“Fearless and deliberate”, Channel 4’s sobering new drama shines a light on one of the most tragic disasters in recent history
The Accident, Thursday 24 October, 9pm, Channel 4/HD (CH 104/141). Also available for 7 days in Catch Up > Channels > All 4
Screenwriter Jack Thorne is at the top of his game. The Accident, the third and final entry in his trilogy of series for Channel 4, following 2017’s National Treasure and 2018’s Kiri, sees him once again exploring a number of pressing political issues that, as he points out, seem to have been forgotten in “our noisy culture”.
The action takes place in a “forgotten” Welsh town, where a glittering new building intended to help revitalise the area suddenly collapses. When it transpires that people were inside the building at the time, the families of the victims mount a campaign to hold someone to account, no matter the cost. What follows is a deep, multilayered exploration of the far-reaching consequences of their quest for justice.
The idea, Thorne says, stemmed from offers he received to write a drama about the then all-too-recent Grenfell Tower fire. “I didn’t feel the facts were in place to look at it properly without hurting an awful lot of people. I just didn’t feel capable of it.” Instead, he decided to tell a story that “wasn’t looking at Grenfell directly”, but which could help to “do a bit of light-shining”.
In that respect, The Accident definitely succeeds. Happy Valley’s Sarah Lancashire stars as Polly, the mother of one of the victims, and the wife of the councillor behind the building’s construction. Thorne wrote the role for Lancashire, who comments that it was an easy “yes” when the offer came through.
“Jack does this thing where he takes a huge story and makes it tiny. Then he distils it further until it is examined, forensically, through the eyes of those who are most affected. It’s extraordinary,” says Lancashire. The role pushed her to her limits; her character careening from emotion to emotion as the events play out.
Most, if not all, of these emotions are directed at Harriet (Sidse Babett Knudsen, Westworld), the public face of the company that many feel is responsible for the building’s collapse. Though it would be easy to depict her as an unlikeable character, Thorne peels back the layers to allow viewers to see the disaster from her perspective. “I thought it was so generous of Jack to also want to explore that,” Knudsen adds.
Aside from the disaster, the series also sheds light on another issue close to Thorne’s heart – how “every industry is being taken away” in Welsh valley towns like the one his father grew up in. Disability is also explored through the effect of the accident on a particular character, something Thorne made an effort to represent authentically.
“Genevieve Barr [a deaf actor who plays the wife of one of the victims] is the most extraordinary actor. Providing a little bit of space for her to be extraordinary was really important to me in this show,” Thorne explains, adding that “how we include those that we exclude” is always at the forefront of his mind.
The Accident isn’t the easiest of watches, but its story is riveting and feels vital and timely, especially when you consider how it resonates with similar, real-life tragedies.
When is The Accident on TV?
You can watch episode 1 of The Accident on Thursday 24 October, 9pm on Channel 4/HD (CH 104/141). There are four episodes in total.
TV channels: Channels, content and features available depend on your chosen package. Channel line-ups and content are subject to change at any time and to regional variations.
HD: HD TV set, V HD Box, TiVo box or Virgin TV V6 connected with HDMI cables required for HD channels. Number of inclusive HD channels depends on package.
Catch Up TV: Catch Up TV content available for up to 7 days or up to 30 days after broadcast, depending on content.
Interviews: Any opinions expressed in interviews are those of the interview subject and not those of Virgin Media.