The Long Shadow: everything you need to know about ITV’s new stomach churning Peter Sutcliffe crime drama

Toby Jones as DCS Dennis Hoban in The Long Shadow  (ITV)
Toby Jones as DCS Dennis Hoban in The Long Shadow (ITV)

During the Seventies, serial killer Peter Sutcliffe stalked the streets of West Yorkshire. Now a seven-part ITVX drama will detail the chase to hunt down one of Britain’s most notorious killers.

“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say it felt at times like you were living in a horror movie,” said journalist Stephen Booth, who was working on newspapers in the region at the time, to The Independent. “The nights drew in and, out there in the shadows – and no one knew where – there was a bogeyman who might take away someone you loved. It sounds like fiction but it was happening to us.”

Between 1975 and 1980, Sutcliffe, who was in his 30s, killed 13 women, usually hitting them on the head, brutally stabbing them, and often removing their clothes. The police made mistake after mistake as they chased the killer, interviewing Sutcliffe nine times over five years.

“It was just a miracle they did not apprehend me earlier – they had all the facts,” said Sutcliffe during his trial at the Old Bailey.

With the show out now, we answer some of the big questions about the new series. For more on the real stories behind the ITV drama, read our breakdown of the case’s leading characters here.

When will it be released?

Jill Halfpenny as Doreen Hill (ITV Plc / The Long Shadow)
Jill Halfpenny as Doreen Hill (ITV Plc / The Long Shadow)

The series premiered on ITV1 on September 25 at 9pm. It’s made up of seven one-hour episodes, which were all released on ITVX upon the series’ launch.

Who is in the cast?

The crime drama has a starry cast: British actor Mark Stobbart (Neil in Line of Duty) will play Sutcliffe. Toby Jones, David Morrissey (The Walking Dead), Lee Ingleby (Harry Potter) and Shaun Dooley (Innocent) will play the detective chief superintendents leading the sprawling investigation.

Katherine Kelly (Happy Valley), Daisy Waterstone (The Durrells) and Jasmine Lee-Jones will play Sutcliffe’s victims, while Daniel Mays will play Sydney Jackson, the husband of Emily Jackson, one of the women killed by Sutcliffe.

Additional cast members include Liz White (Unforgotten), Molly Wright (The A Word), Alexa Davies (Detectorists), and Stephen Tompkinson (Torvill & Dean).

Who is the creative team behind the new series?

Daniel Mays as Sydney Jackson (ITV Plc  / The Long Shadow)
Daniel Mays as Sydney Jackson (ITV Plc / The Long Shadow)

The drama has been written by George Kay, the award-winning writer of Idris Elba-starring Apple TV+ thriller Hijack, and ITVX miniseries Litvinenko, which starred David Tennant as the poisoned Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko. Kay is also co-writer of Netflix’s thriller series Lupin.

It has been directed by BAFTA-winning filmmaker Lewis Arnold, whose previous credits include episodes of BBC’s Sherwood and Time, and ITV’s Des and Broadchurch.

What has ITVX said about the upcoming show?

Lee Ingleby as DCS Jim Hobson and Jack Deam as DI Les Hanley (ITV Plc / The Long Shadow)
Lee Ingleby as DCS Jim Hobson and Jack Deam as DI Les Hanley (ITV Plc / The Long Shadow)

Shows about serial killers are hugely popular – Netflix’s Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, for example, clocked in over 1 billion viewing hours, making it one of the streamer’s most-watched series ever. But in recent years these TV shows have been met with backlash as people argue that the dramas use gratuitous violence to boost viewing figures while also causing harm to the loved ones of the victims.

Seemingly trying to avoid these accusations and sensitively deal with the Yorkshire Ripper case, ITV has said that “the victims, their families and the survivors” are “at the heart of this series”, and that the show will therefore bring “a new perspective to a well-documented story”.

Similarly, the ITV drama was renamed The Long Shadow to be more considerate of the victims and their families.

“We started by calling [the show] The Yorkshire Ripper,” said writer Kay in The Daily Telegraph. “But in the beginning we hadn’t learnt, as we did when making the show, that the moniker used to describe Peter Sutcliffe – which obviously began before anyone knew his real name, but continued after – was disrespectful in many ways.”

“The victims’ families certainly don’t want that name being applied to Peter Sutcliffe because it creates a dark brand around a man who doesn’t deserve that sort of attention, and especially not that verb.”

The Long Shadow is available now on ITVX