The Crimson Field, TV review: Band of sisters rescue mishmash of a Great War drama


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The Independent Culture

Even as Westeros keeps turning without her, it's good to know that Mrs Robb Stark, aka Oona Chaplin, has been reincarnated in a new role. This time she's a volunteer nurse in The Crimson Field, the latest new programme from the BBC's First World War centenary season.

Chaplin (Charlie's granddaughter) has the equine elegance of Rebecca Hall in Parade's End, but sadly that's where comparisons with the BBC's last great First World War drama end. This one was instead an opportunistic mishmash of every hit TV show from the past five years – the period setting of Downton Abbey, the fluffy female solidarity of Call the Midwife, and there was even a scene in a tent where the nurses were challenged to make a bed in under two minutes: "The Great British Bed-Off", if you will.

Hermione Norris played the stern but kindly matron, there was also naive and frivolous new recruit, Flora, and a shell-shocked soldier called Prentiss. These characters are all over-familiar, but thanks to the cast, not unappealing. Chaplin's rebel nurse Kitty seemed to be developing along predictable lines until she delivered this stinging put-down to a goody two-shoes colleague: "What are you? Thirty? The embarrassing unmarried daughter... thank Christ for the war!"

Between them, Chaplin's sharp-tongued Kitty and the duplicitous Sister Margaret Quayle (Kerry Fox) were intriguing enough to lure us back next week. Let's not forget that the writer, Sarah Phelps, brought Dirty Den back from the dead in EastEnders, so she knows how to write a good love-to-hate character. Having conspired to send Prentiss back to the frontline and – much worse – scoffed Flora's fruitcake, who knows what the twisted Sister Margaret will get up to next.