For the unpredictable web series The Serpent, which recently premiered on BBC One, it’s a fascinating and morbid tale of serial killer Charles Sobhraj. What was the circumstance he grew up with and what eventually pushed him over the edge is the main focus of the plot. The Serpent was co-written by Richard Warlow and directed by Tom Shankland.
Writer Richard Warlow told BBC that he first heard the story in the summer of 2013 from filmmaker Tom Shankland, who wanted him to write the script. The writer expressed his desire to tell this particular story and said: “I want our audience to find Sobhraj as others have found him. Through Herman, who through the discovery of man’s deeds knew him for what he was; through Marie-Andrée, who saw him as the answer to the dead end, her life had become; and through all the others whose journeys across the nexus points of the hippie trail tragically intersected with a killer who was so cruel at identifying their needs … be it for a bed and a hot shower, rare gems, acceptance or Love – Sobhraj saw these needs and then presented himself as a remedy. “
Not only is the snake an origin story of Charles Sobhraj, but it also sheds light on how he was ultimately captured by a man who works at the Dutch embassy, Herman Knippenberg. It has been pitched as the story of a notorious criminal with a delicious detective angle.
While Tahar Rahim plays Charles Sobhraj, Jenna Coleman is seen as Sobhraj’s partner, Marie-Andrée Leclerc. In addition to Billy Howe as Herman Knippenberg, The Serpent also plays Ameesh Edireweera, Mathilde Warnier and Tim McInnerny.
The Serpent is directed by Tom Shankland, whose show The Missing (2014) received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries. He’s also behind works like The Children, The Fades, and Ripper Street.
Speaking of his experience with The Serpent, the director told the BBC that he heard the stories of a Sobhraj-like man while traveling to Nepal when he was only 19. Years later, the filmmaker finally found a way to tell this exciting story. “Right from the start, I was always excited about the idea of bringing the lost era of the hippie trail back to life. I hope that the audience can experience this from the comfort of any place, lying or sitting in the strange, wintry winter present. Of course, as a filmmaker, I hope that we have all done our job and fascinated, moved, scared and inspired the audience, but most of all I hope that we have portrayed the lives of the young socialmediagossips who have set out and did never made it back in a way that saves them from Sobhraj’s false narrative and celebrates their humanity, ”Shankland said.
The Serpent was made by Mammoth Screen and co-produced by Netflix and BBC One.