Who stars with Robert Carlyle in new Sky One political drama Cobra, and what time it's on tonight

Cobra sees Sky return to the “disaster TV” genre after chilling viewers with its stark dramatisation of the Chernobyl explosion.
(Photo: Sky)(Photo: Sky)
(Photo: Sky)

A fictional series which thrusts a Conservative Prime Minister into the eye of the storm as a global emergency erupts, it's hoping to capture the imagination just as much as the nuclear meltdown drama did.

Here's everything you need to know about it:

What is Cobra about?

(Photo: SKy)(Photo: SKy)
(Photo: SKy)

A conclave of scientists, military top brass and ministers, the government's crisis centre, Cobra (Cabinet Office Briefing Room A), swings into action when Prime Minister Robert Sutherland demands an urgent response to news that the sun has erupted with a massive solar flare.

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The resulting Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) dispatches a billion ton cloud of plasma, with an embedded magnetic field, Earthwards.

As the pressure mounts and blackouts spread, Sutherland is forced to make high-stakes decisions - how to divert the passenger plane plummeting towards a motorway in Northumberland?

Will sharing information with the public cause more panic? Which areas of the country should be prioritised when food shortages kick in?

Will it give me nightmares?

The show's premise is given added pathos by the fact that scientists warn a similar CME is "inevitable" in the near future, causing many of the cataclysmic events depicted in the show.

“When a CME hits, the solar particles can interact with Earth's magnetic field to produce powerful electromagnetic fluctuations,” reported National Geographic.

“Of particular concern are disruptions to global positioning systems (GPS), which have become ubiquitous in cell phones, airplanes, and automobiles.”

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“A powerful disaster-inducing geomagnetic storm is an inevitability in the near future, likely causing blackouts, satellite failures, and more,” confirmed Scientific American.

Cobra suggests we are more vulnerable today since power surges caused by solar particles could blow out giant transformers, bringing the electrical grid to its knees.

Don't have nightmares.

Who stars in it?

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Star of the show is Robert Carlyle, who plays the Tory PM at the heart of Cobra's disaster-management drama.

“At first, I thought Cobra was a script about snakes," he told iNews. "The fact of the matter is it’s not science fiction - solar storms are an actual thing."

Carlyle says the show is "not too far removed from the truth," and that it "reminds you about the fragility of our species, the fragility of our world.”

“Sutherland is a conflicted man. This solar storm is the first real test of his mettle: he has to hold his party and his country together.”

Alongside Carlyle, Cobra features Victoria Hamilton (The Crown, Doctor Foster) as the steely Chief of Staff, "the anti-Dominic Cummings" according to the actress; "she’s operating for what she regards as the greater good, rather than for personal advancement."

Elsewhere, Richard Dormer (Game of Thrones, Fortitude) plays Fraser Walker, the best crisis contingency planner in the country, while David Haig (Killing Eve, The Thick of It) is plotting Home Secretary Archie Glover-Morgan.

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Marsha Thomason (The Good Doctor) plays MP Francine Bridge, and Lucy Cohu (Summer of Rockets, Ripper Street) plays the Prime Minister’s wife, Rachel.

Who wrote it?

Cobra was written by Strike and Spooks writer Ben Richards, who is already mulling “Cobra 2".

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“We talked to scientists and they constantly say ‘watch out for the big solar storm.," he told iNews. "The big issue is the power supply.”

“When the storm hits the stuff rushes into the system and blows the transformers. We only have a few spare transformers. The National Grid says it won’t happen but other people say it could. It depends on the size, scale and gravity of the CME.”

When can I watch it?

Cobra airs January 17 at 9pm on Sky One and NOW TV.

All episodes will be available as a box set.