Watched The Salisbury Poisonings last night, me and over 7 million others making it the most watched British drama in years.
I managed to stay awake – well I am approaching 60!- through all of the first two parts of the three-episode drama which makes it worthy of a Brian Jones ‘five star ‘not falling asleep’ rating.
I found it gripping television that really brought to life how ordinary people must feel and how they cope when pitched into extraordinary situations. The scenes of streets in lockdown, health officials wearing PPE, dangerously contaminated surfaces and a battle with an invisible enemy also made it very easy to identify with.
The three-part BBC series is based on the events of March 2018, when the Wiltshire cathedral city faced one of the biggest threats to UK public health in recent years.
Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found slumped and foaming at the mouth on a city centre bench, having been poisoned with the deadly nerve agent Novichok. The government would later conclude it was an assassination attempt by two agents of Russian intelligence service the GRU.
I found the characterisation of the key men and women involved in handling the crisis fascinating and just a little bit sexist.
A county’s director of public health is a pretty big job and yet Tracy Daszkiewicz (played by Anne-Marie Duff) is presented as inexperienced, vulnerable and potentially out of her depth. She comes good, of course, but her self-doubts and the pressures of her family life play a big part in the dramatic tension as the story unfolds.
In contrast the senior men working for the police and in the hospital are also facing an unprecedented career challenge but are not given the same multi-dimensional characterisations. I’m not complaining and I think it makes for great drama that we all can identify with but it is interesting.
It also made a change to see positive portrayals of virtually all of the characters involved, how they worked together, how they supported each other. It shows husbands and wives clearly in love, friends caring for each other and most movingly for me, daughters distraught about their Dad.
It reminded me of how outrageous it was what the Russians did, not only to try and assassinate someone on a foreign soil but to use such an indiscriminate and dangerous substance that could have killed hundreds of others.
It also reminded me of then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pathetic response – initially seeming to take the side of the Russians – and how the much-maligned Theresa May handled the crisis pretty well.
Even though I know what happens I’m really looking forward to tonight’s final episode.