The young man glances across the table. Behind designer glasses, his gaze is penetrating, analytical. “If I told you that,” he says, quietly, “I’d have to kill you.” A chilling moment, but this is not a line from The State Within, the BBC’s all-crashing, all-exploding new conspiracy thriller. It’s a different kind of “ line” from Daniel Percival, who co-wrote the show with Lizzie Mickery. His annoying phrase is a national cliché, particularly among TV folk desperate not to give too much away too soon.More from Paul Hoggart in The Times. The State Within is on BBC One this Thursday at 9pm.
Percival is referring to the new show’s plot. And the issues it raises. And its themes and preoccupations. The effect isn’t so much chilling as frustrating. When I meet the writers in a Soho café, I haven’t even seen episode one. Getting them to explain what it’s about is like trying to suck juice out of a cream cracker. “It’s set in the British Embassy in Washington, so is it a political thriller like State of Play?” “No.” “A spy thriller — is it a bit like Spooks?” “Not at all.”
Jason Isaacs in The State Within, written by Daniel Percival and Lizzie Mickery. (Photo: BBC/Ben Mark Holzberg)