The promotion for Channel 4’s Secret State makes much of it being “inspired by Chris Mullin’s novel A Very British Coup”.
This pitch tries to play on the enduring popularity of the 1980s book and its original TV adaptation.
But resemblances to its predecessors are fleeting. Gone is left wing Labour prime minister Harry Perkins, the original novel’s central character.
In his place is deputy prime minister Tom Dawkins, played by Gabriel Byrne, apparently aligned to no particular party.
The plot revolves around petrochemical firm Petrofex—a name straight out of the big book of cartoon villain companies.
An explosion at one of its plants devastates a Teesside town. The prime minister flies to the US to speak to the firm’s management, but his flight back mysteriously crashes—and it was a private Petrofex plane.
Dawkins isn’t keen to investigate. But he keeps having evidence of a conspiracy thrust in his face, mostly by investigative journalist Ellis Kane (Gina McKee).
This is just about competent spy drama, complete with slightly silly “tense” soundtrack and even some photos getting magically “enhanced”. The various plot twists and turns are telegraphed from a distance and aren’t interesting.
Unfortunately Secret State is ultimately a political thriller that isn’t particularly political, or particularly thrilling.
Secret State runs on Wednesdays, 10pm, on Channel 4