The Crimson Field, TV reviews: A series beginning to find it's feet

After a couple of shaky episodes, the characters are starting to get their emotional balance

Rose Troup Buchanan
Monday 21 April 2014 09:40
Comments
Sergeant Aloysius McCafferty confronts Lance Corporal Enda Peache in BBC drama The Crimson Field
Sergeant Aloysius McCafferty confronts Lance Corporal Enda Peache in BBC drama The Crimson Field

We open with Captain Gillian (Richard Rankin) dreamily remembering his encounter with Kitty on the beach – culminating later in the worst line so far of the series (“I’ve been alarmed since the moment you arrived”) and which sets the odd tone in this slower moving episode, with the beach a focal point for many of the characters.

Sergeant Aloysius McCafferty (what a name) and his Irish protégé Edna Peache (Loracan Cranitch and Kerr Logan) have their relationship disintegrate as pressure from home proves worse than anything the front can throw at them, resulting in a uncomfortably funny confrontation and sad conclusion with the young lance corporal out-growing his jingoistic sergeant.

Private Alan Nichols, an injured soldier accused of self-harming to escape the front, also finds relative peace on the shorefront, before being court-martialled near the conclusion of the episode.

Termed a ‘ghost’ by the other soldiers, Nichols’ treatment is unsurprisingly used to show which of the doctors and nurses are ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

In the good pack we have the kindly Miles (Alex Wyndam), Sister Joan Livesey (Suranne Jones), who has a nice little outburst against his treatment before going off and having her own crisis, and Matron who sews the condemned man a hankerchief, despite having an entire station hospital to run.

In the bad corner is (obviously) Sister Quayle. Having nothing but a curling lip for Nichols (and Matron’s attitude towards him), she’s reunited with Aloysius (seriously, what a name) and they share a bizarre little tea scene in the middle of a field with Berrick waiting on them. Again, how she’s got the time to do this doesn’t seem in need of explanation.

Alongside the tea-drinking and sewing, Sister Livesey kept roaring off on her motorbike to visit a Belgium civilian whose daughter she’d treated. Except, of course, he was married to a German and Livesey’s mysterious engagement ring is revealed. Engaged prior to the war, she’s had no way of contacting her fiancé but trustingly hands the Belgium a letter for him.

It all seems to be going alright until Berrick sees her ring in the shower, and tells Sister Quayle.

We get more of an insight into Flora’s (Alice St Clare) background after she quietly clock’s corporal Peter Foley’s (Jack Gordon) homosexuality.

Access unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows with Amazon Prime Video Sign up now for a 30-day free trial

Sign up

It seems the only person actually being a doctor is Captain Gillan and he’s hamstrung by yah-ing superiors, who are more concerned with his “tenement block” background than his innovative surgery methods.

It’s by far the most graphic episode so far. Gillan’s surgery, as well as the arrival of a shell-shocked man with ears round his neck, bring home to viewers the contrary nature of the times. Stuck between Victorian formality and modern atrocities, it’s hardly surprising some of the characters are beginning to crack.

Stringing together different elements, it feels like the series it at last beginning to hit it’s stride. There are moments of utter ludicrousness (see tea drinking) but the emotional vulnerability of the characters is slowly being developed to good effect.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in