Girl Number 9 a Big Step Forward for British Indie Web Drama

It’s the last day of Embedda-Scare-A-Thon! Happy Halloween, y’all!

If you’re a fan of British television, you’re likely familiar with the theory that every actor working in Britain today has either been in an episode of Doctor Who or Eastenders. Such a theory definitely applies to the cast of the web thriller Girl Number 9, which launches today not just in the UK, but worldwide: Joe Absolom played Matthew in 157 episodes of Eastenders, Gareth David-Lloyd starred in the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood and appeared in two episodes of its parent series, and Tracy-Ann Oberman is a two-fer with both Eastenders and Doctor Who credits under her belt.

Of course, Girl Number 9 doesn’t have much to do with time travel or East London; instead, creators James Moran (whose Doctor Who writing credits probably had something to do with casting) and Dan Turner have taken on the thriller genre. The set-up is simple: Two detectives are interrogating a psycho accused of murdering seven little girls, hoping to get a confession out of him. Instead, what they discover is that an eighth girl’s fate is not only on the line, but online via webcam.

It’s a plot twist that’s more than a little familiar — the serial killer’s last victim remains out there, and the detectives can see her via the Internet — but that appears to be the first twist, not the final one, of this series. And the entire series takes place in real time, adding an extra element of tension to the show’s 30-minute countdown, à la 24 — and also making the title’s meaning that much more intriguing, given how little time is left for us to learn about the last remaining girl.

Production values are pro, with appropriately moody and dramatic cinematography, and the dialogue is quick and witty — though punctuated almost excessively by profanity, as if the writer is glorying in the freedom allowed by self-distribution.

The series has also incorporated Twitter into its storytelling, with the lead-up to the show’s premiere occupied by back-and-forth conversations between its main characters. It’s not a groundbreaking use of microblogging at this point, and those tweeting could be interacting a little more with their followers. But notably, the conversations go back weeks, setting up an elaborate backstory for the characters before the series launch.

I’ll be honest and say that if this series had originated in Los Angeles or New York, with a cast and crew gathered from the American equivalents of those series, I would find it equally as intriguing, but otherwise not terribly exciting. However, its British origins mean that it might be the nation’s first high-caliber independent web drama — perhaps not a UK Dr. Horrible, but definitely a step forward for original web content. And for fans of British television denied iPlayer access, it’s definitely a win.

Scare-o-meter: 3 — Creepy in spurts, but no more creepy than your average episode of CSI.

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