Val McDermid writes apocalyptic Radio 4 drama about antibiotic resistance

Val McDermid writes apocalyptic Radio 4 drama about antibiotic resistance

Val McDermid has written an apocalyptic science thriller on the failure of antibiotics for BBC Radio 4, entitled "Resistance".

The three-part drama was written exclusively for the radio station, reflecting concern within the scientific community about the rise of antibiotic resistance, through the Experimental Stories scheme, the BBC Radio 4 and Wellcome's annual two-day workshop in which radio writers and producers work with researchers to develop dramas. 

"Resistance", starring Gina McKee and directed by Susan Roberts for BBC Radio Drama, examines an extreme scenario of what happens if antibiotics stop working. The plot follows Zoe Meadows, a journalist at a music festival in the North East of England, and a mystery illness that erupts there, quickly becoming an uncontrollable epidemic. 

McDermid said: “Drama makes the science behind 'Resistance' impossible to ignore because it puts us in the shoes of those who are affected. Radio drama in particular is intimate and immediate and nimble - it can react quickly to events because we don't need to build sets and design costumes. We just let the actors give the words their full weight and the listeners become part of the story.”

Jeremy Howe, BBC Radio 4 commissioning editor for Drama, added: “Sally Davies, the chief medical officer for England, gave a presentation to writers and producers at Wellcome about the failure of antibiotics. No surprises, then, that the brilliant writer and storyteller Val McDermid came up with a three-part thriller that is as chilling, compelling and thrillingly imagined an account of armageddon as 'Resistance'. Listener – you have been warned.”

Programme consultant Christopher Dowson, who is professor of microbiology at the University of Warwick and trustee for the charity Antibiotic Research UK said that the production raises in an "emotionally engaging manner" some of the important issues that have given rise to our current predicament – "ever rising resistance and fewer effective antibiotics".

"My hope is that listeners will go on to ask ‘what can I do to be part of the solution’,” he said.

The three-part drama will air on 3rd, 10th and 17th March at 2:15pm on BBC Radio 4.

McDermid is currently enjoying a second week in the UK book chart in the overall number one position with her title Out of Bounds (Sphere).