State of Play principally concerns a newspaper's investigation into the death of Sonia Baker, a staff researcher for Stephen Collins (David Morrissey), a member of Parliament chairing a committee considering additional regulation of multinational oil companies doing business in Great Britain. What might have been dismissed as an ordinary accident or perhaps suicide, takes on deeper implications when anonymous faxes to Stephen's wife, Anne (Polly Walker), and the press, romantically link Stephen and Sonia. When Sonia's death is subsequently linked to the murder of a petty thief, the story rushes forward in a series of twists and turns that continue right up through the series finale.
Although London homicide detectives are prominently involved, and there is the occasional gun-play, State of Play is not a cop drama. It's old-fashioned investigative journalism by a London newspaper, The Herald, that drives the investigation of Sonia's death, Stephen's involvement with Sonia, and the consequences thereof. State of Play showcases investigative journalism which balances stunning revelations with thorough fact checking, corroboration, and advice of legal counsel, resulting in a whole which is both exciting and plausible.
State of Play is written by veteran television writer Paul Abbott who continued to refine the story as it went into production going so far as to write in a major reveal in episode six while episode three was shooting. It is directed by David Yates (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) who relied on a variety of shooting styles and editing choices to individually shape the look and feel of each scene. Finally, casting director Wendy Brazington deserves mention for putting together a perfect ensemble cast: from the lowliest secretary to the lead reports, every actor nails his or her character. Though everyone does well, actors John Simm, Kelly MacDonald, and Bill Nighly deserve special mention for turning in truly top-level performances.
Sadly for the state of the real world, the least believable element of State of Play is the notion that a daily newspaper could devote the level of time and resources necessary to get to the truths revealed in this series. While it's unlikely that a corporate newspaper could ever really do this anymore, if it could be done, here's how.
The six episodes of State of Play, totaling approximately 350 minutes, are spread across two duel-layered DVD-9 discs. Forced trailers on each disc can only be skipped through repeatedly selecting the next chapter command.