience we went through over the last couple of years, it still feels very fresh and immediate."

The Undeclared War will start at 9pm on 30th June 2022 on Channel 4. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our TV Guide or visit our dedicated Drama hub for the latest news.

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