Breathless episode one review | IF the lady WANTS a baby he’s the cock of the ward

Published by jamdog on 9th October, 2013.

 Breathless episode one review


ITV is on its period. Early 1960s specifically. Saul Bass titles launch us into Breathless and a busy Gynaecology unit. Where better to explore the social maelstrom of the decade than peering between two foot stirrups? By now you know the drill, that this is Not the New Mad Men but let’s just say that the new girl on the ward Angela Wilson (Catherine Steadman) is our Peggy Olson. She lives with her senile father and sister Jean (Zoe Boyle). The striking redhead is Joan from Mad Men if Joan were British and shit. This weekend she will marry cock of the ward Doctor Richard Truscott (Oliver Chris) – a superficially charming but a facile blowhard. His boss Doctor Otto Powell (Jack Davenport) is the real alpha male and he looks like he’s taken a shine to Angela. Their eyes meet over a dismembered foetus and they instantly know: it’s love. Or possibly dead baby shit. Nurse, could you get this thing out of here?

It so easily may never have happened. Jean sent her sister in her place to assist with a private procedure without mentioning that it was an illegal baby killing. Dr. Charlie Enderbury (Shaun Dingwall) is Powell’s jumpy co-conspirator. They bung her £5 for her trouble but Angela refuses the fee. Dead babies indeed.

She’s a principled girl Ange, something further demonstrated when she takes a personal interest in Maureen (Holli Dempsey), a young broad on the ward suicidal over her wedding to a cocksmoker she no love. Doc Powell buys Maureen another 48 hours on the ward which he can do because he’s badass. Angela puts her up at her place watched over by her senile dad to give her a taste of what her future married life will be like.

Let’s hope Jean’s nuptials have a happier outcome. It’s not quite a fairytale wedding. She’s a few months up the duff and has concocted some bullshit story about losing her family in the war so she’s more socially acceptable to the Truscotts. Ange doesn’t take the disowning to heart – she knows these things are rarely straightforward. Her own marriage to Joe the Sailor ended when he mysteriously disappeared no doubt up a cabin boy’s rectum. She can relate to secrets and lies.

Her own marriage to Joe the Sailor ended when he mysteriously disappeared no doubt up a cabin boy’s rectum.

After a pre-wedding party at the Powells Jean asks Richard “Do you love me?” “I’m marrying you aren’t I?” he responds foreshadowing The Macc Lads‘ “Do you love me?” “I fuck you don’t I?” That’s good enough for Jean. The marriage cannot fail.

The same unfortunately can’t be said for her pregnancy which self-terminates on the day of the wedding. The most obs-gynae wedding in recent history and not one of them can help deliver the baby to full term.  Jean remains single-minded though and decides the wedding must go on. She doesn’t mention the miscarriage to Richard. There have been quite enough dead babies for one week.

It’s early days but I can’t see too much that separates this from sundry other ITV dramas. It’s not awful and Wack Davenpoor is particularly well cast as the rake Otto there’s nothing really thrilling me at the moment. I can imagine we’ll have a whole new angle on 1960s obstetrics  by the time this is done though so there’s always that.

The verdict: Prognosis: dicey.

Marks out of 10: 6

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Breathless episode one
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