BBC One Mini-Series, Vigil explores the depths of conspiracy inside a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, “HMS Vigil.”
Creator Tom Edge weaves an intricate plot with trivial inspiration taken from conspiracy theories circling the sinking of the FV Gaul. However, the modern-day narrative, blended with activism to end nuclear warfare funding, adds an enthralling layer to the 6-part mini-series.
Let’s dive into the deep sea and unravel the mystery of HMS Vigil.
‘Vigil’ Plot Summary
An unknown submarine snags the fishing net of a Scottish trawler, the Mhairi Finnea, near Barra Head, on the west coast of Scotland. On a nearby submarine, HMS Vigil, a sonar operator, Craig Burke (Martin Compston), hears the unusual sound. Burke requests his captain, Commander Neil Newsome (Paterson Joseph), to help the trawler crew. Newsome refuses to surface the submarine as it may reveal its position. Burke argues, and Newsome sends him to his bunk.
Soon later, the trawler drowns along with its crew, and inside Vigil, Chief Petty Officer Craig Burke is found dead in his bunk.
In Glasgow, Rear Admiral Shaw (Stephen Dillane) of the Royal Navy brings the matter to the Scottish Police Service as the tragedy happened within British Territorial waters. Detective Superintendent Colin Robertson (Gary Lewis) and DCI Amy Silva (Suranne Jones) meet Shaw at HQ. Shaw informs the police about Burke’s heroin overdose and requests Amy to board the submarine for three days to conduct her formal investigation.
The Vanguard-class nuclear-powered submarines like Vigil have been on active patrol for over 50 years, and the Royal Navy will not abandon their Tridents for some bureaucratic investigation. Bound by duty, DCI Silva prepares to board Vigil. Before leaving, she calls in her junior, Detective Sergeant Kirsten Longacre (Rose Leslie), to speak to Burke’s colleagues and friends.
DCI Silva gets on a helicopter from HM Naval Base, Dunloch, and boards Vigil. Inside the submarine, the coxswain, Warrant Officer Elliot Glover (Shaun Evans), aids Silva in her investigation as she tries to solve the death of Officer Craig Burke.
Who killed Craig Burke?
DCI Silva examined Burke’s dead body and concluded that he didn’t snort the heroin. Instead, the powder was rubbed on his nostrils. On further investigation, she found out that Burke was poisoned with a nerve agent like sarin. The nerve agent was mixed in Burke’s food by Vigil chef Jackie Hamilton (Anita Vettesse).
Jackie’s son, Sean, was charged with drug trafficking in Indonesia and was sentenced to 10 years. However, Sean was going to be released after one year. Silva concluded that either Jackie cracked a deal with a traitor or she was threatened. By Episode 5, Jackie leaked the nerve gas across the entire missile compartment and eventually killed herself.
Silva found notes in Jackie’s bunk and her apron. She suspected that there was another traitor on board who tried to sabotage Vigil.
What happened at Port Havers?
A significant chunk of drama speculated that Burke’s death could be related to the incidents at US Port Havers, Florida. According to Vigil XO, Lieutenant Commander Mark Prentice (Adam James), Vigil went to Port Havers for missile servicing. However, the crew went out and started drinking and fighting in the street.
Gary Walsh explained to DCI Silva that in Port Havers, while the reactor was on cool-down for maintenance, junior mechanic Ross Harmison was on duty. He came back early from his shore leave and went for a nap on duty. Harmison overlooked the cold water hose failing, due to which the reactor temperature rose to alert limits. The generators were over-pressured and created deadly steam. When Walsh came back, he found two local contractors in the turbine room. But he failed to save them, and they were cooked alive. Walsh quickly called the EO to initiate a cool-down process, or the site would have turned into another Fukushima.
The British and US Navy buried their mess, and shortly after the incident, Ross Harmison was transferred to HMS Riffa in the middle east. DS Kirsten found a news report that reported the drowning of two local contractors from Davis Marine, a naval company service. However, when Kirsten matched the date with the incident of Port Havers, she was confident that it was a Navy cover-up.
Gary Walsh said these nuclear-powered submarines were on their last legs, and nobody wanted to talk about it. Somehow, Burke found out about the Port Havers cover-up and other Navy incompetence that put the lives of its crew at stake. Burke decided to be a whistleblower and recorded video footage saved on a pen drive found by DS Kirsten in the Burke room in Dunloch.
Who killed Burke’s girlfriend, Jade Antoniak? And Why?
