The Weekend's TV: Casualty 1907, BBC1
The Shogun, BBC2

They had plenty of guts in those days

The easy availability of sex, the constant display of thighs and breasts and acres of naked skin in today's media – so the familiar complaint goes – is actually not very sexy: how much more erotic the artful dance of concealment and revelation that used to be the norm, when the merest glimpse of a well-turned ankle could send an electric shudder up your spine. Casualty 1907 certainly bears this out: there's barely a glance exchanged between doctors and nurses here that isn't charged with sexual significance. In a meeting to confer over protocol for a royal visit, a senior doctor let his hand steal towards the matron; at the unwonted touch, she jumped away, as outraged as if he'd stuck his tongue in her ear and suggested she take him through the finer points of sponge-bath technique right there on the table. In chapel, shy young nurse Ethel Bennett fought a prolonged and futile battle to stop herself turning round to look at dynamic Dr Culpin, and then found his gaze already fixed on her.

Aside from the slightly overheated emotional atmosphere, Casualty 1907 doesn't have a lot to do with its contemporary namesake. This three-parter is, unsurprisingly, a sequel to the one-off Casualty 1906 (presumably a delayed sequel, though, since the BBC isn't in the habit of marking 102nd anniversaries). Like the earlier film, it is set in the London Hospital in Whitechapel, and based fairly closely on contemporary records and journals. There really was a Nurse Ethel Bennett and a Dr Millais Culpin, for example, and they married in 1913, so those sparks weren't just the writers succumbing to Mills & Boon cliché. Last night's episode suffered a little bit from period-drama gloss: the clothes a bit too perfect, the actors healthier and with neater teeth than the Edwardians generally managed, and there were traces from time to time of that condescending Whig attitude to the past common in all historical fictions. You can tell the bad characters because they have the prejudices of their time (Women doctors? Pshaw!), and the good ones because they are all modern and emancipated. By and large, though, it got the sense of period much better than most TV dramas: the deference, the snobbery, the public piety, the sense of duty – all those rigidities that we admire and despise in our forebears.

It also got the way respectability, which was the main object of life, rubbed up against horrors that just a century later we can scarcely imagine. Queen Alexandra's visit, and the ceremony that had to accompany it, were counterpointed with tales of gunshot wounds, sores that wouldn't heal, untreatable skin diseases that left a boy looking like a reptilian space creature, mothers who let their babies starve so they could collect the insurance, and operations carried out with inadequate anaesthetics and disinfectants. At times the gruesomeness was overdone: the amputation of a leg was the excuse for some real butcher's-shop footage, though I can't imagine a modern amputation involves significantly less shedding of blood. You couldn't accuse it of being nostalgic, though.

One thing that was different from today was the amount of screaming going on: moans, groans, yelps, howls, wails, squawks – a kind of Roget's of pain. One nice sequence had Dr Culpin (William Houston, one of my favourite actors, who always fizzes with energy and intelligence) climbing up through the darkened stairwell of a slum to the accompaniment of coughing, a dog growling, and the rhythmic screams of a woman in labour. It was only a shame the producers felt the need to smear dramatic music over the top. But I enjoyed this far more than I should have – perhaps it was just the sense of relief that we live in an age where sanitation and decent medical care can be taken for granted.

Like Casualty 1907, The Shogun hovered in that currently overpopulated grey area between documentary and drama. This was the story of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who at the start of the 17th century came out on top in the civil wars that were racking Japan, establishing a dynasty of shoguns that ruled Japan until the late 19th century. This period of feuding warlords and vast samurai armies forms the background to an awful lot of the most celebrated Japanese films, and at times I did get the feeling that I'd seen all this before: the ritualised suicides, the black-clad ninja assassins clambering over the rooftops, the noble samurai solemnly running through his sword moves in perfect silence... And by TV standards, it was all done on a pretty lavish scale, so that you could guess it was an international co-production even without clocking the actors' American accents. But it also had a certain tameness: for example, you didn't get any of the hacked-off limbs that are such a feature of Japanese cinema, and the battle scenes managed to remind you of a Kurosawa film without ever approaching the scale, beauty of savagery of one. Whoever knew samurai could be boring?

Arts and Entertainment
Keith from The Office ten years on

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams prepares to enter the House of Black and White as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones season five

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Albert Hammond Junior of The Strokes performs at the Natural History Museum on July 6, 2006 in London, England.

music
Arts and Entertainment
Howard Mollison, as played by Michael Gambon
tv review
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech

The best TV shows and films coming to the service

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

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.

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003