Having made their much-debated move online, BBC Three are ready to prove that they have not compromised on quality with their first online first drama Thirteen.
Starring Jodie Comer, who most of you will recognise from Doctor Foster (yes, she’s the one who slapped Doctor Foster), this new unmissable five-part series tells the story of Ivy Moxham, who at the age of 13 was kidnapped and now at the age of 26, she has escaped.
Running to the nearest phone box, she dials 999 and her first words are “I’m Ivy Moxham, I was taken 13 years ago and I’ve just escaped. Please help me.” We learn that she was chained up in a cellar by a man she believes to be called Leonard.
But in the thirteen years since she was kidnapped, the world moved on and piecing back together the version of family life that existed before is no easy task.
Her family have stopped flying, they’ve stopped waiting by the phone, and her parents are no longer together and her younger sister Emma (Katherine Rose Morley) is now engaged, and doesn’t believe that Ivy is who she says she is.
After all, the year after Ivy went missing, there were two girls who came forward claiming to be her, but neither checked out so until Ivy completes a DNA, they can’t be sure. Ivy is the only one who knows her kidnapper, who understands him and who can help DI Carne (Richard Rankin) and DS Merchant (Valene Kane) snare him.
But as leads run cold, the kidnapper evades capture and the police begin to suspect Ivy is not telling them the whole truth. As she fights to retain her sanity, she begins to hear the whispers that surround her. The doubts beginning to form. The anomalies of her statement. The errors. The outright lies.
Then there’s Ivy's first love Tim (Aneurin Barnard), who has also moved on, he’s now married but the second he’s reunited with Ivy he regresses to his thirteen year-old self and the pair act like teenagers, sitting together on the bed, holding hands, not really knowing what to do.
I’ve only seen one episode (so far) so I don’t know how this story will unfold, or what Tim’s true intentions with Ivy are. But in many ways that’s the beauty of Thirteen. You don’t know what’s coming next, you can’t second guess it, and that’s a real credit to Marnie Dickens and her stunning script.
For her first original TV commission, young rising star Marnie Dickens has accomplished an outstanding script that really hooks you in from the very start and doesn’t let you go. Questions asked throughout the series include, what happened in that cellar? Where is her kidnapper? Can Ivy really be trusted?
What could have easily been an hour-long stand alone episode is instead a complex and compelling five-part series which explores how to pick up the threads of a life half-lived and how to survive as a family under the greatest pressure.
It’s a psychological drama about who to trust when you can't even trust yourself. Ivy Moxam is a young girl. Ivy Moxam is a woman. Ivy Moxam is whoever you want her to be.
There are two real stars to come out of Thirteen, Marnie Dickens and Jodie Comer. Marnie’s exceptional script and Jodie’s captivating performance really is a match made in TV heaven. If the gripping storylines created by Marnie won’t have you returning week in week out, I’m certain that Jodie’s effortless, enchanting and understated performance will.
I’ve always been in two minds about BBC Three’s move online, and it’s worth pointing out that Thirteen was commissioned with the original TV channel in mind, but if Thirteen sets a standard for BBC Three going forward, then that can only be a good thing as Thirteen sets a very high standard which can easily compete with drama on BBC One and Two.
Speaking of which, part of the terms of BBC Three moving online was that key programmes will be repeated at a later date on terrestrial TV, which means that Thirteen will reach a wider (and possibly larger) audience when it’s repeated on BBC2 Sunday nights at 10pm, starting 6th March.