*** WARNING: This article contains mild spoilers for Line Of Duty, season six. Do not continue reading if you are not up to date. You have been warned.***
Like millions of other people in the UK, Craig Parkinson has been lost down the Line Of Duty rabbit hole over the past few weeks.
The actor played the infamous Caddy – Matthew "Dot" Cottan – in the police procedural drama, and as a former cast member he says it’s been great to see the show continue to deliver after production was shut down due to the pandemic, returning with strict COVID-19 protocols in place.
"I’m so proud of the guys for going back after the break, getting it done without any illness and delivering one of the iconic great British dramas that we’ve produced in the past few years," Parkinson tells Backstage. "Talk about timing, we all need AC-12 in our life right now, albeit I’m sure they’re going to break some hearts at some point."
The actor is also hosting a podcast which dissects each episode after it’s aired. This, he says, has led to him being invested "so deep" in the current series, which reaches its conclusion on Sunday.
"I’m watching things in advance of the rest of the nation, I’m having to watch things two or three times, I’m forensically dissecting these episodes, my social media timeline is awash with the maddest of theories you could possibly imagine," Parkinson says.
Those theories are coming from fans turned armchair detectives, who will notice the tiniest of details left like breadcrumbs by writer Jed Mercurio, as he continues to keep people guessing as to who the fourth corrupt officer – known as H – could be.
Parkinson says the fandom has swelled since the first season aired back in 2012.
"It’s built slowly and steadily over the years, and they are obsessive. I have friends that have been in Doctor Who and they talk about the Doctor Who fans – I mean, the Line Of Duty fans are up there with their devotion and their love for these characters that Jed’s created.
"It’s kind of amazing if I’m honest, I’m certainly not slagging them off, you know. We wouldn’t be anywhere without them – and I’m one of them."
As well as following his former Line Of Duty colleagues, Parkinson is also currently promoting his new sci-fi series, Intergalactic. The show follows a group of female criminals on the run through space, and a wrongly accused police officer forced to help them.
Parkinson plays the mysterious Dr Benedict Lee, a leader whose motives aren’t immediately clear.
The actor says it wasn’t until he talked about the character with director Kieron Hawkes that he was sure it was right for him.
"We started to discuss this character that initially I was quite afraid to take on because it was very different to anything I’ve ever done," he says. "Because it’s not black and white – he’s not the bad guy or there was more to it – and we hit upon a tone that was almost Lynchian, it’s almost like a David Lynch character, very clinical, quite anal, but needs to be in control.
"The interesting thing is you never see Dr Lee physically touch anybody… he was getting on the hand sanitiser before we did the past year!"
The show is colourful and futuristic and looks as though it had a big budget for production design and visual effects.
Parkinson says it was exciting to film because the sets were so "visually astounding".
"There’s a scene in Dr Lee’s laboratory in episode one, and we weren’t in there for quite some time because it was still being worked on, and when me and Parminder [Nagra – Parkinson’s co-star] stepped on it we just took an intake of breath because it was just stunning.
"We had to wear slips over our shoes because the floor surface, as the walls and the ceiling, was all mirrored. So you stepped on it and it was like you couldn’t believe that you step on it – so you felt a bit seasick, a bit woozy at first."
The show is written by the award-winning Julie Geary, who known for her female-led dramas including Prisoners’ Wives and Secret Diary Of A Call Girl, and has a cast of recognisable faces including Poldark’s Eleanor Tomlinson, Sex Education’s Sharon Duncan-Brewster and Natasha O’Keefe, from Peaky Blinders.
And Parkinson says while it is set in space, it can’t easily be categorised.
"It’s otherworldly to me… I think with Intergalactic, you can’t just put it in a science fiction/ drama [genre]. I think there’s so much more to it, and it’s reflected in Julie’s scripts – it’s so rich and layered, and how often do you switch on the telly and see a massively diverse, strong female-led ensemble? It just doesn’t happen.
"I think timing is always key, as you know, in television, and I think now is that time."
Intergalactic is available on Sky One and streaming service NOW. To hear our review of the show, listen to the latest episode of Backstage, the film and TV podcast from Sky News.