DS Kirsten Longacre found Jade Antoniak’s dead body drowned near the HM Naval Base peace camp in Glasgow. On investigation, Kirsten found monthly deposits by a limited company, Ansell Holdings. The shell company belonged to MP Patrick Cruden, who was against British nuclear warheads. Patrick Cruden revealed that Jade was his unofficial daughter. He had a fling with Jade’s mother during his Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Through Ansell, Cruden gave Jade monthly allowances but had nothing to do with Jade’s death.
Kirsten investigated the peace protest footage and found out about an unknown guy named Peter Ingles. The Scottish police arrested Peter, but they had to let him go. MI agents explained that Piter Vasiliev (living as Ingles) was a Russian Intelligence officer, hence, had complete diplomatic immunity. Due to it, Vasiliev was allowed to leave the country before he could be investigated.
While following traces left by Vasiliev, Kirsten came across Ben Oakley, a friend of Jade’s who lived at the Peace Camp. Inside Ben’s caravan, Kirsten found Jade’s stolen laptop, and according to its timestamp, Ben moved a photo to his phone and deleted the original copy. After Ben was arrested, Kirsten figured out that the photo clicked by Jade picturized Piter Vasiliev meeting the traitor crewman on Vigil.
Jade thought Piter worked for MI5 and wanted to expose him in the press. However, before she could publish the story, Ben informed Piter about Jade and the picture. The picture could have exposed Russian agents, and thus, to bury the story, Piter drowned Jade and killed her.
Who wanted to sabotage Vigil? And Why?
After Burke’s death, several attempts were made by Russian assets onboard to force Vigil to surface. The asset sabotaged Vigil’s ventilation system, whose blueprints were shared by a Russian GRU officer, Piter Vasiliev. On the outside, Kirsten found out the asset’s identity through the picture clicked by Jade. The Russian operative onboard Vigil was Burke’s replacement who flew out with DCI Silva, sonar operator Mathew Doward.
Inside Vigil, Silva surmised that Russians threatened Jackie to kill Burke so that they could send their asset as a replacement to sabotage the boat.
In the end, Doward was captured and brought back to Glasgow for police investigation. In interrogation, Doward confessed that Piter approached Burke to sabotage the ship, but Burke decided to become a whistleblower, and thus they had to kill him to keep his mouth shut. Jackie poisoned Burke in exchange for his son’s release. Later, Doward was sent as a replacement whose job was to force an evacuation of the submarine while Russian boats were surrounding Vigil. However, their only motive was to click a few photographs and tow back the ship to Scotland. It was a mere PR stunt to deteriorate the deterrent’s image that would have influenced the parliament to scrap the Tridents. A smooth modern warfare tactic to soften Britain’s nuclear defence.
‘Vigil’ Ending Explained – Who All Survived In The End?
Admiral Shaw knew that a US Navy submarine drowned the Scottish trawler, yet in a press conference, he blamed it on the Russians, knowing they wouldn’t retaliate. MP Patrick Cruden wanted the real story to come out, but Shaw argued that telling the world about a Russian spy onboard Vigil would be declaring Russia’s victory. It was what the Russians wanted. Hence, like Port Havers, the sabotage of Vigil was covered up too, but in the latest tragedy, the British Royal Navy dealt with grave casualties.
The Navy lost its three skilled crewmen, Craig Burke (killed by a nerve agent), Mark Prentice (stabbed by Mathew Doward), and Jackie Hamilton (killed by an accidental nerve agent gas leak). While on the outside, MP Cruden lost his daughter, Jade Antoniak. Fortunately, Vigil’s coxswain, Elliot Glover, who got infected with a nerve agent, survived the poisoning and decided to spend time with his family. His extra-marital affair with Tiffany Docherty (Anjli Mohindra) probably came to an end, as the two parted their ways after Silva exposed them on Vigil.
After her husband’s death, DCI Silva had hydrophobia, yet she investigated Vigil. The stay allowed her to reflect on personal loss and her relationship with Kirsten Longacre. When Kirsten met Silva’s daughter Poppy, she discovered that Silva was thinking of getting Poppy’s joint custody and settling in with Kirsten. But like always, Silva wasn’t sure if she was ready to commit. For the young woman, Kirsten, it was easy to express her feelings, but Silva had a plethora of questions haunting her every day. She was afraid of commitment after her husband’s death.
But when Silva experienced a close-to-death situation in Vigil, she understood what she could lose if she died at the moment. She expressed the same to Kirsten when she came out, and finally decided to embark a new journey with Kirsten. Probably, the end.
Vigil is a crime thriller series created by Tom Edge. World Productions produce the six-part police procedural mini-series for BBC One.