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It’s time to resurrect ‘In The Flesh’

Dominic Mitchell’s criminally underrated BBC drama In The Flesh follows recovering zombie, Kieran Walker (Luke Newberry), through his second chance at life. Despite the supernatural premise, it manages to be an incredibly touching and grounded story about trauma, prejudice, extremism, family and, of course, death. It’s about so much more than that too, but I’m keeping the spoilers to myself for those that haven’t yet watched it. It’s an experience I just can’t bring myself to ruin, no matter how much more I have to say!

This article has been ruminating in my mind ever since I finished season two of In The Flesh, and I was horrified to discover that it had been cancelled. It’s only now, after the show’s creator Dominic Mitchell has embarked on another Twitter Q&A about his ‘fantasy’ season three, and lockdown has given me the gift of a complete re-watch, that I now sit listening to Keaton Henson and longing for a revival of one of my all-time favourite stories.

In The Flesh has been off the air for seven years now – but I’m still hungry for more. I’m not the only one. Fans have been lobbying the BBC to bring the show back, or for other networks like Amazon and Netflix to pick it up for a third season. They can be found on Twitter using the hashtags #saveintheflesh and #renewintheflesh to this day, and creator Dominic Mitchell (@DomMitchell) has made it incredibly clear that he too wants to finish the story. The foundations of In The Flesh’s return have clearly already been laid. As aforementioned, life in the fictional village of Roarton seems to remain at the forefront of the writer’s mind and he still has the drive to keep telling this incredible story, and that’s reason enough to fight for its continuation.

The story is so clever and well-written that it manages to deftly juggle lots of themes in a very honest, realistic way

But before I get too carried away feeling hopeful, let me tell you why you need In The Flesh in your life. First, the story is so clever and well-written that it manages to deftly juggle lots of themes in a very honest, realistic way. It leads you to explore some big philosophical, political and scientific questions along with confronting everyday struggles – and I would challenge anybody to walk away not feeling moved or enriched in some way. That’s not to say that it’s all doom, gloom, and depth either. There’s some romance, tense high-stakes conflicts, and just enough quintessentially British humour to keep you going through the heaviness.

To this day In The Flesh is one of the best presentations of LGBT people and problems that I’ve seen. The protagonist’s queer identity is just another part of who he is, but it adds another level to the minority outsider metaphor of the undead – there are parallels to be drawn between his life before and after death which aren’t being conspicuous or clumsy. If Kieran hadn’t been queer in some way, I’d have frankly been disappointed because it’s such an obvious move that gives the story even more value.

Conceptually, the zombie show evolved from something based heavily on the writer’s personal experience of depression, bisexuality and feeling like an outsider in his hometown – Mitchell himself said “I always saw Kieran as me” in an interview with The Independent

It would be a tragedy for a programme so entertaining, socially perceptive, and touching to be left dead in the ground forever – we need to get it back on our screens where it belongs! 

Such brilliant, BAFTA-winning writing is served well by the entire cast (yes, even including the characters I can’t stand). I didn’t once find the undead comical, the conflict unbelievable, or the plot superficial – a credit both to the writers and the cast. Even the antagonists are well-rounded with interesting backstories and motivations. That’s part of the draw of In The Flesh to me – the storytelling possibilities for this alternate universe seem endless, so it’s a tragedy to have only nine hours of it.

Finally, the beautifully haunting score from composer Edmund Butt and especially Keaton Henson would elevate emotional scenes in any programme, but it fits so perfectly with those in In The Flesh that it deserves a special mention too. 

You can still watch the existing seasons on iPlayer and, as I’ve made abundantly clear, I highly recommend it. But the story wasn’t quite given the resolution it deserved and there only appears to be one thing standing in its way: the funding and support of a network or broadcaster. Now, with BBC Three being set to return as a broadcast channel next year, it’s the perfect opportunity to revive In The Flesh like never before. It would be a tragedy for a programme so entertaining, socially perceptive, and touching to be left dead in the ground forever – we need to get it back on our screens where it belongs! 

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