We have now aired five of the six films in the series to a hard core loyal audience of around 1.2 million. Our audience figures have remained stable, although we have been up against some fearsome opposition on Monday nights from all channels. Judging from many of the tweets, Facebook messages and comments left on the Channel Five website a significant number of people have been surprised by the films so far - in a good way. I long suspected that the general view of a further series on the war in Afghanistan would be "oh no not another!".
In truth I think we have suffered from a degree of "Afghan fatigue" amongst the viewing public. To date there have been some very fine series and films on the war in Afghanistan and a few rather lacklustre ones that, it seemed to me, just wanted to jump on the band wagon. So it was a brave Channel Five that commissioned me to add to the stockpile. In judging the public response so far, though, it is gratifying that the overwhelming response has been positive fed by the realisation that this series has endeavoured to bring something fresh and different to the table.
I think that if this series does have a strength it is the intimacy that the Royal Marines afforded me as a filmmaker and the consequent honesty that I like to think comes across to the viewer - but that is not for me to say (only to hope for). It is always the intent of an observational filmmaker to get as close to the reality as possible. Certainly I could not have asked for closer access to the work of the Royal Marines on the front line and neither could I have asked for a more honest and open reaction to my camera.
The public response, then, has been and continues to be overwhelmingly positive. Most of it reflects the wide respect and awe in which these men are held in the public mind. A lot of it too relates to the picture of Afghanistan that the films are affording - a portrait of a war torn country trying, possibly against the odds, to get up on its own two feet after ten years of war and begin to look after itself. I have had some letters from people who were genuinely surprised that not everyone in Afghanistan is a Taliban insurgent but that many Afghans seem really nice people. They are!
One film is left to air. For those who have been following the series I can promise an emotional finale.