The best thrillers hover in an eerie twilight zone, just on the right side of plausibility. The first series of BBC1’s Trust Me, broadcast a couple of years ago, fell apart rather too easily because of its basic premise. This was, if you by any chance want to be reminded of it, that, in the age of the internet, endemic medical negligence litigation and professional HR departments, a nurse could successfully get a job as a doctor, without anyone noticing for many years. I forget why she wanted to impersonate a doctor, apart from the obvious fun factor of using unsuspecting strangers as training exercises. Even with Jodie Whittaker in the lead role it was all too silly. It might have been OK if she actually wanted to kill her patients. She didn’t.
Not so this time, however. The second series of Trust Me is recast in all senses, and is now quite compelling, and all too plausible. It centres around the plight of a paraplegic soldier, flat on his back on a spinal-injuries ward in a Glasgow hospital. In the moodily lit scenes, he slowly comes to the realisation that the mortality rate there is unusually high and the next spot to be plotted on the graph of outlying negative treatment outcomes might be him. Which is to say that the other inmates are dropping like flies all around him. It is unnerving to say the least for him to think he has more chance of surviving a skirmish with Isis than the NHS.
Medevac’d back from one of our many dusty little wars, Corporal Jamie McCain (Alfred Enoch) witnesses the first death on the ward almost as soon as he arrives – the producers of Trust Me getting the homicides under way commendably promptly there. A 62-year-old chap who smoked and enjoyed a drink is taken suddenly and fatally ill – old enough not to be a classically suspicious case, but maybe a bit too young to fall off his perch quite so suddenly.
Then, much more ominously, a patient in the next bed, paralysed from the waist down, goes into a seizure after a pair of scissors “somehow” become embedded in his thigh. The clincher, and the incident that convinces McCain that he is, probably, not hallucinating under the influence of the very heavy doses of Diazepam they’ve been feeding him, is the strange death of young Danny Adams (Elliot Cooper). Danny had tried to convince McCain about the stats he’d been collecting, all about differential death rates, and warned: “Data never lies. Young people are dying here. There is only one thing that fits the data. Angel of Death. There’s a killer on the wards…”
But who is the Angel of Death? Is it physiotherapist Debbie Dorrell (Ashley Jensen) because she plays down the claims of Danny, the “ward eccentric”? (And, to be honest, also because she’s one of the bigger stars in the show and maybe her agent wanted her cast against her usual dippy type.)
Is it Debbie’s married lover Dr Archie Watson (John Hannah) who seems a bit too matter-of-fact about his ailing patients, to the point of callousness? Could it be Dr Zoe Wade (Katie Clarkson-Hill) just because she seems a bit too nice, and she takes Diazepam for recreational purposes? Could some or all of the medics be working their evil in concert?
Or did the butler do it? (Joke)
Trust Me, then, puts McCain, and us, into what is a genuinely intriguing and frightening scenario, like one of those nightmares where you’re in terrible danger but simply cannot speak or move.
It’s vaguely Kafkaesque, I suppose, in the dependent helplessness of the soldier, and, also, the looming stress of an army trial for his conduct on active duty. Trust Me also reminds me a little of Hitchcock’s Rear Window, where Jimmy Stewart plays a wheelchair user who convinces himself that, during fitful sleep, he has seen a neighbour murder his wife. It also echoes cases such as that of Beverley Allitt and Harold Shipman (who gets a name check in the script). I have no idea how much the team behind Trust Me found inspiration in Allitt, Shipman, Hitchcock or Kafka, but if so then it is put to excellent use. Or maybe I’m just imagining things.
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