Television Review

ALLEGEDLY, HOLBY CITY (BBC1) is a spin-off from Casualty; but in what sense is open to debate. It doesn't have the same production team - isn't even made in the same part of Britain - or any of the same stars. True, a girl who went into a coma in last week's Casualty turned up three days later, still completely immobile, in Holby City. And, every so often the viewer gets a distant glimpse of Charlie Fairhead, flitting like some exotic bird across the scenery. But, for the most part, the relationship seems to be a purely notional device for guaranteeing a basic level of ratings - likewise the casting of former soap stars Michael French and Angela Griffin.

Still, it's a creditably smart and efficient piece of engineering, and I probably ought to admit to taking a sneaky, no-brainer pleasure from it. The storylines push the plausibility boat out a little too far, perhaps, and the writers are too ready to stoop to cliche (week two, and already Nick Jordan and the new ward sister are having hissed conversations about how she wouldn't have taken the job if she'd known he was working there). What's interesting, though, is how far the plots revolve around smart-arsed, over-ambitious young doctors being put in their place by people who may not be so clever, but know more about life. Cocky surgical registrar Nick Jordan inadvertently stoked up a row between a terminal patient's children and their stepmother, and was put in his place by the new ward sister. Meanwhile, academically bright Dr Merrick scared a patient witless with ideas about a rare and incurable nervous disorder, before the patient set her straight with homespun wisdom accumulated over a lifetime in hairdressing. Only Mr Meyer, the consultant surgeon, is allowed to get away with being clever; but he is a heartless automaton.

When comparing Holby City with the real-life medical drama of Monday night's Trauma Team (ITV), what strikes you is the degree of convergence between the genres of fiction and documentary. Trauma Team, set in the accident and emergency department of the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, follows what would once have been the conventions of popular drama. It sets up a number of concurrent storylines as the doctors cope with a mixture of domestic and professional traumas. Even the jump-cuts and nauseous lurches into close-up, which would once have given it the stamp of authenticity, have since been appropriated by drama. Here they feel like a pose, a style which has been chosen rather than imposed by working conditions. It didn't help that this week's opening episode began on such a sensational note, with a man who had had his arm bitten off by a tiger and, unscripted, gave the answer "tigers" when asked if he was allergic to anything. By contrast, Holby City seems a very conservative piece of film-making, and far more concerned to show the viewer authentically gruesome surgery. The line between fiction and documentary hasn't vanished yet, but it's fading. That surely can't be healthy.

A similar desire to dress up the facts afflicted Station X (C4), a new four-parter about the code-breaking operations at Bletchley Park. It opened with a reconstruction of the night in 1946 when all Bletchley Park's documentation was burned to prevent the secret getting out. Then, later on, we were treated to odd little dramatised moments - shots of hands moving across tables strewn with tea-cups, the air thick with cigarette smoke - apparently to express the idea of intrigue. As far as the actual mechanics of code- breaking and the Enigma machine went, the programme wimped out a little - its explanations were too brief to make the technicalities penetrable. You wondered if the producers really respected the viewers' intelligence, particularly when the commentary felt it necessary to refer to "the Italian Fascist, Mussolini".

This was compensated for, though, by the codebreakers themselves - elderly, respectable people who looked back with a winning mixture of pride and embarrassment at the bright young things they were. One told how, when an admiral came to congratulate the code-breakers, they spent their time manoeuvring him into leaning against a recently whitewashed wall. And I liked the story of the marine biologist, recruited because his speciality was cryptogams - a primitive life-form - and somebody thought that that was the same as cryptograms. Truly, this was our finest hour.

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power