Popular policing drama set for return

The highly acclaimed Line Of Duty is back on our TV screens on Sunday March 21st, 2021, the BBC has confirmed. Particularly popular in this quarter, as much of the content elsewhere on this website features policing issues and officer misconduct, writes Neil Wilby.

For two years, devoted fans have been keenly anticipating the sixth instalment of the highly acclaimed police drama, based around an anti-corruption unit codenamed AC-12, and racking brains as to whom, or what, the enigmatic ‘H’ could be. A very corrupt and influential senior officer (or policing official) as yet to be unmasked or a Morse Code signal (H = dot dot dot dot) that indicates there were four corrupt officers in league together.

In the last series, an attempt to frame Superintendent Ted Hastings as ‘H’ failed, as a result of the efforts of his resourceful subordinates, who thwarted AC-3’s Detective Chief Superintendent Patricia Carmichael – and a conspiracy to murder charge.

There were also dark references to Masonic influence earlier in the piece.

Series five, the most edgy yet, and featuring undercover officers inserted into a serious and organised crime group, aired between March and May 2019, left viewers on that particular cliff edge – and reeling as it was revealed these corrupt officers at or near the top of the hierarchy: Gill Biggeloe (senior aide to the police and crime commissioner), Assistant Chief Constable Derek Hilton and AC-12’s own DI Matthew ‘Dot’ Cottan, with the final member, or members, remaining at large.

Filming for series six began in Belfast in February last year. However, the virus epidemic halted shooting in its fourth week, a fortnight before the UK went into lockdown. Some of the cast and crew had been experiencing COVID19 symptoms.

There were rumours at the time that the schedule may be completely overhauled as a result, but it was later confirmed that the cast returned to Belfast to continue filming in October 2020 with rigorous safety measures in Place. Including the building of a complete new, better ventilated set for the AC-12 interview room, where a good deal of action takes place.

Regular stars Vicky McClure (Detective Inspector Kate Fleming), Adrian Dunbar (Hastings) and Martin Compston (Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott) all return, whilst the show also sees Shalom Brune-Franklin play a new recruit to the AC-12 team, Detective Constable Chloe Bishop.

Kelly Macdonald (best known as Trainspotting star, Diane Coulston) makes her debut as guest lead: Detective Chief Inspector Joanne Davidson, the senior investigating officer on an unsolved murder case whose suspicious conduct attracts the attention of anti-corruption officers. Kelly also appeared in a supporting role in one of my all-time favourite films, Gosford Park.

Also set to appear for the first time is Andi Osho who will take the part of Gail Vella, a name that may ring a bell amongst Line of Duty aficionados: In the trailer for series six publicising this season’s extra episode (watch here), Steve Arnott tells the boss: “Regardless of the personnel involved, Vella’s still the highest-profile inquiry engaging this force.”

It is hoped the brilliant, deadpan Anna Maxwell Martin will return as DCS Carmichael. She made her debut in the fifth season of Line of Duty as she stepped in to shake things up at AC-12, getting under Ted Hastings’ skin in very short order.

As fans continue to speculate over the identity of the remaining ‘bad apple’, some have even put Patricia Carmichael onto their suspect list. But in truth, everyone is now under scrutiny following Steve Arnott’s morse code discovery at the end of the last series when reviewing Dot Cottan’s dying declaration.

One superintendent definitely re-appearing is Ian Buckells (played by Nigel Boyle), a Line of Duty veteran from series one. He has an adversarial history with AC-12, and with Kate Fleming in particular, having rumbled her undercover identity in series four.

Polly Walker and Maya Sondhi will be missed as Gill Biggelow and PC Maneet Bindra. Two fine actresses who contributed significantly in the previous series. But the outstanding actress, or actor, across the history of the programme will not be appearing again: Keeley Hawes who played Detective Inspector Lindsay Denton in series two and three.

Line Of Duty returns in the prime 9pm to 10pm slot on BBC One. It will air weekly at the same time. The series features seven episodes, making it the longest to date. The extended break did, in the event, create an unexpected bonus, as it allowed series creator Jed Mercurio to write and produce the extra programme.

Who else can’t wait?

Page last updated on Saturday 20th March, 2021 at 1035hrs

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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