The Salisbury Poisonings: Why BBC wouldn’t be able to air series revealed

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In 2018, the city of Salisbury was hit with an invisible killer after it was revealed deadly nerve agent Novichok had been used to target Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military officer and his daughter Yulia Skripal. Over the last two nights of The Salisbury Poisonings on BBC One, the writers quickly got to the heart of how lethal this poison was and how it engrained itself into the cracks of the city, closing it down. 


Viewers have watched as DS Nick Bailey (played by Rafe Spall) fought for his life after Tracy Daszkiewicz (Anne-Marie Duff) found out the deadly poison had been placed on the Skripal’s front door handle. 

DS Bailey touched the handle when entering the house to investigate and it leached into his skin. 

Just 38 hours later, DS Bailey was connected to a number of tubes and eventually wasn’t allowed to be seen by anyone who was not in a hazmat suit in case he spread the deadly nerve agent even further than he already had. 

DS Bailey and his family lost the family home they had spent years saving for and are still suffering to this day.


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The police officer wasn’t the only one affected, as the show also detailed how a first responder came into contact with Novichok which messed with his nerves too. 

This tragedy happened only two years ago and there were a lot complications when writing about it as a drama.

Declan Lawn and Adam Peterson, who are the writers of the show, spoke to press including about the lengths they had to go to in order to get this drama to air. 

Adam explained: “The Salisbury Poisonings, it’s partly a domestic drama, it’s partly a thriller and it’s partly a very questionable kind of virus horror, this kind of invisible enemy that can kill most people. 

“So it is about finding a way to harness all of those things to be able to tell a story that, you know, which I think all of us felt had the potential to be more than an accountant straightforward, docudrama.

“I suppose the other element to actors is just extraordinarily surreal.”

Declan added that it could only work if the key people involved agreed to the story being told for the BBC.

He noted: “What was interesting is, if any of the key real-life people hadn’t wanted to be involved, we probably would have stopped doing it. 

“But you know, it’s a process like putting a jigsaw puzzle together and the process of getting to know these people’s lives.”

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He continued: “We took a lot of time discussing where we would and wouldn’t shoot things.

“You know, the first point is that things needed to feel very real, very authentic, very truthful.”

Adam added: “The first thing I would say is that factual drama is not a game.

“I think we were more drawn to the stories of the people who had to clean up this mess rather than the people who made it.

“But I hope that what we’ve done is show that there are people out there that take the bullets for us, and they stand on the walls, and they’re a hidden network of people who keep this society together.”


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The series also shows the tragic death of Dawn Sturgess (Myanna Buring) who was the only victim who died from the attack. 

Her boyfriend unknowingly gifted her some perfume which turned out to be the source of the deadly nerve agent. She sprayed her body with the liquid and was quickly rushed to the hospital but sadly died.

Myanna, who played Dawn, explained: “I think it’s important to remind ourselves that Dawn did not die because of her lifestyle choices. 

“She was an innocent person who died because of a failed assassination attempt that was carried out in such a way that thousands of innocent lives were put at risk.”

Salisbury was declared decontaminated by The Ministry of Defence on March 1, 2019, with the clear up taking under a year to complete.  

The Salisbury Poisonings can be streamed on BBC iPlayer. 

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