When The Nazis Won The War: New TV Series Explores Britain In An Alternative Future

The often asked question of what life under the Third Reich in Britain would be like if Germany had won the Second World War, will be answered on Sunday with the premier of the series SS-GB.  The series was first announced in 2014.

The series is based on a 1978 thriller by spy novelist and historian Len Deighton, author of the Ipcress File, which became a film starring Michael Caine.

Set in an alternative 1941, the novel explores life in Britain after the Nazis are victorious in World War II.  The king is held prisoner in the Tower of London, Churchill is dead, and the populace is constantly under surveillance by the Third Reich.

The tale follows Scotland Yard detective Douglas Archer as he tries to crack a murder investigation.  He soon finds himself caught up in a much bigger mystery, which attracts the interest of the SS.

The Telegraph’s original review acclaimed the book as better than a top flight thriller, adding it is memorable because of its view of occupied Britain: dirty, chilly, depressing, severely rationed and easily corruptible.

Program creators, Robert Wade and Neal Purvis, co-wrote each of the last half-dozen 007 films. They explained that Archer has little in common with Bond but more with the subdued film noir detective Humphrey Bogart portrayed in The Maltese Falcon.

Wade added that viewers might find the different version timely and thoughtful since it seems relevant given the relationship Britain has with Europe, because British political views were molded by not having been defeated.

Purvis added: the question of what they would do if the Nazis were outside their front door has never been answered.  But it describes all other European politics that have dealt with occupation of some type.  Some people cooperate while others do not.  In the end, the survivors have to deal with the mess.

Actor Sam Riley has the lead role and is best known for playing troubled singer Ian Curtis of Joy Division in the 2007 biography film, Control.  About his role, the 37-year-old said Archer is a complex and compelling character.  He is a good man attempting to reconcile his job as a policeman within the oppressive Nazi structure, The Telegraph reported.

Kate Bosworth, remembered for her role as Lois Lane in Superman Returns in 2006 and the 2014 drama Still Alice, plays Riley’s main love-interest, an enigmatic American journalist named Barbara Barga.


Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE