Last Night's TV: Harry's Arctic Heroes/BBC1
Random/Channel 4

 

You don't get to meet people like this very often," said Harry Wales, describing the four disabled Afghanistan veterans whose trek to the North Pole he was briefly going to join. Well, I don't, Harry, I thought... but surely it can't be that much of a rarity for you? It goes with the job really, doesn't it? All those hospital visits and hearts-and-minds tours, all those occasions when a royal handshake is assumed to be a sovereign remedy for the riot-struck and the dispossessed. It's partly what a prince is for these days. The old role, of being inaccessibly distant and more special than anyone around them, lingers on. But to it has been added the new duty of being ostentatiously less special than certain commoners. Prince Harry – regal rugger bugger and honorary squaddie – is actually quite good at this. As he said in Harry's Arctic Heroes: "I like to think I'm just one of the lads, whether I am or not."

One of the "lads" here thought that Harry had added "credibility" to their charitable project, though surely what he really added was celebrity, of an exclusively hallmarked kind. The credibility they had supplied all by themselves, by virtue of the grimness of their qualifications to take part in an enterprise called Walking with the Wounded. Captain Martin Hewitt, for example, had found himself in Afghanistan ferreting with his left hand in the wreckage of his right shoulder, trying to pinch shut an artery that was pulsing his life blood into the sand. And Guy Disney had lost his left leg to an RPG: "It was almost like when you swing a boot by its laces," he recalled vividly, "there were a couple of bits of tendon left holding it on."

Along with Jaco van Gass, a young South African who'd lost his arm, and Steve Young, whose back was broken after an IED strike, they planned to walk 160 miles to the North Pole, an enterprise that would be challenging even for the fittest person. Harry was on hand to whip up a bit of heat – in the media sense – and to perform that useful function of being humbled by his colleague's resilience: "You know what," he said at one point. "If I do go back [to Afghanistan] and I do end up getting hit, I hope I end up like these guys." It might have been phrased better, that, but you knew what he was trying to say. A lot of the rhetoric of courage and challenge in the thing is focused on the polar walk itself (they'd only just set out by the end of this first episode). But all four of these men had probably already done the hardest slog, trudging through the Arctic of the mind that divides the unmarked from the permanently disabled. The fact that they could even set out cheerfully was the real triumph.

Jaco mused at one point about the number of people that a serious injury affects, trauma rippling out to affect family and friends. Debbie Tucker Green's play Random was about collateral damage too, detailing the banalities of a day that begins as tediously ordinary and ends in extraordinary grief. Like the stage play from which she'd adapted it for television, it was built around a single remarkable performance – Nadine Marshall reprising her multiple role as every member of a black family on the day the youngest child is killed in a street stabbing. But where the stage version presented you with nothing but a single performer – jinking from voice to voice as it built up the narrative of the day – the television version had been opened out a little. Now and then the image cut away from Marshall, alone in an empty studio, for location vignettes of other actors playing the characters (though not speaking their words) and for stop-motion montages of the settings and background, and on-screen titles indicating unspoken thoughts.

I don't think this will have been entirely helpful for viewers, some of whom may already have been struggling with the rapid patois in which Random is written and the repeated deflations of the commercial breaks. The chop and shift of images delayed the moment at which you finally grasped what the play was doing, and could shift your concentration from mere comprehension to an appreciation of Green's language and observation. Once that moment came, though, it was as potent as it was in the theatre. "Shoes on in the front room? They better be police," said the daughter, arriving home to find her mother's formal front room invaded by strangers who don't understand the house rules. For a moment the old benchmark of the unforgivable is still in place, not yet dislodged by something infinitely worse.

Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
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.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits