GenrePolice procedural
Created byTom Edge
Music by
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series1
No. of episodes6
Executive producers
  • Gaynor Holmes
  • Tom Edge
  • Jake Lushington
  • James Strong
  • Simon Heath
ProducerAngie Daniell
Production companyWorld Productions
Original network
Picture format2:1 1080p
Audio formatStereo
Original release29 August 2021 (2021-08-29) –
present (present)

Vigil is a British police procedural television serial created by Tom Edge and produced by World Productions. The six-part series aired on BBC One in August 2021.[1][2] It stars Suranne Jones, Rose Leslie, Shaun Evans, Paterson Joseph, and Martin Compston.[2] The series is set in Scotland and much of the action takes place on a fictional ballistic missile submarine of the Royal Navy.

The series received generally positive reviews from critics, with praise for the writing, pace, acting, visual style, set design, tone, and atmosphere, but it was criticised for the dialogue, plot, and inaccuracies. In March 2022, the series was renewed for a second series.[3]


Detective Chief Inspector Amy Silva of the Scottish Police Service is sent to HMS Vigil, a nuclear-powered Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarine, to investigate a death on board, which takes place shortly after the mysterious disappearance of a Scottish fishing trawler. Her investigations, and those of her colleagues ashore, bring the police into conflict with the Royal Navy and MI5, the British Security Service.

The loss of the fictional trawler Mhairi Finnea in the series bears similarities to the sinking of the FV Antares by Royal Navy nuclear-powered submarine HMS Trenchant in the Firth of Clyde in 1990. Families of the Antares' crew expressed upset at scenes of the Mhairi Finnea foundering; however, the BBC denied that the drama was inspired by or based on a specific real-life event.[4][5]



In a 2021 interview, writer Edge was approached by development producer George Aza-Selinger to develop a submarine project for television. It was inspired by the UK's Continuous At-Sea Deterrent (CASD) and the life of its submarine crews.[6] The show was filmed and primarily set in Scotland. Production designer Tom Sayer created elaborate studio sets to represent the interior of the submarine.[7]


The programme's theme music is the song "Fuel to Fire" from the 2013 album Aventine by Danish singer, songwriter and musician Agnes Obel.[8] Other music included in the series is composed by Afterhere (Berenice Scott and Glenn Gregory).[9] Episode 4 includes the song "Anchor" by Welsh singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Novo Amor, released as a single in 2015 and included on his 2017 EP Bathing Beach.[10]


No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date [11]UK viewers (millions)
7 day [12]
UK viewers (millions)
28 day [12]
1"Episode 1"[13]James StrongTom Edge29 August 2021 (2021-08-29)9.9612.75[a]
Chief Petty Officer Craig Burke, a member of the crew of a ballistic missile nuclear submarine HMS Vigil, reports his concerns over unusual sonar readings while on patrol. Confined to quarters following insubordination, he is later found dead in an apparent drug overdose. The Scottish police are asked to investigate and DCI Amy Silva and a man called Doward, Burke's replacement on the crew, are airlifted to Vigil's classified location. Unable to contact her colleagues by radio due to the sensitive nature of the patrol mission, she suspects the sailor was murdered, but the captain and other officers disagree. On land, Silva's DS and former lover, Kirsten Longacre, has begun a parallel investigation into Burke's movements and his acquaintances. She finds a clue during a search of Burke's room which she keeps hidden from the Royal Navy. Vigil loses power suddenly when the reactor SCRAMs and the boat lurches in an uncontrollable dive.
2"Episode 2"[14]James StrongTom Edge30 August 2021 (2021-08-30)8.8011.81
The crew rush to restart the reactor and restore power. DCI Silva finds evidence to support her murder theory, but encounters resentment from most of the crew, apart from the coxswain Elliot Glover, in whom she confides the reason for her claustrophobia and fear of being underwater. Silva is also haunted by memories about the death of her fiancé during a car accident and having to make the difficult choice to save their daughter Poppy. After locking her in her cabin, Lieutenant Commander Mark Prentice, the Executive Officer, admits to striking Burke and concealing this when Burke was found dead in his bunk. Silva doubts the blow was fatal and thinks Burke may have been poisoned. DS Longacre is attacked when she arrives home to find two burglars ransacking her house. She makes contact with a young anti-nuclear weapons activist, Jade, who had been dating Burke and agrees to talk to her. On arriving at the rendezvous, she discovers that Jade has drowned.
3"Episode 3"[15]James StrongEd Macdonald5 September 2021 (2021-09-05)9.4312.48
The police find that Burke held compromising material on the crew following a mission to Florida where two US contractors died; his findings include a compromising photo of medical officer Doherty with an unknown tattooed man. On land, the news of Burke’s death is leaked to the media. Longacre learns that Jade was the daughter of Scottish MP Patrick Cruden, who also reveals that Burke shared incriminating information through Jade. The missing fishing trawler is revealed to have been dragged down by an American submarine, raising questions as to why it was in British waters. The Navy believe that the Americans were still uneasy following the Florida incident. On board the Vigil, CPO Gary Walsh gets drunk, steals a gun and attempts suicide, but is stopped by Silva and Glover. Longacre is tracked down by MI5 officers and questioned about her investigation. Silva identifies Glover as the tattooed man.
4"Episode 4"[16][17][18]Isabelle SiebChandni Lakhani12 September 2021 (2021-09-12)9.2811.88
MI5 reveal to the police that the suspected murderer of Jade was a Russian GRU spy with diplomatic immunity. The police, MI5 and the navy present their findings to the Secretary of State for Defence, and speculate that there may be a Russian spy on board the Vigil. Shaw reluctantly makes the decision to recall the submarine, but there is no response because Vigil's communications are down as a result of sabotage. On Vigil, suspicion falls on the chief cook, Jackie Hamilton, whose son was imprisoned in Indonesia on drug charges, which have suddenly been dropped. Hamilton is later found dead by Silva and Silva is attacked by an unknown assailant wearing a mask.
5"Episode 5"[19][20][21]Isabelle SiebTom Edge19 September 2021 (2021-09-19)9.7812.07
The masked man turns out to be Glover, who is trying to save Silva from a nerve agent which he thinks killed Jackie Hamilton and which continues to be present in a key part of the submarine. Silva and Longacre's past relationship continues to be told in flashbacks. Longacre visits Silva's deceased boyfriend's daughter Poppy and her grandparents. Working with MI5, Longacre and DS Porter continue their investigation into Russian espionage. Ben Oakley from the peace camp is revealed to have been abetting the Russians; posing as a whistleblower on Britain's nuclear activities, he persuades Patrick Cruden, the Scottish MP and Jade Antoniak's natural father, to arrange political asylum for him at a foreign embassy. Longacre identifies Doward, the sonar operator who replaced Burke, as a probable Russian agent. Glover and Silva don protective gear in a dangerous assignment to examine Jackie Hamilton's body and the surrounding sealed-off area to investigate her death and make the area safe from further contamination. When Silva returns, she is overpowered by Doward, who traps her in one of the torpedo tubes and starts to fill it with seawater.
6"Episode 6"[22]Isabelle SiebTom Edge26 September 2021 (2021-09-26)10.6312.08
Prentice rescues Silva from the torpedo compartment but is murdered by Doward, who also sabotages the submarine’s valves so that it begins to take in water. Walsh and other maintenance personnel manage to stop the leak and get communications back on, and Captain Newsome receives orders from the Admiralty and the information about Doward. Silva is taken hostage by Doward in an effort to force Newsome to resurface and contact a Russian vessel. Newsome has the submarine tilt rapidly upward, throwing Doward off balance; he is overpowered by other crew members and is arrested by Silva. Longacre and her team arrest Oakley outside the Chinese consulate, and he confesses that he was an accessory to Jade's murder. Silva returns to dry land and rekindles her relationship with Longacre, and they visit Poppy. Doward is interviewed by MI5, and reveals to them that the plan was meant to discredit Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent, at a time when Parliament was to vote on whether to retain Trident. Shaw persuades Cruden to go along with the official story that the sinking of the fishing trawler was caused by a Russian submarine.
  1. ^ In an October 2021 press release, the BBC claimed 13.8 million viewers for Episode 1, citing BARB 28 day consolidated data as the source. BARB 28 day consolidated data is not directly available to the public.[23]



