There’s a moment in ITV’s new high octane thriller Trigger Point that a bomb disposal expert tries to comfort a kidnap victim wearing a high explosive vest that everything is going to be alright.
Such is the sheer intensity of the drama’s gripping opening episode that viewers might find themselves in need of similar reassurance.
Vicky McClure and Adrian Lester star as members of the Metropolitan Police’s elite bomb disposal squad in the six-part drama made by Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio’s HTM Television.
Called out to a counterterrorism operation at a London housing estate to investigate a suspected bomb factory, the drama ratchets up the tension to such a degree that you stop assuming anything is safe until proved otherwise. Even a toy nodding dog begins to look suspicious.
And like any Jed Mercurio production, it’s best to expect the unexpected.
‘You definitely have that feeling that something bad could happen to somebody at some point,’ says Lester, who plays explosives officer Joel Nutkins.
‘You have to truly believe in the threat your main characters are facing and one of the fun things is that people don’t know what’s going to happen next.’
From an opening episode that takes place almost entirely on a single housing estate, it then opens up to focus on a broader mystery and even deadlier terrorist threat in a drama that feels ready made for a weekly, appointment to view.
‘It’s really about serving the audience,’ says Mercurio, who is executive producer on Trigger Point. ‘There is still a big section of the audience who love the experience of appointment to view TV.
‘If something becomes a talking point and people have lots of theories about what’s going to happen next and who’s behind some kind of mystery - elements that we do have in Trigger Point - then it all adds to the shared experience of television viewing.’
First-time writer Daniel Brierley first had the idea for the drama when he was up late at night watching videos on YouTube.
‘I’ve got two very small children and so I’m up in the middle of the night all the time and I ended up watching this really amazing documentary called The Long Walk, about the bomb squad in 1970s Northern Ireland,’ says Brierley.
‘It focuses on the people who do this job and kind of walk towards danger. I thought that was a really interesting jumping off point for drama, to look at the psychology of people heading towards danger rather than away from it like we all would.’
Brierley was being mentored by Mercurio as part of an industry scheme to develop new writing talent and the idea gained further momentum when Mercurio put him in touch with a bomb disposal advisor who had worked on another of his acclaimed dramas, Bodyguard.
‘I pointed [Daniel] in the direction of people who could give him advice on what it’s like to be an explosives officer in the present day and he really embraced the idea of making the series as authentic as possible,’ says Mercurio.
‘I’s odd there haven’t been more dramas focused on this particular area of policing because as you can imagine it’s absolutely fraught with all kinds of hazards.
‘Putting your heroes in such harms way relentlessly is an incredibly powerful vehicle for putting the audience on the edge of their seats.’
Brierley had written the role of Lana Washington with McClure in mind, and of course the star had already worked with Mercurio on six series of Line of Duty.
‘The subject matter was definitely the first appeal,’ says McClure. ‘It was something I knew very little about and could only imagine would bring a lot of drama.
‘It felt very different, like something I’ve not read before, and there is so much to play with - the fear and the fact they sometimes don’t have that fear. I remember Jed bringing it up and once I read the scripts it wasn’t even a second thought.’
Commissioned for ITV by head of drama Polly Hill, who oversaw production from the channel’s perspective, the production was slated for 2020 but had to be put back a year because of the pandemic.
Producer Julia Stannard says: ‘Big explosions and a bombing campaign on a capital city is more normally the territory of feature films so delivering on the scale and ambition of the piece but with a TV budget was challenging.
‘To come back to it in a post pandemic world where there was so much competition for locations, crew and equipment very much intensified the challenge but we had a great crew and a fantastic cast, there was a real spirit of camaraderie throughout.’
Only one question remains - will the show trigger a second series? ‘If this series goes down well with the audience we would love to do more,’ says Mercurio.
’It’s set up to be a returner, and we know how much audiences love thrillers - they are a big part of people’s TV experience now. Having another series of Trigger Point in the future would be great if we are lucky enough to get to that point.’
Trigger Point is an HTM Television production for ITV and will begin on 9pm on Sunday 23 January