Did we like it?
As soon as we heard the lines: “He ‘ad a knife to ‘is gizzard before I could stop ‘im. He’s in a right two and eight'”, we knew we’d love it. We’d be happy to see a series commissioned.
What was good about it?
• Rather than recreating Holby City with added fleas and cholera, the BBC sensibly went back into the annals of the London Hospital’s history to show how East Enders got treatment well before the NHS and Dr Legg came along.
• Affairs between nurses and doctors were banned – if that applied nowadays, Holby City was be staffless – so Sarah Smart’s efficient nurse Russell, looking lovely in lilac, and Tom Riley’s dashing Dr Walton (“I long for you, Ada.”) had to conduct their hesitant romance in Mills & Boony secret.
• The bravery of radiologist Mr Wilson who burned his fingers off in order to pioneer X-ray technology.
• David Troughton as the surgeon. He could be stern, but he had a sense of humour. Recalling an operation performed with whisky as an anaesthetic – “The patient died of shock but he died happy.”
• Cherie Lunghi was a superb matron, starting the days with prayers and ending them with a sherry.
• Bella Emberg in a cameo role as a drunken hag, asking “Is ’ee gowna peg it?” and singing saucy music hall songs.
• With no plane/train/schoolbus/powertool accident casualties to treat, the patients included a suicidal man, a Jew beaten by racist cops and a woman who administered an abortion on herself.
What was bad about it?
• Loads of blood so this wasn’t ideal viewing for the squeamish.
• Lots of heartwearming moments so this wasn’t ideal viewing for the cynical.
• Patients were allowed to smoke on the ward. Now they have to drag their drips half a mile down the road before sparking up.
• Little Tommy, suffering from rickets and rat bites, was yer archetypal Cockney kid, covered in muck, worried about ‘is ma, and beguiling everyone with his charm (and love of gravy)