Dirty War
BBC Films Production, in association BBC Current Affairs and HBO Films 2004
Dirty War
TX : 26th September 2004
Director : Daniel Percival
Script : Daniel Percival and Lizze Mickery

Cast : Bomb incident officer 2 (Gavin Abbot); Control officer (Joanne Adams); Falzah (Shamshad Akhtar); RSM officer (Dean Ashton); Razia (Kameal Hisha Bisnauthsingh); DC Vicky Loman (Louise Breckon Richards); Press Officer (Keir Charles); Control Officer 2 (Josh Cole); TV Reporter, Liz Street (Zoe Conway); Female doctor (Joanna Croll); Radiation expert (Craig Crosbie); Mohammed Ibn Harrara (Fuman Dar); Lead TSG officer (Tony Dolan); Fireman (Greg Donaldson); Fatima (Houda Echouafni); Reconnaissance man (Essam Edriss); Chief paramedic 2 (Tim Faraday); Cordon police officer (Brendan Fleming); Bomb incident room officer (Sartai Garewal); Usman Selcuk (George Georgiou); British truck driver (Dennis Gilmore); Camera operator (Darren Hawkes); Jen, female fire officer (Rachel Hayden); Anchor, News 24 (Philip Hayton); Murray, fire officer 3 (Darren Higham); Lambert (David Horovitch); Chief paramedic 1 (Robert Horwell); Imran Nazir (Amar Hussein); Yousef Ghamidi (Hosh Kane); NRPB specialist (Willam Key); DC Phillips (Paul Maddaford); Fire commander (Guy Masterson); TV reporter, hospital (John McIntyre); Science officer (Liam McKenna); Surveillance officer 2 (Susie McKenna); Asian landlord (Jeff Mirza); Entry controller (Liam Noble); Fire marshall (James Puddephatt); Steve, hyperventilating fireman (Sam Redford); Barber Asharaf (Narinder Samra); Control officer 3 (Marc Small); Lane (Jonty Stephens); D.I. Brook (Joe Tucker); Chairman (John Vine); Police officer, Bomb St (Morgan Walters).

Synopsis : A powerful drama that tells the gripping story of what happens when a radioactive dirty bomb is detonated in central London. Told through the eyes of the police and fire service, the story is based on extensive research and asks the question: "how prepared are we?".

Notes :
Fuman Dar also appeared in terrorist drama The Grid in 2004. Jonty Stephens plated DC Field in Season 9 of Minder.

Dorian Healy was a regular in Soldier Soldier. David Horovitch was regularly seen as Miss Marple's police nemesis, DI Slack in the 1980's Joan Hickson-starring BBC series.

Co-writer Lizzie Mickery has written a number of television drama series, including The Bill, Messiah and Inspector Lynley Mysteries. As well as this, she is also an actress, with her most famous role being that of Maggie Thorpe in Tenko.

Publicity : The production was granted considerable press coverage and publicity, some of which is shown below.

Terrorvision (Radio Times article by Gary Jenkins)

To bring the horror of a terrorist strike to life, the production team of BBC1's shocking drama Dirty War created London's own version of Ground Zero. This is how, in one week, they transformed a run-down corner of south London into the epicentre of an explosion that devastates the surroundings and releases toxic gases into the city…

Monday: Inside a disused, Georgian building in south-east London, half a dozen carpenters are hard at work replacing the windows with alternative frames, already smashed and prepared to look as if they've been hit by an explosion. Later they'll fix six of the windows with fire boxes, specially constructed casings that will allow smoke and flames to be fired out of the window during filming but will keep the listed building safe. "This is going to be a big scene, with lots of effects," explains art director Richard Bullock. "We have to be very careful we don't burn the place down. Safety is the number one priority in the next week".

