BBC's True Crime Series 'The Serpent' Is Heading To Netflix

Tahar Rahim in  Hulu series 'The Looming Tower' (Photo Credit: Hulu)

Mammoth Studios makes a deal to take the Richard Warlow's The Serpent to Netflix, in hopes of a Bodyguard-like hit.

When Bodyguard landed an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Drama this July, it was a bit of a shock to the system. Not that the show wasn't worthy of recognition. But most high-end BBC imports don't get a lot of attention when it comes to American awards season. Outside of a monster success like Downton Abbey, which simply could not be ignored by the Television Academy, most get cursory nods at best. Many are simply a polite tip of the hat to the movie-level BBC star at the center, with a Sherlock nomination here for Benedict Cumberbatch, or a Wolf Hall nod there for Mark Rylance.  

But Netflix turned Bodyguard into a surprise smash here in the U.S, enough so that it landed the right to lose to Game of Thrones' final season come Emmy time in September. Now, despite reports in the U.K. that the BBC Director General Tony Hall has warned against working with streaming services, the BBC and Netflix are hoping to do it again, this time with a series based on one of America's perennial fascinations: Serial killers.

The series, entitled The Serpent, will air on BBC One in the U.K. and be billed as a "Netflix Original Series" everywhere else.

According to Variety, Netflix has agreed to become a co-producer on the upcoming BBC One effort, a true crime dramatization centered around the hunt for real-life French serial killer Charles Sobhraj. Nicknamed The Splitting Killer, The Bikini Killer, and most famously, The Serpent, this psychopathic murderer spent a decade and a half (1963-1976) as a fraudster in Vietnam and India, preying on Western tourists and targeting beatniks and hippies. When he was finally caught and convicted in India in 1976, he was charged with over a dozen murders. Upon release in 1997, he parlayed his reputation into fame and attempted to make millions off the rights to his life story. In 2003, he was re-arrested in Nepal and put away for life.

French actor Tahar Rahim, best known in America for his turn in Hulu's The Looming Tower, will star as the titular murderer.

The eight-part series, written by Ripper Street's Richard Warlow, will cover the early 1970s era of Sobhraj's life. It begins when a young Dutch Embassy in Bangkok first got wind of him and began investigating "the Hippie Trail of Southeast Asia" where Sobhraj targeted his victims.

The "Hippie Trail" was the name given to the overland route taken by self-described "hippies" from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s, mainly through Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India (including Jammu and Kashmir), and Nepal, as a cheap alternative form of Middle East and South East Asian tourism. Use of the trail ended after the one-two punch of the Iranian Revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan closed sections of it to Westerners, leaving memories of it to fade in the detritus of pop culture history.

No other cast for The Serpent has been announced yet. All eight episodes will be directed by Tom Shankland (The Missing).

The Serpent does not yet have a release date. Considering it hasn't started filming, it's a good bet it will arrive as part of the 2020-2021 television season next year. Mammoth is currently listing it as part of its expected 2020 offerings.