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The distressing true story that inspired BBC's The Control Room

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Nicky Morris
TV and film writer
July 18, 2022
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The BBC's latest drama, The Control Room, sees an emergency call handler's life turned upside down when he receives a desperate call from a woman who appears to know him.

MORE: The Control Room viewers make same complaint about new BBC drama

As viewers make their way through all three episodes available on BBC iPlayer, they might be wondering if there is any truth in the story. Find out here…

WATCH: Are you enjoying the new drama? 

While the events that take place in the drama didn't happen in real life, the idea to focus the thriller on an emergency call handler was inspired by a real-life event that happened to the show's writer and creator, Nick Leather. 

Nick called an ambulance one morning after struggling to wake his daughter up from her sleep. Opening up to the BBC about the harrowing moment, Nick said: "One morning, I went in to wake my daughter up and I couldn't; she was just floppy. We called 999 and in those desperate few minutes, I realised sort of how profoundly the person on the other end of the line can help you and affect you."

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He continued: "Their manner is so important and it's quite an intense relationship for a few minutes. Everything was okay in the end but then the next time I sat down and tried to come up with a story, I wrote two things at the top; one was call room handler and caller. I then put a circle around it and tried to think of the way the relationship between those two people would be and a scene that involved them both."

control room 3© Photo: ITV

The show's creator was inspired by a personal experience

Speaking to RadioTimes.com, he elaborated on the incident with his daughter. "Her eyes were half open and we couldn't wake her, and it was that horrible thing where you suddenly start panicking and we rang 999. They sent an ambulance and she was okay, absolutely fine later." 

Chatting about the relationship between a caller and a call handler, he went on to say: "It's such an intense relationship, such an intense conversation with [the emergency call handler], who you've never spoken to before, and you're never gonna speak to again.

control room 4© Photo: ITV

The series continues on BBC One on Tuesday night 

"You don't know what they look like, they don't know what you look like, yet despite that anonymity, you are so dependent on them and you're reaching out to them. And the person on the other end of the phone line is a bit of an everyday hero. 

"So based on that experience, I thought 'God, I wonder if there's something in that as a starting point?'"

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