Luther (TV series)

Last updated

Created by Neil Cross
Written byNeil Cross
Opening theme"Paradise Circus" by Massive Attack
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series5
No. of episodes20 (list of episodes)
ProducerKatie Swinden
Running time51–63 minutes
Production company BBC Studios Drama Productions
DistributorBBC Studios
Original network BBC One
Picture format 1080i (HDTV)
Original release4 May 2010 (2010-05-04) 
4 January 2019 (2019-01-04)
Relatedsee Adaptations

Luther is a British psychological crime thriller television series starring Idris Elba as DCI John Luther and Ruth Wilson as Alice Morgan, [1] written by Neil Cross. The detective Luther must make cases against criminals while the murderer Morgan has a complicated relationship with him. The first series is composed of six episodes which ran in May and June 2010. A second series of four episodes aired on BBC One in June and July 2011, and a third was commissioned in 2012 composed of four episodes which aired in July 2013. [2] A two-episode fourth series was broadcast in December 2015, and a fifth series of four episodes premiered on 1 January 2019. [3] BBC Studios handled distribution for the TV series. [4] A feature film continuation, Luther: The Fallen Sun , is scheduled to be released in select cinemas on 24 February 2023, before its streaming release on 10 March 2023, by Netflix. Starring Elba, Andy Serkis and Cynthia Erivo, the film was written by Cross.


Elba has been awarded a Critics' Choice Television Award, Golden Globe Award, and Screen Actors Guild Award for his performance as John Luther. [5] [6] The series has also received eleven Primetime Emmy Award nominations in various categories, including four nominations of Elba for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie.


John Luther is a Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) working for the Serious Crime Unit in series one, and the new "Serious and Serial" unit from series two. [7] A dedicated police officer, Luther is obsessive, possessed, and sometimes violent. However, Luther has paid a heavy price for his dedication; he has never been able to prevent himself from being consumed by the darkness of the crimes with which he deals.

For Luther, the job always comes first. His dedication is a curse and a blessing, both for him and those close to him. In the very first episode of the series he investigates brilliant psychopath and murderer Alice Morgan. Ultimately he is unable to arrest her due to lack of evidence, but as the series progresses, she becomes both his nemesis and unlikely companion. As she pursues her infatuation with him, he gradually relents as he is able to glean insight from her about some of the cunning criminals he pursues. After Alice helps Luther avenge the death of his estranged wife Zoe, Luther aids her escape from a secure facility and she flees the country. In Alice's absence, Luther's life is dominated by his police work once again, culminating in the murder of his partner and protégé Justin Ripley in the third series. Alice reappears following Ripley's death, and finally convinces Luther to leave London with her.

When the fourth series begins, Luther is living a reclusive life on the English coast. After learning of Alice's apparent death in mysterious circumstances, he is persuaded to return to London and resume his role as a DCI. It ultimately transpires that Alice faked her own death after her life with Luther did not match their expectations. Two years later she returns to extort money from organised crime boss George Cornelius, who sabotaged her previous diamond exchange. Embroiled in her schemes again, Luther's relationship with Alice heads towards its destructive climax.

Cast and characters

Idris Elba stars as the show's eponymous character, Detective Chief Inspector John Luther Idris Elba 2014.jpg
Idris Elba stars as the show's eponymous character, Detective Chief Inspector John Luther
CharacterPortrayed bySeries
DCI John Luther Idris Elba Main
Alice Morgan Ruth Wilson MainFeaturedDoes not appearMain
DCI Ian Reed Steven Mackintosh MainDoes not appear
Zoe Luther Indira Varma MainDoes not appear
Mark North Paul McGann MainDoes not appearRecurring
DSU Rose Teller Saskia Reeves MainDoes not appear
DS Justin Ripley Warren Brown MainFeaturedDoes not appear
DCI/DSU Martin Schenk Dermot Crowley Main
DS/DCI Erin Gray Nikki Amuka-Bird Does not appearMainDoes not appear
Jenny Jones Aimee-Ffion Edwards Does not appearMainDoes not appear
Baba Pam Ferris Does not appearMainDoes not appear
Toby Kent David Dawson Does not appearMainDoes not appear
Mary Day Sienna Guillory Does not appearMainDoes not appear
DSU George Stark David O'Hara Does not appearMainDoes not appear
DS Benny Silver Michael Smiley RecurringMain
DCI Theo Bloom Darren Boyd Does not appearFeaturedDoes not appear
DS Emma Lane Rose Leslie Does not appearMainDoes not appear
Megan Cantor Laura Haddock Does not appearMainDoes not appear
George Cornelius Patrick Malahide Does not appearMain
DS Catherine Halliday Wunmi Mosaku Does not appearMain
Jeremy Lake Enzo Cilenti Does not appearMain
Vivien Lake Hermione Norris Does not appearMain
Palmer (hitman) Anthony Howell Does not appearRecurring


