Bodies series one review
In a nutshell: Medical incompetence, cover-ups and rough sex.
The 411: Casualty it ain’t. Bodies exists in a murkily lit
demi-monde where surgical negligence and incompetence are ignored
and people die needlessly as a result.
"The half-truths, sins of omission and downright lies that are told on his behalf become routine, part of a protective structure like worker bees protecting the Queen…"
Rob Lake (Max Beesley) starts work in the Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Department at the South Central Infirmary as a Registrar under
consultant Roger Hurley (Patrick Baladi). He quickly learns
that Hurley is a dangerously incompetent physician, causing
death after death through his practice.
The mistakes made are frighteningly plausible. Hurley is an
undeniably brilliant scientist whose research brings money
and prestige to the hospital – he is just clinically incompetent
and it has become politically expedient to explain away the
deaths he causes.
The half-truths, sins of omission and downright lies that
are told on his behalf become routine, part of a protective
structure like worker bees protecting the Queen. No room for
individuality in this hive.
It has something of Cronenberg’s Dead
Ringers about it. Extensive
use of close-up and shots in narrow corridors add to the suffocating
Rob begins an affair with married Ward sister Donna, (Neve
Macintosh) and their affair feels desperate yet somehow life-affirming.
Anaesthetised to the monotonous tragedy, they screw just to
know they can feel. His hospital quarters seem like a cell
and she seems on some conjugal visit.
Keith Allen plays the cynical senior surgeon Tony Whitman – sardonic, languorous and amoral he explains to Rob that this
system of protecting doctors works well in protecting good
doctors from an uncharacteristic error – it also means that
guys like Hurley get away with it.
It doesn’t pull any punches and you’re left with a real sense
of the visceral power of medical tragedy, the ugly messes it
leaves behind, the lives in ruins.
Bodies is no flight of fancy or shock-jock horror fest. Jed
Mercurio’s experience as an NHS doctor prompted him to write
the novel upon which this series is based. Which is what makes
it so unsettling.
It’s the casual indifference with which lives are snuffed
out that jolts. It becomes so easy to turn a blind eye when
it’s part of the culture.
There’s a terrific seam of dark humour that runs throughout
– a woman whose 70 year old mother lies in a coma reads that
coma patients sometimes respond to celebrity visits and requests
an audience with Eminem.
The prevailing mood is dark though. Not one to watch if you’ve
got day surgery coming up.
Or if you ever plan visiting hospital again.
The best thing about it: It’s utterly involving
The worst thing about it: It’s tough to watch
The verdict on Bodies: Grimly compelling
Marks out of 10: 8.5