Doctor Foster, TV review: A trite title but this 'Gone Girl' tribute looks like being an affair to remember

Sally Newall
Wednesday 09 September 2015 19:42
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Doctor Foster might sound like a ropey spin-off of ITV's Cornish-set Doc Martin, but don't let the uninspiring title put you off. This was compelling, tightly scripted drama, more in the vein of feature-length psychological thriller Gone Girl than a cosy comedy TV drama.

This first instalment of the five-parter charted Dr Gemma Foster's (Suranne Jones) growing suspicion that her husband Simon (Bertie Carvel) was having an affair. The old green-eyed monster is a common topic in a relationship-focused show, but Mike Bartlett's (The Town) naturalistic script, brilliantly delivered by Jones and Carvel, was close to the bone. Paired with clever direction from Tom Vaughan (Poirot, Starter for Ten), it portrayed the isolation jealously can bring. Gemma was mostly surrounded by friends but in darkly lit scenes, with altered focus and a suspense-building score, you got a sense of her loneliness as her paranoia escalated.

A subplot with a disgruntled employee and flashes of high-handedness meant we were subtly led to question whether Dr Foster might not be all she seemed. Jones (Scott & Bailey) convinced as a capable GP, loving mother and a wronged wife. Some subtle comedy, like dealing with a hypochondriac patient, introduced some welcome lightness in parts, too. Other plot devices felt less believable. Would a local GP really go round and threaten a patient's violent partner in an act of selflessness? The superior dialogue pulled it through, though.

The quotes from William Congreve's The Mourning Bride might have felt a little trite, but the well-known paraphrase "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" worked here. At one point I genuinely feared Gemma was going to sever her husband's genitals with doctor's scissors. But with four more hours to go, I don't think she was ready to defuse the tension just yet.

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