Sarah Phelps

Sarah Phelps is a British television screenwriter, radio writer, playwright and television producer. She is best known for her work on EastEnders, a number of BBC serial adaptations including Agatha Christie's The Witness For the Prosecution, And Then There Were None, Ordeal by Innocence, The ABC Murders and The Pale Horse; Charles Dickens's Great Expectations and Oliver Twist; and J. K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy,[1] and work with the Royal Shakespeare Company.


Phelps has written over 50 episodes of EastEnders, including the return of Den Watts and his final demise, less than two years later. She wrote the screenplay for the BBC's 2011 Christmas costume drama adaptation Great Expectations[2] and the World War One drama series The Crimson Field. The show was cancelled after one series due to middling ratings.[3]

In 2015, a television adaptation of J. K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy was written by Phelps.[4]

Christie AdaptationsEdit

In 2015, Phelps' adaptation of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None was broadcast.[5] Reviewing it for The Daily Telegraph, Tim Martin found that, "The final episode of this bloody adaptation by Sarah Phelps did splendid justice to Christie's lightless universe, presenting an isolated mansion full of leaking corpses, in which the characters – quite understandably – freaked out in ways that no previous adaptation has countenanced."[6] Martin went on to note, "All this couldn't have been further from the teasing restraint of classic adaptations such as René Clair's celebrated Hollywood version from 1945. But Phelps's version felt closer both to the cruelty of Christie's original and to its dramatic intentions. Clair chose to sacrifice the book's murder-suicide conclusion in favour of a romantic clinch, while Christie herself had already ditched it for her stage adaptation in 1943. Phelps kept it in, and this brave decision allowed her adaptation to preserve its cheerless emotional contract with the viewer ... [C]lassily photographed in low light, moonlight and candlelight, and with strong performances from the weighty ensemble cast throughout, it made a strong case for Phelps (best known for her TV adaptations of Oliver Twist and Great Expectations) to be put on seasonal murder duty at the BBC every year."[6]

In 2016 The Witness For the Prosecution went to air, with a script based on the original short story rather than the later play on which other screen adaptations have been based.[7]

In April 2018, another of Agatha Christie's novels adapted by Phelps was broadcast on BBC One. Ordeal by Innocence had been pulled from the Christmas scheduling on BBC one after one of the leading actors in the drama miniseries was accused of sexual assault. The programme was re-shot with a new actor, Christian Cooke, replacing Ed Westwick.[8]

In June 2018 it was announced that the BBC were filming a Phelps adaptation of Agatha Christie’s ABC Murders starring John Malkovich as Hercule Poirot.[9] In June 2019 it was announced that Phelps would write an adaptation of The Pale Horse.[10]


Year Title Episode(s)
2002–2016 EastEnders 94 episodes
2003 Spine Chillers 1 episode
2003 2006 No Angels 3 episodes
2006 Goldplated 1 episode
2007 Oliver Twist Mini-Series, 5 episodes
2007–2008 HolbyBlue 3 episodes
2011 Being Human 1 episode
2011 Camelot 1 episode
2011 Great Expectations Mini-Series, 3 episodes
2012 Falcón 2 episodes
2014 The Crimson Field Creator, 6 episodes
2015 The Casual Vacancy Mini-Series, 3 episodes
2015 And Then There Were None Mini-Series, 3 episodes
2015-2016 Dickensian 5 episodes
2016-2017 Hooten & the Lady Co-Creator 8 episodes, written by 1 episode
2016 The Witness for the Prosecution Mini-Series, 2 episodes
2017 The White Princess 1 episode
2018 Ordeal by Innocence Mini-Series, 3 episodes
2018 The A.B.C. Murders Mini-Series, 3 episodes
2019 Dublin Murders Mini-Series, 8 episodes
2020 The Pale Horse Mini-Series, 2 episodes

Other workEdit

Phelps' radio work includes Vital Signs II, Cardamom, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid and The Compass Rose: A Tattoo Lexicon. Phelps also wrote for the World Service Soap opera Westway before joining the BBC in 2002. Her theatre projects include Tube, Angela Carter, The Subtle Art of Boiling Lobsters, Amaretti Angels and Modern Dance for Beginners.[11]

Sarah has appeared on a number of podcasts including The QuaranTea Break Podcast[12] with Simon Ward, The Graham Norton Podcast[13], My Inspiration Podcast[14] and Always There[15].


  1. ^ "10 Questions for Screenwriter Sarah Phelps". Retrieved 23 March 2017.
  2. ^ "Great Expectations meets BBC's high hopes thanks to young actor Douglas Booth". Retrieved 23 March 2017.
  3. ^ "The Crimson Field axed by BBC, 'gutted' writer Sarah Phelps confirms". The Independent. 11 June 2014. Retrieved 23 March 2017.
  4. ^ "Sarah Phelps, interview for the Casual Vacancy: 'JK Rowling and I saw eye to eye'". Retrieved 23 March 2017.
  5. ^ "And Then There Were None - BBC One". BBC. Retrieved 23 March 2017.
  6. ^ a b "And Then There Were None, episode three, review: 'a class act'". Retrieved 23 March 2017.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Billen, Andrew (31 March 2018). "Ordeal by Innocence: the Christie Mystery that almost got away". The Times (72497). Saturday Review. pp. 4–5. ISSN 0140-0460.
  9. ^ "BBC - First-look image of John Malkovich as Hercule Poirot in BBC One's The ABC Murders - Media Centre".
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Sarah Phelps profile". Retrieved 23 March 2017.
  12. ^ "The QuaranTea Break Podcast: Ep 3: Sarah Phelps – talking The Pale Horse ending, writing during lockdown and 5G conspiracy theorists on Apple Podcasts". Apple Podcasts. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  13. ^ "The Graham Norton Podcast: With Sarah Phelps, Lady Glenconner and Thomas Schumacher on Apple Podcasts". Apple Podcasts. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  14. ^ "hmv presents: My Inspiration Podcast - Sarah Phelps". HMV. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  15. ^ There, Always. "Always There - S3 E1: Sarah Phelps: part 1". Google Podcasts. Retrieved 19 June 2020.

External linksEdit