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More true crime on campus on the big screen

Paul Greatrix has exciting news of stories from universities making their way on to TV and cinema screens near you.
This article is more than 3 years old

Paul Greatrix is Registrar at The University of Nottingham, author and creator of Registrarism and a Contributing Editor of Wonkhe.

Not one but two new additions to the higher ed on the big or small screen list have been announced. I am particularly excited by the prospect of a new BBC film covering the UEA “Climategate” affair from over a decade ago.

Whilst the idea of a film based on weak internet security in a university research centre, some stolen emails and consequent erroneous press reporting on climate change doesn’t perhaps sound the most gripping of narratives I do think this is actually great subject matter for the big or small screen.

Although the scientists at the heart of the issue did face criticism in a subsequent enquiry about their lack of openness at times the reality is that this was a criminal act and wilful misreading of email correspondence in order to support the false claim that climate change is a hoax.

And it stars the wonderful Jason Watkins as Professor Phil Jones, one of the climatologists at the centre of the hack:

Watkins will appear alongside 1917 actor George MacKay, Doctor Foster’s Victoria Hamilton, Game Of Thrones’ Jerome Flynn and Young Ones actor/comedian Adrian Edmondson.

He said: “It is rare that a drama marries the personal and the public in such a compelling way – the urgent need to tackle the effects of the earth’s warming is not going away and the research into this project has been sobering.

“It is a privilege to play the brilliant scientist, Phil Jones, whose own private world was so threatened from outside and whose research and efforts have been so vital globally in combating the effects of climate change.”

It is not clear though whether any of this will be filmed on campus at UEA:

The new BBC film will be shot on location in Norfolk, where the University of East Anglia is based
Writer Owen Sheers said: “The events that came to be known as Climategate were a powerful coalescence of forces that have since shaped much of our last decade.
“However, this is also a story about the people caught at the eye of a new kind of storm, and how in the end despite attack from all sides, the integrity and truth of their important work won through.”

There are of course a few other campuses which do resemble UEA’s classic concrete architecture but we will all know if they end up filming somewhere else.

And in arguably more traditional vein we have a new prime time ITV drama, starring Ben Miller as a Cambridge University professor and crime-solver.

Based on a hit Belgian series of the same name, the six-part drama is available on Britbox at the moment and will be on ITV at some point in the summer.On the launch of the new show, Miller said:

“Professor T has it all: intriguing murders, dreaming spires, and a cast of unforgettable characters, each with their own fascinating secrets.

“You don’t have to be a professor of criminal psychology to know the ITV audience will love it.”


Righto. Miller plays Jasper Tempest, a Professor of Criminology at Cambridge University:

He is obsessed with cleanliness, structure, and order but his genius for solving crimes means he is constantly having to get his hands dirty, helping the police to crack their most difficult cases.

The magnificent Frances de la Tour (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, The History Boys) plays Jasper’s colourful, but overbearing mother, Adelaide.

It does sound diverting. The opening episode:

finds the professor unwillingly acting as an adviser to the police when Diana Tyson (Elizabeth Kate Back) is violently attacked on the university campus where he has tenure.

Det Insp Lisa Donckers suspects that the assault is very similar to one that occurred years before and, having been a previous student of Professor T’s, she thinks he can help.

I’m intrigued to see how they represent the concept of tenure but I expect the focus will very much be on crime, cerebral musings and Cambridge.

From climategate to campus crime then – what’s not to like?

(Thanks to Rowena Armstrong  @Rowen_G_ for alerting me to the Climategate film news.)

One response to “More true crime on campus on the big screen

  1. I was introduced to Professor T whilst staying with friends in New York in 2019. They were totally hooked on it and I could see why!

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