IT MIGHT not have been the most festive of subjects, but programmes around the Skripal Affair played a prominent role in the Christmas schedules. First shown on BBC1 back in 2020, dramatization The Salisbury Poisonings has now made its way onto Netflix, where it was the fourth most watched show in the week before Christmas.

Boxing Day then saw the launch of the similarly named Secrets of the Salisbury Poisonings. This is available on Discovery Plus, another subscription service, though if you want to watch without paying, you can sign up for a seven-day trial online, watch the programme and then cancel your subscription.

Regular readers know that as an ongoing columnist in the area (five years this week, don’t worry about the card), I have followed and written on different aspects of the case from the beginning. Discovery Plus is a serious, well-funded American network – the pitch of the service is to focus in on non-fiction stories – so I had high hopes for the programme and what secrets might be revealed.

Unfortunately, if that is what you were tuning into the documentary for, you were likely to come away disappointed. The programme looks fantastic – lots of sweeping drone footage of Salisbury Cathedral, interspersed with cuts from contemporary news reports. And the programme’s producers had pulled together a good collection of most of the main figures in the drama – Nick Bailey, Charlie Rowley, Tracy Daszkiewicz – along with interviews with the likes of former Home Secretary Amber Rudd, chemical weapons expert Hamish de Bretton-Gordon and then Salisbury Journal reporter Rebecca Hudson.

The result is a glossy, familiar account of the main events. It’s told in talking heads style, where the participants are left to speak for themselves. In many places, that space allows them to poignantly describe their role in events, for some in heartbreaking and harrowing detail. But despite pulling this excellent cast list together, the programme failed to tease out any new insights.

The most tantalising moments were left right to the end. Sir Mark Rowley, former Head of UK Counter Terrorism Policing, noted that although the police had got evidence to a criminal standard of three people involved in the attack, ‘we shouldn’t assume that there were only three people involved. Russian military intelligence would often deploy more people than that for overseas assassinations.’ Both Hamish de Bretton-Gordon and Charlie Rowley raised questions, too, as to whether the perfume bottle found was the only Novichok container involved.

The most noticeable absence from the programme (the Skripals aside) was anyone from Dawn Sturgess’ family. I hope the public inquiry into her death, taking place later this year, will provide more concrete answers as to what really happened.