SeriesEpisodesOriginally airedAvg. UK viewers
First airedLast aired
1 64 May 2010 (2010-05-04)8 June 2010 (2010-06-08)4.83
2 414 June 2011 (2011-06-14)5 July 2011 (2011-07-05)6.43
3 42 July 2013 (2013-07-02)23 July 2013 (2013-07-23)5.98
4 215 December 2015 (2015-12-15)22 December 2015 (2015-12-22)7.92
5 41 January 2019 (2019-01-01)4 January 2019 (2019-01-04)9.45

Series 1 (2010)

The first series of Luther aired in 2010 and received positive reviews from critics, getting an average of 5.9 million viewers per episode.[ citation needed ]

Series 2 (2011)

In August 2010, the BBC announced that it had commissioned a second series for 2011. Filming started in late September/early October 2010. Originally planned to be broadcast as two two-hour episodes, [8] it was shown as four one-hour episodes. The first episode was shown on BBC One on 14 June 2011. [9]

Series 3 (2013)

In August 2011, the BBC One controller announced that a third series had been commissioned. [10] [11]

Filming of the four-episode series started in November 2012. [12] [13] [ non-primary source needed ] Sienna Guillory was cast as Luther's new love interest. Other guest stars included Lucian Msamati and Ned Dennehy. [14] The third series began airing on 2 July 2013 [15] and concluded on 23 July. [16]

Series 4 (2015)

On 19 November 2014, it was announced that a two-episode special would be aired on the BBC in 2015. [17] Filming began in March 2015 [18] and ended April 2015. [19] [ non-primary source needed ] BBC Home Entertainment later confirmed that the Region 1 version of the Series 4 DVD would be released on 15 December 2015, coinciding with the air date of the fourth series. [20] On 24 October 2015, BBC One confirmed via their Facebook page that series 4 of Luther would air in December 2015 on BBC One. [21]

In November 2015, it was announced that Luther was confirmed to air in the United States on BBC America for a three-hour one-night event on 17 December 2015. [22]

The first episode of the fourth series aired on BBC One on 15 December 2015. [23]

Series 5 (2019)

The BBC announced a fifth series composed of four episodes on 12 June 2017. Filming started in early 2018. [24] Ruth Wilson was confirmed to be returning as Alice Morgan for series five. [25] Series 5 directed by Jamie Payne [26] premiered on 1 January 2019, and was broadcast over consecutive nights through to 4 January. [3]


Creator Neil Cross has said that Luther is influenced by both Sherlock Holmes and Columbo; the nature of Luther's intellect and its application to solving crimes is comparable to Holmes's, whereas the show's use of the inverted detective format was inspired by Columbo. [27]

The first series was filmed in and around London, England, and produced by BBC Drama Productions. Brian Kirk, Sam Miller and Stefan Schwartz each directed two episodes and show creator Neil Cross wrote all six of the episodes. Leila Kirkpatrick was the line producer for the entire program and Katie Swinden was the producer for a number of episodes. Tim Fleming provided cinematography for two episodes. Katie Weiland and Victoria Boydell were involved in film editing, with Weiland editing two episodes. Andy Morgan was responsible for all casting, Paul Cross provided production design and Adam A. Makin was behind the show's art direction.[ citation needed ]

The show is filmed in various locations around Central, North, West and East London including the Barbican Estate, Elephant and Castle, Westfield Shopping Centre (Shepherd's Bush), Renaissance Hotel (Heathrow Airport), Ealing Hospital, Cranbrook Estate (Bethnal Green), Victoria Park, Waterloo station, Holloway, Shoreditch and the Docklands.

