BBC Drama: The Crimson Field Review
2014 marks the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. The BBC have produced a whole array of dramas and documentaries to mark the occasion and the newest of those shows debuted tonight. The Crimson Field tells the tale of a group of doctors and nurses — both professionals and volunteers — manning a field hospital in the early days of the war.
The episode began when three young volunteer nurses arrived in France. There was the girl who tried too hard, the flighty one and the introverted girl. They soon encountered the stern Matron (Hermione Norris) who was less than impressed with their bedside manner. You could have been forgiven for thinking you were watching Jenny, Trixie and Chummy arriving at Nonnatus House were it not for the fact that the patients they were attending to were dressed in military fatigues and housed in tents. Even the soundtrack and the camera work were very much in the mold of Call the Midwife.
Beyond the character dynamics, there’s also the issue of subject fatigue. Over the last few years we’ve seen battlefield hospitals brought to life in War Horse, Downton Abbey and about a dozen documentaries on BBC2. No matter how interesting or harrowing the subject, it’s tough to produce something that seems entirely new when you’re covering a subject matter that’s been thoroughly explored.
World War I apart, as early twentieth century medical based dramas go, this wasn’t nearly as good Casualty 1907. Herminone Norris wasn’t as strong as Cherie Lunghi and Kevin Doyle was no match for Nicholas Farrell. The sets looked like . . . sets and it was all a bit too crisp and clean to seem authentic. Overall, The Crimson Field wasn’t a bad show but there wasn’t anything about it that really made it stand out.