'Inside No. 9' creators reveal all about 'spooky' live Halloween special and update on Series 5

Tom Butler
·Senior Editor
Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, the stars and creators of <i>Inside No. 9</i> (BBC)
Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, the stars and creators of Inside No. 9 (BBC)

Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith say the Inside No. 9 Halloween special will be a “spooky story” inspired by Tales From The Crypt.

The creative duo behind the BBC’s hit anthology series say the new episode, titled Dead Line, which will be filmed and broadcast live at 10pm on Sunday 28 October, will be a contemporary three-hander starring themselves and Stephanie Cole (Open All Hours).

“It is set in a No.9, as ever of course, and there is a man who I am going to play called Arthur and he’s coming home one night and finds an old telephone in a graveyard,” Pemberton told the BBC. “He brings it home and tries to find out who owns it and that’s what kicks off the story.”

“Obviously with it being a Halloween episode it is quite a spooky story and we wanted to draw on the lovely Halloween special creepiness of EC Comics and Tales From The Crypt.”

EC Comics is an American comics publisher who, in the 1940s-1950s, published titles such as Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, and The Haunt of Fear.

Stephanie Cole as Mrs. Featherstone in <i>Still Open All Hours</i> (BBC Studios/David Moffitt)
Stephanie Cole as Mrs. Featherstone in Still Open All Hours (BBC Studios/David Moffitt)

Shearsmith is playing a vicar in the Halloween special, with Stephanie Cole in an as-yet-undisclosed role. The pair added that the “live” element had been a suggestion of the BBC’s, but they were not suffering nerves having just spent months performing in League Of Gentlemen Live together on tour.

However they admit doing it all in one take is not going to be easy.

“It’s an unusual prospect for us – we’ve never done anything like this before,” adds Pemberton. “It’s much more like how they used to do it in the old days – a lot of prep, a lot of build-up, and one chance to get it right.”

Inside No. 9 has run for four series now on the BBC, with the first three seasons available in full on Netflix. Each episode is entirely different, with the former League of Gentlemen and Psychoville creators dabbling in different genres and forms including musical, silent cinema, and even one episode performed entirely in iambic pentameter.

Things are never quite as they seem though, with every episode featuring some kind of macabre twist, or ironic fates, all played out with a gruesome joie de vivre. Dead Line sounds like it’s going to err on the side of the spooky though.

“With it being a Halloween-themed episode,” Shearsmith revealed, “it’s meant to be a bit more horror-like and hopefully that’s what we will deliver on. It’s not a comedy romp.”

Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, the stars, writers, and creators of <i>Inside No. 9</i>. (BBC)
Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, the stars, writers, and creators of Inside No. 9. (BBC)

A full fifth series of Inside No. 9 was commissioned by the BBC earlier this year, but the creative pair want to get the live episode out of the way first before they get stuck into writing it. They’ve promised lots of surprises for fans though, some of which they teased will be “very challenging” to achieve.

“I think what is hard is that when you have pulled a number of surprises, and really have genuinely shocked people, it is hard to continually do that,” Pemberton shared. “It does keep us on our toes and we have to work very hard.

“Our aim for the series as a whole is for people to think, my God I have never seen anything like that.”

Inside No.9 Halloween Live – Dead Line is coming 28 October on BBC Two at 10pm – 10.30pm.

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