The opening episode of The Last Post introduces the audience as well as new arrivals Joe and Honor Martin (Jeremy Neumark Jones and Jessie Buckley) to the British Military police unit in Aden during a tumultuous period in 1965.
The drama teeters precariously between domestic harmony/boredom and the ongoing threat of attack from insurgents. The officers try to maintain a sense of order among their own men and families as well as the territory they are occupying but it is clear the British are not welcome and are in fact targets of insurgents keen to get them out of the country. The tension builds throughout the episode and in amongst the jolly celebrations and affairs of the heart we know something bad is brewing so it’s almost a relief when an attack eventually does take place.
Written by Peter Moffat (who also wrote the brilliant Silk) it is based on some of his own childhood experiences living on army bases around the world and the young boy depicted is perhaps a nod some of his own early memories (he’s mainly interested in football and Christmas regardless of where he is living). It’s quite funny to hear the boy swearing inappropriately and copying his dad by wearing his red beret but when this makes him a target and he gets shot at the tension cranks up a notch again. It’s a sign of the heightened situation that when the boy tells his dad about being shot he dismisses it.
You get a real sense that this is the end of an era, both in terms of the military situation and the role the women in society. Rank is everything and there is etiquette even among the wives (Honor is discouraged by her husband from making friends with the wife of an officer below him in rank). Bored housewife Alison Laithwaite (Jessica Raine) tries to liven things up with an affair but discovers she is pregnant and is unable to tell the father before he is ambushed and killed leaving her bereft.
Her husband Ed (Stephen Campbell Moore) appears to take a more modern approach policing and tries to interact with the locals and work with them but is up against opposition from his senior officers.
Everyone looks a bit hot and uncomfortable but this does add to the sense of unease at the situation they are in both politically and personally. The family quarters is in turns part 60s glamour, part Butlins and life goes on but is interrupted by gunfire and loss of life.
The Brit abroad drama has been a staple of Sunday night TV but has become increasingly silly as time goes on. The quality of the writing and cast of The Last Post however should elevate this above the norm and the music by Solomon Grey is a lovely accompaniment to the unfolding drama.
Contributed by Cecilia
The Last Post Continues Sunday at 9.00pm on BBC One.