Anna Maxwell-Martin (Death Comes to Pemberley and Bletchley Circle) is to play an exorcist working in modern day Britain in a new three-part drama being made for ITV Encore.
Midwinter of the Spirit sees the double BAFTA award-winning actress play Merrily Watkins, one of the few women priests working as an exorcist – a job increasingly mistrusted by the modern Church and rarely talked about, even though it operates in virtually every diocese in the UK.
She’l be joined by David Threlfall as Rev Huw Owen, a deliverance ministry tutor and Merrily’s mentor.
Merrily is deeply human in her doubts and scepticism, but her knowledge of the paranormal underworld brings her to the notice of local police who need her advice in the investigation of a grisly murder.
Merrily has been through the mill emotionally of late, losing her unfaithful husband Sean in a car crash and seeking refuge in a job despised by her 16 year-old daughter, Jane, whose rejection of her mother’s beliefs leads her into the path of danger.
When a man is found murdered in the most horrific circumstances imaginable, Merrily becomes convinced that Satanists are operating in the city.
In the early hours of the next morning she’s called to Hereford General Hospital to perform an exorcism. The atmosphere is palpably toxic, as nurses treating a chronically ill man known for cruelty to animals and his abuse of women believe the ward has become polluted by his vileness.
“They believe when he dies, that evil won’t die with him,” Sister Cullen tells Merrily before she begins to pray for his soul. As the life force in the shrivelled body begins to ebb away, Merrily feels the force of his depravity. Shaking and feeling violated by her experience, Merrily begins to wonder if the two deaths are connected.
Local police team – DCI Annie Howe and DS Frank Bliss – investigating the murder of the crucified man seek Merrily’s expertise. Merrily assists the police as their enquiries take them into a very dark and dangerous world.
The drama is based on the books by Phil Rickman and overseen by former Doctor Who producer Phil Collinson.
“Midwinter of the Spirit is a contemporary and edgy drama which draws upon dark, pagan forces which are intriguing and spiritually frightening,” said Steve November, ITV’s Director of Drama Commissioning.
“We’re delighted to commission three episodes of a potentially returnable crime drama with a supernatural twist,” he added.