BBC orders Arctic expedition drama ‘The North Water’ set in 1850s

An adaptation of Ian McGuire’s The North Water has been ordered by the BBC.

Writer and director Andrew Haigh (45 Years, Weekend) will adapt and direct the critically acclaimed novel, which was published in 2016 and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and named A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice.

Described as a “gripping and original story of murder, mystery and survival”, the five 60-minute episodes will begin filming for BBC Two next summer.

The official synopsis reads: “Set in Hull and the ice floes of the Arctic in the late 1850s, The North Water tells the story of Patrick Sumner, a disgraced ex-army surgeon who signs up as ship’s doctor on a whaling expedition to the Arctic.

“On board he meets Henry Drax, the harpooner, a brutish killer whose amorality has been shaped to fit the harshness of his world. Hoping to escape the horrors of his past, Sumner finds himself on an ill-fated journey with a murderous psychopath. In search of redemption, his story becomes a harsh struggle for survival in the Arctic wasteland.”

Director and writer Andrew Haigh commented: “The novel by Ian McGuire is a darkly brilliant piece of work, propelled by a vision of the world that is both beautiful and brutal. It feels bracingly modern and is piercingly perceptive about the nature of what drives us all. I feel incredibly lucky to be given the chance to bring this story to the screen and very privileged to be doing so with the BBC.”

Piers Wenger, Controller of BBC Drama, added: “The Arctic wastelands are the perfect backdrop against which to tell the unflinching story of a doomed whaling mission. The drama which unfolds between the survivors of The Volunteer, as they find themselves pitted against each other, has clear resonance for our times. Drama on BBC Two is all about powerful stories in extraordinary worlds – and we are thrilled to be working with a writer director of Andrew Haigh’s huge class and calibre to bring this story to life.”

Ian McGuire’s novel The North Water is available on Amazon.