Critical reception

Series one was met with positive reviews, according to aggregate review site Rotten Tomatoes, where it holds a 91% approval rating, based on 23 reviews. The site's consensus reads: "Gritty and ambiguous, Luther is a captivating drama bolstered by a powerhouse performance from Idris Elba in the title role." [28] It holds a Metacritic score of 82 out of 100, based on 11 collected reviews, indicating "universal acclaim". [29] However, The Guardian 's Stuart Heritage was initially critical of the show, [30] and compared it to the American series FlashForward , in that both series arrived with a large amount of hype but delivered an anticlimactic end product. However, by the fifth episode, Heritage had changed his views and called it Idris Elba's best work since The Wire . [31]

The show's second series was met with equally positive reviews and holds a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 13 reviews. The site's consensus reads: "Luther delves into darker territory in its second series, and Idris Elba's outstanding performance makes this a police procedural of uncommon weight and heft." [32] It holds a Metacritic score of 78 out of 100, based on 9 collected reviews, indicating "Generally favorable reviews." [33] Variety and The Hollywood Reporter admiringly highlighted the darker tone, Elba's performance, and the production. [34] In the third quarter of 2011, the top-rated shows on BBC America were Doctor Who , Top Gear , and Luther, which together gained the network its highest quarterly ratings ever. [35]

Series three was again met with positive reviews and holds an 88% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 25 reviews. The site's consensus reads: "Idris Elba shines in the title role of Luther despite familiar circumstances that benefit from the shortened season." [36] It holds a Metacritic score of 76 out of 100, based on 19 collected reviews, indicating "Generally favorable reviews". [37]

Series four received positive reviews, with a 79% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 14 reviews. The site's consensus reads: "Idris Elba remains the best thing about Luther in an all-too-brief season which packs a lot of plot into a short time frame." [38] It holds a Metacritic score of 68 out of 100, based on 11 reviews, indicating "Generally favorable reviews". [39]

After a four-year hiatus, the Series five broadcast in 2019 met with positive reviews, garnering an 85% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 40 reviews. The site's consensus reads: "Luther returns in fine form from its extended exodus with a grisly mystery and the welcome reappearance of Ruth Wilson's psychotic villain, Alice Morgan." [40]

Broadcast outside of the United Kingdom

The first series of the show premiered in Australia on ABC1 on 15 October 2010 and in the United States on BBC America two days later. [41] The second series debuted in the United States on BBC America on 29 September 2011 and Australia on ABC1 on 24 February 2012. The third series ran in the United States on BBC America on four consecutive nights beginning 3 September 2013. [42] [43] The fifth series premiered in the United States on BBC America on 2 June 2019. [44] The deal also includes the network to show the first six seasons of another series produced by the BBC, Death in Paradise , airing on Thursdays at 7 pm and airing on Fridays at 8 am ET part of the "Morning Mysteries" morning mystery crime drama block.


Paul Englishby composed Luther's soundtrack. He incorporated many pop and rock songs into the soundtrack, using these generally in the end credits. A CD titled Luther – Songs and Score From Series 1, 2 and 3 was released on 19 August 2013 and contains many of the themes and songs used in the television series. [45] The opening theme song is a shorter version of "Paradise Circus" by Massive Attack from the album Heligoland (2010) with vocals provided by Hope Sandoval.

Awards and nominations

2010 Crime Thriller Awards Best Supporting Actress Saskia Reeves Nominated
Satellite Awards Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Idris Elba Nominated
Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film Ruth Wilson Nominated
2011 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Idris Elba Nominated
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series, or Dramatic Special Idris Elba Won
Outstanding Television Movie, Mini-Series, or Dramatic Special LutherNominated
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie Idris Elba Nominated
2012 Critics’ Choice Television Awards Best Actor in a Movie/Miniseries Idris Elba Nominated
Best Movie/Miniseries LutherNominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Idris Elba Won
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series, or Dramatic Special Idris Elba Nominated
Outstanding Television Movie, Mini-Series, or Dramatic Special LutherNominated
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special Sam Miller Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie Idris Elba Nominated
Outstanding Miniseries or Movie LutherNominated
Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special Neil Cross Nominated
Satellite Awards Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Idris Elba Nominated
Best Miniseries or Television Film LutherNominated
2013 Crime Thriller Awards Best TV DramaLutherNominated
Best Leading Actor Idris Elba Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Warren Brown Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Ruth Wilson Nominated
2014 Critics’ Choice Television Awards Best Movie/Miniseries LutherNominated
Best Supporting Actor in a Movie/Miniseries Warren Brown Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Idris Elba Nominated
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series, or Dramatic Special Idris Elba Won
Outstanding Television Movie, Mini-Series, or Dramatic Special LutherNominated
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie Idris Elba Nominated
Outstanding Miniseries LutherNominated
Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special Neil Cross Nominated
2016 BAFTA Television Awards Best Actor Idris Elba Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Idris Elba Nominated
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Television Movie, Mini-Series, or Dramatic Special [46] LutherNominated
Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series, or Dramatic Special [46] Idris Elba Nominated
Critics’ Choice Television Awards Best Actor in a Movie/Miniseries Idris Elba Won
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Idris Elba Won
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie Idris Elba Nominated
Outstanding Television Movie LutherNominated
Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or Movie LutherNominated