Episode 1 attracted an audience of 10.2 million viewers across its first seven days, making Vigil the BBC's most watched new drama of the year.[24]


The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the series a 85% approval rating, with an average rating of 6.6/10, based on 20 reviews. The critical consensus reads, "Vigil is ludicrous just as often as it is suspenseful, but a committed cast and pulpy pace make it worth diving in”.[25] On Metacritic, the series has a weighted average score of 83 out of 100 based on 5 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim”.[26]

Lucy Mangan of The Guardian found the first episode intriguing, awarding it five stars and describing it as "solid, old-fashioned entertainment".[27] The Independent gave the first episode four out of five stars, praising the cast and Tom Edge's writing.[28] In a four-starred review for London's Evening Standard, Katie Rosseinsky said: "Even scenes set in the depths of the sub are visually striking, lit up in reds and blues. Add in some jump scares, a handful of near-catastrophes and a couple of cliffhangers and you have all the makings of a taut mystery with intriguingly murky depths. Sunday nights are stressful again – I wouldn’t have it any other way."[29] In a five-starred review, Empire magazine described Vigil as "[a] relentless conspiracy drama bursting with performers who know how to keep their cards close to their chests. British TV doesn’t get more thrilling than this."[30] Hugo Rifkind in The Times described "[s]etting a whodunnit on a submarine" as "a masterstroke".[31] Giving the programme four stars, Suzy Feay of the Financial Times said that "The submarine setting has the welcome effect of pressure-cooking some fairly standard ingredients into a tasty concoction".[32]

Other reviewers were less complimentary, citing the unrealistic sets and other technical inaccuracies, the implausibility of numerous elements of the plot, and the political bias of the production. James Delingpole in The Spectator described it as "amateurish and implausible", noting that among other issues, "the uniforms are wrong; the ceilings are too high and the sub generally far too spacious" and criticised "the hackneyed dialogue, the implausible plotting and the box-ticking".[33] Anita Singh in The Telegraph described the series as "so bad it could be Russian propaganda", and her colleague Ed Power noted that "the story was nonsense" and that "the premise was wasted".[34][35] The Telegraph also reported that the naval advisor working on the series was an SNP councillor and anti-nuclear campaigner, leading to accusations of bias.[36] Carol Midgley in The Times said that "this subpar ocean drama made my heart sink", and described it as "stultifying".[37]

Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet said the series was "effective" in the beginning but more and more became like an "unnecessary under-water version of Line of Duty".[38]


Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2022 GLAAD Media Awards Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series Vigil Nominated [39]
2022 British Academy Television Awards Drama Series Vigil Nominated [40]
2022 International Emmy Awards Best Drama Series Vigil Won

