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The BBC Monday night unveiled its latest ambitious slate of drama commissions, including a series about Atlantis and a Pride & Prejudice homage.
The BBC has also ordered a third season of its period medical drama ratings hit Call the Midwife, written by Heidi Thomas, and plans 3D content to celebrate the 50th anniversary of evergreen Doctor Who.
The third season of Midwife, which airs in the U.S. on PBS, will take place in 1959 on the eve of the swinging 1960s.
The BBC will also bring back crime drama Death in Paradise for a third season.
Meanwhile, BBC Four will air Burton and Taylor, a 90-minute film about the relationship between Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, starring Dominic West (The Hour, The Wire) and Helena Bonham Carter. Written by William Ivory (Women in Love, Bert & Dickie), the project is made by BBC Drama Productions.
The Taylor-Burton relationship was also the focus of recent Lifetime biopic Liz & Dick in the U.S., in which Lindsay Lohan portrayed Taylor.
Ben Stephenson, controller, drama commissioning at the BBC, made the announcements at an event he hosted Monday night to showcase drama on the BBC in 2013, with guests including writers, directors, actors, producers, indies and the press.
BBC One, the public broadcaster’s flagship channel, is hoping a ticket to Atlantis will bring it Saturday night ratings success and fill the gap left by Merlin.
Stephenson and BBC One controller Danny Cohen have commissioned a 13-part first season of action series Atlantis, created and written by Howard Overman (Misfits, Merlin). The show, scheduled for a Saturday evening slot in the fall, is set in the mythological island city and aims to bring to life Greek myths and legends re-imagined for a new generation.
Executive produced by Johnny Capps, Julian Murphy (Merlin) and Overman via the trio’s new production company, it is scheduled to begin shooting in Wales and Morocco in April.
The BBC also said Monday that it has commissioned a three-hour adaptation of P.D. James‘ bestselling novel of her homage to Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in this 200th anniversary year of the first publication of the famous literary tale. Written by Juliette Towhidi, Death Comes to Pemberley is set six years after Pride & Prejudice ends and centers on Austen’s best-known characters, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. The three-part miniseries combines classic period drama with a murder-mystery plot.
It will be brought to the screen by Origin Pictures, the U.K. production banner set up by ex-BBC Films chief David Thompson and the company’s Ed Rubin.
Thompson and his company are being kept busy by his former employees, with Origin Pictures also commissioned by Stephenson and Cohen to produce a fresh adaptation of the classic Daphne du Maurier novel Jamaica Inn.
Written by Emma Frost (The White Queen), the three-part show of hour-long episodes is planned for the broadcaster’s flagship channel BBC One. Billed as a gothic romance set in 1820, it follows a young woman as she becomes entangled in the world of crime.
The BBC also provided some insight into the planned celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the Doctor Who franchise this year. Fans will be able to enjoy the show in 3D, Stephenson said.
The show will use some of the BBC’s HD capacity. Steven Moffat, lead writer and executive producer, said: “It’s about time. Technology has finally caught up with Doctor Who, and your television is now bigger on the inside. A whole new dimension of adventure for the Doctor to explore.”
Here is a look at other new BBC drama commissions:
8 hour-long episodes
Written by Jack Williams and Harry Williams, made by New Pictures and Company Pictures in association with Two Brothers Pictures for BBC One.? When his son is snatched on holiday in France, Tony’s exhaustive search fractures his marriage and destroys his life. Exploring the emotional cost of hope and finding when to let go, this relationship thriller shows the impact of a child’s abduction.
8 hour-long episodes
Written by Tony Saint (Margaret Thatcher: Long Walk to Finchley) and made by BBC Drama Productions for BBC One.
A high-octane series about a top-secret, state-of-the-art law enforcement team whose unswerving mission is to hunt down some of Britain’s most dangerous and ruthless criminals. The executive producer is Sarah Brown (Oliver Twist).
3 hour-long episodes
Written by Gwyneth Hughes (Five Days, The Girl) and made by Mammoth Screen for BBC One.
A mystery about an old man who leaves his own home to move into residential care, but becomes the sole witness to a violent death. His teenaged care-assistant tries to unravel the riddle of his strange and secretive life and is drawn into an eerie and dangerous world of lost love and betrayal.
David Hare Series
David Hare returns to BBC Two with the second and third parts of a trilogy. In 2011, Hare wrote and directed Page Eight, the first film in an intended trilogy about the British domestic security service, M15. After the death of the head of the organization, Johnny Worricker, an intelligence officer, is aware of a plot to hand control of the organization directly over to the Prime Minister, Alec Beasley. The Emmy-winning film was seen on BBC Two and PBS and starred Bill Nighy, Rachel Weisz, Ralph Fiennes, Judy Davis and Michael Gambon.
Executive producers are Gareth Neame (Downton Abbey) for Carnival Films, David Heyman for Heyday Films (Harry Potter series), David Barron for Runaway Fridge Films (Harry Potter series) and Christine Langan for the BBC.
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