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The Salisbury Poisonings’ success on Netflix: ‘It’s an unexpected festive gift’ says NI scriptwriter Declan Lawn

BBC true drama featured in streaming giant’s top ten listing over Christmas holidays

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The Salisbury Poisonings has gained a 'second life' on Netflix.

The Salisbury Poisonings has gained a 'second life' on Netflix.

Declan Lawn

Declan Lawn

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The Salisbury Poisonings has gained a 'second life' on Netflix.

The Northern Ireland scriptwriter behind a hit BBC drama – which has gone on to become one of Netflix’s most popular shows - has described its latest success as an “unexpected Christmas present”.

Declan Lawn is co-creator of The Salisbury Poisonings, along Adam Patterson, which debuted on BBC1 last year and has been on iPlayer for more than 18 months.

The three-part series, starring Rafe Spall as DS Nick Bailey, who was critically injured while investigating the poisoning of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in 2018, recently became available on the US streaming giant.

It subsequently leaped into Netflix’s top ten listings, reaching number four in the week to Boxing Day.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, the former Panorama journalist said: “It’s been a bit of a surprise for all of us.

"It was an expected Christmas present. We hadn’t expected it to do so well on Netflix but it seems to have gained word of mouth on social media.

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"Obviously it’s not the most festive programme for people to watch over the holiday period but we’re really delighted.”

Declan explained that it appears the series has found a new, younger audience, based on the messages and feedback he has seen online.

"Some people watched it for the second time, then there seemed to be others who had never heard of it and we’re seeing it for the first time,” he added.

“I got the impression that a lot of younger people had been watching it.”

The Belfast scriptwriter said the news of the poisoning drama’s ‘second life’ had been shared on a WhatsApp group used by those involved in the making of the series.

“We haven’t used that group much in the last year but it was funny that we were back on, saying: ‘It’s number five, number four, it’s number two,” he revealed.

"What was nice about it was that The Salisbury Poisonings came out the first time at a particular point in the pandemic, and there was a theory that it resonated so much because of that, it was one of the reasons why it was popular.

"But it’s nice now to see that nearly two years later, people are still finding things to connect to, to like. It’s not just that it is a ‘pandemic story’, it’s also because it’s a human story, a true story.”

The Salisbury Poisonings, which features Anne-Marie Duff as Tracy Daszkiewicz, who helped lead Public Health England’s response to the attack. debuted on BBC1 last year with 11.2 million viewers, making it the channel’s third best-performing primetime drama since 2014.

It is not, however, the only older UK television show enjoying a new lease of life on the streaming platform. The first four series of ITV’s Downton Abbey have featured in Netflix’s top shows eight times since June, while the third series of Ackley Bridge, the Channel 4 classroom drama, first broadcast in 2019 is also popular.

The Serpent, the true-crime drama that debuted on BBC1 in January, also spent two weeks in Netflix’s best-performing programmes over the summer.


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