Book, potential films and spin-off series

Co-creator Neil Cross released the tie-in novel Luther: The Calling in 2011 following the broadcast of the second season. Elba expressed enthusiasm for a film adaptation of the show: "That's where the ultimate Luther story will unfold is in the big silver screen—London as a huge backdrop and a very menacing, horrible character to play against." [47] Cross revealed that plans were being made for a Luther film that would begin production at the conclusion of the third season, the show's last. [48] In May 2012, Elba stated that the third season would serve as the lead-in for the planned film. [49] In September 2012, Cross announced that he was in the process of creating a spin-off of Luther centered around the character Alice Morgan and starring Ruth Wilson. [50]

Cross continued to rule out any further episodes for television following the broadcast of the third season in July 2013. [51] The prospective film was to be based on The Calling, [52] with Elba, Steven Mackintosh, Indira Varma, and Warren Brown set to reprise their roles from the television series. [53] Elba addressed the possibility of future plans for Luther in September 2014 and said that there were "talks at the moment to figure out a way to bring more Luther back to the TV, but the focus is to try and make a film from it." [54] Following the fifth series, Elba stated that a film is intended rather than a further television series. He mentioned that the film would be "connected to" series 5. [55] At two separate awards events in July 2020, Elba confirmed that the film project was moving ahead. [56]

On 13 September 2021, Netflix announced a feature film continuation with Elba reprising his role and Cross writing. Andy Serkis and Cynthia Erivo also joined the cast. [57] The film, Luther: The Fallen Sun, is scheduled to be released in select cinemas on 24 February 2023, [58] before its streaming release on 10 March 2023, by Netflix. [59] [60]


American version

In November 2014, Fox was developing an American TV series version of Luther, with Cross writing and executive producing the series, and Elba, Peter Chernin (of the Chernin company), Katherine Pope, and BBC Worldwide Prods' Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner on board as executive producers. The project hails from 20th Century Fox TV, studio-based Chernin Entertainment, and BBC Worldwide Prods. [61]

On 9 March 2015, The Hollywood Reporter reported that the network had delayed the series from the 2015 pilot season, after failing to secure Marlon Wayans for the title role. [62] After subsequently considering Mahershala Ali and Rosario Dawson for the role of Luther, the project was formally dropped in 2017. [63]

Russian version

In 2014, Channel One Russia was developing a Russian TV series version of Luther, with Konstantin Lavronenko, starring as Klim. The series was first broadcast on 31 January 2016.

Korean version

On 5 February 2018, South Korean TV network Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) announced that it will broadcast a Korean version of Luther. The adaptation will be broadcast in November 2018 and is produced by the MBC Drama Production Group. [64] In August 2018, Shin Ha-kyun was cast as male lead. [65]

The series title was changed later into Less Than Evil (나쁜 형사, lit. "Bad Detective"). It aired on MBC on 3 December 2018. [66]

Indian version

Indian actor Ajay Devgan announced that he'll be starring in the Indian adaptation of Luther, titled Rudra: The Edge Of Darkness . The first season of the series premiered on 4 March 2022 on Disney+ Hotstar.

French version

The French television channel TF1 has ordered a remake of the British television series which is filmed in the city of Paris and its suburbs. [67] The first episode of the French version gained 4.8 million viewers. [68] [ non-primary source needed ]

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