See also


  1. ^ "BBC One releases first trailer and new pictures for Vigil". BBC Media Centre (Press release). Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  2. ^ a b Hyland, Karen (2 May 2021). "What is Vigil on BBC One about? Who stars and when does thriller start?". Entertainment Daily. Archived from the original on 7 June 2021. Retrieved 3 May 2021.
  3. ^ "Four of the BBC's biggest dramas The Tourist, The Responder, Vigil and Time to return for a second series on BBC One and BBC iPlayer". Retrieved 22 March 2022.
  4. ^ Hannan, Martin (30 August 2021). "BBC's Vigil and the real-life story of the Scots trawler sunk by a submarine". The National. Glasgow. Retrieved 6 September 2021.
  5. ^ Freeman, Colin (6 September 2021). "The tragedies behind Vigil's trawler sinking: 'If we hadn't cut the nets we would have gone down'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 12 September 2021.
  6. ^ "Vigil - An Introduction from writer Tom Edge". BBC. 25 August 2021.
  7. ^ Cremona, Patrick. "Vigil filming locations". Radio Times. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
  8. ^ Cremona, Patrick (12 September 2021). "Who sings the Vigil theme song?". Radio Times. Retrieved 14 September 2021.
  9. ^ "Soundtrack Album for BBC's 'Vigil' Released". Film Music Reporter. 27 August 2021. Retrieved 14 September 2021.
  10. ^ "Vigil Soundtrack". Tunefind. 12 September 2021. Retrieved 14 September 2021.
  11. ^ "Ghosts – Episode guide". BBC One. Choose appropriate episode. Retrieved 2 May 2019.
  12. ^ a b "Four Screen Dashboard". BARB. See relevant channel and week(s). Retrieved 14 May 2019.
  13. ^ "Vigil Episode 1". BBC One. Retrieved 20 September 2021.
  14. ^ "Vigil Episode 2". BBC One. Retrieved 30 August 2021.
  15. ^ "Vigil Episode 3". BBC One. Retrieved 30 August 2021.
  16. ^ "Vigil Episode 4". BBC One. Retrieved 6 September 2021.
  17. ^ Cremona, Patrick (12 September 2021). "Vigil episode 4 review: More revelations and another death". Radio Times. Retrieved 20 September 2021.
  18. ^ Hogan, Michael (12 September 2021). "Vigil episode four recap – Silva and the crew are in deep water". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 September 2021.
  19. ^ "Vigil Episode 5". BBC One. Retrieved 12 September 2021.
  20. ^ Cremona, Patrick (19 September 2021). "Vigil episode 5 review: Penultimate episode leaves characters in mortal danger". Radio Times. Retrieved 20 September 2021.
  21. ^ Hogan, Michael (19 September 2021). "Vigil episode five recap – back to its best after being all at sea". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 September 2021.
  22. ^ "Vigil Episode 6". BBC One. Retrieved 15 September 2021.
  23. ^ "BBC's Vigil is the UK's most watched new drama in three years". BBC. 5 October 2021. Retrieved 19 June 2022.
  24. ^ Manning, Charlotte (6 September 2021). "Vigil becomes BBC's most watched new drama of 2021 as it fetches over 10m viewers". Metro. Retrieved 18 September 2021.
  25. ^ "Vigil". Rotten Tomatoes.
  26. ^ "Vigil". Metacritic.
  27. ^ Mangan, Lucy (29 August 2021). "Vigil review – Suranne Jones feels the pressure in sharp submarine thriller". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 September 2021.
  28. ^ Cumming, Ed (29 August 2021). "Vigil review: Line of Das Booty shows why everything should be set on a submarine". The Independent. Archived from the original on 17 August 2022. Retrieved 2 September 2021.
  29. ^ Rosseinsky, Katie (29 August 2021). "Vigil review: Sunday nights are stressful again thanks to this taut thriller with intriguingly murky depths". Evening Standard. Retrieved 18 September 2021.
  30. ^ Webb, Beth (17 September 2021). "Vigil Review". Empire. Retrieved 18 September 2021.
  31. ^ Rifkind, Hugo (5 September 2021). "Vigil review — setting a whodunnit on a submarine is a masterstroke". The Times. Retrieved 3 September 2021.
  32. ^ Feay, Suzy (27 August 2021). "Crisis looms in submarine drama Vigil on BBC One". Financial Times. Retrieved 19 September 2021.
  33. ^ Delingpole, James (18 August 2021). "Amateurish and implausible: BBC1's Vigil reviewed". The Spectator. Retrieved 29 September 2021.
  34. ^ Singh, Anita (27 August 2021). "Vigil, episode 6, review: a TV drama so bad it could be Russian propaganda". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 29 September 2021.
  35. ^ Power, Ed (27 August 2021). "Everything wrong with Vigil: sinking subplots, drippy villains and lifeless snogs". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 29 September 2021.
  36. ^ Sawyer, Patrick (18 August 2021). "BBC's Vigil naval adviser is an anti-nuclear campaigner and SNP councillor". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 29 September 2021.
  37. ^ Midgley, Carol (6 September 2021). "Vigil review — this subpar ocean drama made my heart sink". The Times. Retrieved 29 September 2021.
  38. ^ Fjellborg, Karolina (15 October 2021). "Effektiv men nonsensartad undervattensversion av "Line of duty"". Aftonbladet. Retrieved 3 December 2021.
  39. ^ "The Nominees for the 33rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards". GLAAD. 21 January 2022. Retrieved 22 January 2022.
  40. ^ "Television | Drama Series in 2022". BAFTA. 29 March 2022. Retrieved 13 June 2022.