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British Conspiracy Thriller

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A rather common genre of British Mini Series, which has its origins in the Cold War paranoia of the 1980s, but has recently come back into vogue with The War on Terror. These Thrillers, ranging from 3 to 6 parts of an hour each, usually involve someone (sometimes an Intrepid Reporter) investigating a conspiracy.

Expect appearances of the Security Service (MI-5), accusations of collusion between government and big business, people getting murdered, break-ins, hacking and sweeping shots of Whitehall.


  • Spyship (1983) A British fishing trawler disappears in the North Sea and accusations that British Government used it for spying against the Soviets are raised. A journalist whose father was on board searches for the truth.
  • Edge of Darkness (1985) is now considered one of the definitive examples of the genre. Hollywood remake released in 2010. A grieving father investigates the murder of his daughter and encounters shadowy forces within the British government.
  • A Very British Coup (1988) - An adaptation of the Chris Mullin novel of the same name from 1982; Mullin himself was a Labour MP between 1987 and his retirement in 2010. A very left-wing candidate is elected Prime Minister. Details his attempts to govern whilst the Security Services, the Americans and the establishment try to remove him. Based loosely on the events surrounding Harold Wilson's time in Downing Street in the late 1960s and mid 1970s. Remade with heavy changes as Secret State in 2012.
  • Rules of Engagement (1989) As NATO and the Warsaw Pact draw closer to war. A city commissioner of an island city (Totally not Portsmouth) in charge of civil defence commits a murder. A private-eye investigates. Shows how absolute civil defence powers could be used for good or bad.
  • Between The Lines (1992-4) - The first season was mainly about street-level crime, but the second and third seasons made a gradual Genre Shift into this.
  • Oliver's Travels (1995) - A laid-off professor and a policewoman who has been suspended for asking awkward questions travel to the Orkneys searching for a missing crossword compiler, and discovering a conspiracy in the process. Heavy on witty dialogue, light on violence. There is lots of intimidation though.
  • State of Play (2003) - with John Simm in. Hollywood remake released in 2009.
  • The Last Enemy (2008) - Benedict Cumberbatch, Max Beesley, and Robert Carlyle in a thriller that involves a virus and a government database that could store all government information on one place.
  • Midnight Man (2008) - James Nesbitt as a reporter with a fear of sunlight.
  • Burn Up (2008) - Rupert Penry-Jones as an oil executive who discovers an awful truth about global oil supplies.
  • Ashes to Ashes (2008) Series 1 Ep. 4 (2008) - A parody of the genre and especially of Edge of Darkness.
  • The State Within (2008) - Jason Isaacs stars as the British Ambassador to Washington, and is at ground zero when a terrorist attack takes place. It gets more complicated from there.
  • The Shadow Line (2011) - An investigation into the assassination of a crime lord who was just released from prison reveals shady machinations within the Police.
  • Utopia (2013) - Some members of a forum dedicated to a Cult Classic graphic novel become dragged into a plan to create a Sterility Plague.
  • Bodyguard (2018) - A police protection officer assigned to (and becoming personally involved with) the UK Home Secretary uncovers a web of violence, corruption an intrigue penetrating the highest levels of government.
  • Official Secrets (2019): Theatrical film rather than miniseries, dramatizing events from the lead-up to the Iraq War. A GCHQ translator leaks documentation of an American-British attempt to blackmail UN delegates.