Every day this week, ITV crime drama Viewpoint is offering viewers a fascinating insight into the inner-workings of a surveillance team, as the unit watches a man suspected of being involved in his girlfriend’s disappearance.
Viewpoint stars Noel Clarke as the lead Martin Young, a former CID (criminal investigation department) officer who now works in surveillance and has been instructed by his old branch to watch a civilian called Greg Sullivan (Fehinti Balogun), whose partner Gemma Hillman (Amy Wren) has gone missing.
Martin and his colleague Stella Beckett (Bronagh Waugh) keep an eye on Greg from the flat located directly opposite his, which belongs to a shop worker called Zoe Sterling (Alexandra Roach), whose daughter Caitlin (Kíla Lord Cassidy) is a student of Gemma’s.
During a recent conversation with Metro.co.uk, co-creator and writer Ed Whitmore opened up about the inspiration behind Viewpoint and how surveillance teams operate in real life.
Is Viewpoint based on a true story?
Ed, who has written for TV series including Manhunt, Walking the Dead and Silent Witness, explained that the ‘idea’ for Viewpoint came from co-creator and executive producer Harry Bradbeer, who has directed shows such as Fleabag and Killing Eve.
‘Harry had an initial pitch, which was based on a real occurrence, a true story, where somebody that he knew, a woman, had a male police officer move into her flat specifically because it had a direct vantage point onto a flat that they were looking at. I think it was a drug-related case,’ Ed said.
In a similar scenario to Martin and Zoe in Viewpoint, the situation Harry based the pitch on featured a single woman with a man ‘in close proximity’ conducting surveillance from her flat.
‘He just thought that was an interesting context for a relationship drama of sorts, but then obviously when they’re looking down a telescope it gives you a crime story. So you have two for the price of one almost,’ Ed said.
The screenwriter remarked that while Viewpoint has ‘had largely a really positive reaction’, there have been some viewers who have asked if it’s ‘plausible’ that a police officer ‘would move into a private residence and the person would be allowed to stay there’.
‘It absolutely is, because if you think about cities, there’s only really one or two spots that are likely to be directly opposite another property, facing, and so that becomes the overriding factor,’ he explained.
‘If there are very good reasons why you wouldn’t move in there, if the person has a criminal record or similar, then you have to make sacrifices, you have to cut your cloth and make it work, for that all-important prize of the optimum vantage point into the property that you’re watching.’
Ed added that while he has been working in crime dramas for over two decades, he had ‘never really come across surveillance before as the main meal’, which he found ‘really interesting’.
‘One of the things that came out of the research early on was that really the surveillance unit, rather like the telescope that they use, are the tool,’ he said.
‘So it’s interesting because there’s an expectation that they’re going to be impartial and neutral to a degree, but of course, nobody can watch anybody in any context without forming some sort of opinion and they are still police officers, so obviously they do end up reaching conclusions or drawing interpretations about the people that they’re watching, and I love that tension.’
Ed outlined how Viewpoint ‘creates this world where the surveillance unit are sort of like the underdogs’.
‘They’re kind of tucked away – it’s absolutely true – they’re tucked away in their back cave with their technical gear, their telescopes and what have you, and the CID summon them and say “go and do this” and they do it,’ he said.
‘And that’s when we came up with the idea that Noel’s character, Martin, had been in CID and had rather fallen through the cracks, professionally and personally.’
As Martin continues to watch Greg, will he be able to maintain the impartiality that’s expected of him? Or will his CID instinct kick in?
Viewpoint returns tonight at 9pm on ITV.
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