Tuesday: Set dressers strip out all the greenery at the front of the building and begin covering the ground with a layer of concrete dust. Hours later the first of four loads of rubble are delivered. The rubble has been specially chosen to match the type of building in the real-life city of London. "There are companies that specialise in this stuff," explains production designer Will Hughes-Jones. "You can basically rent a bomb site". By the end of the week, around 200 tons of rubble has been spread across the area."

Wednesday: Wrecked cars and a battered London taxi arrive. With their tanks emptied of any traces of petrol, the vehicles are hauled into place by a crane and a JCB. Later a double-decker bus arrives and is wedged tight against the front of the building. The vehicles are scorched to look as if they've been in a bomb blast.

Thursday: Special effects supervisor Tony Auger and his team begin threading the interior of the building with a network of copper pipes, connected to a dozen tanks of propane gas at one end and a series of burners, set inside the fire-proofed window boxes, at the other. Additional burners are fixed in place under the cars outside. "This way we'll be able to control the flames, making them more or less intense as the director needs," explains Auger.

Friday: The bomb site is given a final "dressing" as two blown-out telephone boxes, four sets of traffic lights and assorted mangled street lamps are placed in the middle of the scene. As a final touch, Hughes-Jones dots the rubble with computer monitors and keyboards, plants and strips of clothing. "I've looked at a lot of bomb footage in cities and you notice the streets are filled with unexpected things," he explains. "This would be blown out from surrounding offices by the blast".

Saturday: Director Dan Percival and his crew signal for the smoke and wind machines to be switched on. Auger and his effects team light the gas burners in the windows and the vehicles outside. Real firemen watch on in case of an accident. As the flames lap the morning sky and the actors emerge onto the smoke-drenched set dressed in the orange protective suits of the emergency services, the scene resembles Armageddon. Hughes-Jones, Auger and Bullock look on, pleased that their work here is over - almost. "Monday morning we start putting the place back the way it was," says Bullock.

The Making of Dirty War is located at:

Portrayed By
Paul Hardwick
Paul Antony Barber
Louise Delamare
Abu Abassi
William El-Gardi
Alastair Galbraith
Dorian Healy
Rashid Dar
Raza Jaffrey
Koel Purie
DS Mike Drummer
Martin Savage
Nicola Painswick
Helen Schlesinger
Ewan Stewart
Duty Sergeant
Deka Walmsley

Dirty War was yet another of the shows concerning terrorist activity that sprang up around the time of the third anniversary of the attacks of 11 September 2001, and was two years in the making - delayed apparently due to UK government nervousness. Writer-director Daniel Percival had earlier written the similarly-themed Smallpox 2000: Silent Weapon and this time turned his hand to the theme of a Dirty Bomb being exploded by terrorists in the heart of London. As with the earlier drama, The Grid, Dirty War deals with Islamists setting up a covert operation in the heart of the UK and planning to wreak havoc on the city.

We witness the villains as they prepare for the attack, as they carry out the attack, and the subsequent reaction of the government and emergency services. The drama seeks to highlight how woefully inadequate the present security and emergency planning services currently are, and the authorities are shown as unable to fully cope with the aftermath of the bomb explosion. Similar in tone to the dramas The War Game and Threads, Dirty War aimed to have a comparable effect on the public consciousness in the age of the terrorist as those productions did in the Cold War era. However, despite being very well-made and having had the co-operation of experts involved in the production, it fails to match the sheer terror and bleak devastation that Threads presented the viewer with.

A question and answer session presented by Fiona Bruce followed the programme in which member of the public were invited to pose questions to the people involved in the making of the drama, as well as a panel of experts on the subject.

Dirty War was broadcast on Sunday, 26 September, 2004 at 2100 BST on BBC One, and was followed by a live question and answer programme at 10.20pm. The production is not currently available in any commercial format.

Text © Chris Orton, 2005.

The production was written by Daniel Percival and Lizze Mickery and directed Daniel Percival. Executive Producers: David Thompson, Liza Marshall, Paul Woolwich.