BBC3’s Bluestone 42 is not your average comedy drama. Set amongst a team of bomb disposal experts based in Afghanistan, its commission was met with complaints from a number of viewers who felt that the subject matter was too sensitive to make light of. But its creators are quick to defend their entertaining depiction of day-to-day army life.
Written by Richard Hurst and James Cary, Bluestone 42 sees Oliver Chris (Green Wing) take on the role of Captain Nick Medhurst – the cocky bomb disposal expert who falls for his unit’s new padre, Mary (played by Hustle’s Kelly Adams).
Eager deputy Millsy (Gary Carr), laddish Corporal Linda Bird (Katie Lyons) and old-before-his-time Lance Corporal Simon Lansley (Stephen Wight) make up the remainder of the counter-IED team along with mischievious Privates Mac (Jamie Quinn) and Rocket (Scott Hoatson) who contribute their own brand of crude jokes to the team’s jovial banter.
The eight-part series has been designed to compliment BBC3’s existing coverage of the war in Afghanistan, most recently through documentaries Our War and Prince Harry: Frontline Afghanistan.
Obvious questions have been raised over whether the subject matter should have undergone such comedic treatment, but according to executive producer Stephen McCrum, the humorous elements of the script are aimed to “celebrate the bits of the army you don’t see in other documentaries.
“It’s always about things, it’s not about people and what I wanted to see was the humanity and the heart, the banter and the camaraderie.”
And credit to the writers who aptly switch from moments of tense drama as the team defend one another from attack, to outbursts of witty banter which effortlessly dissipate the mounting tension. Writer James Cary may appear to have had a ball, “channelling his inner-squaddie”, but the show’s creators are quick to make assurances that although this is a comedy, the subject matter has been treated with the upmost respect from everyone involved.
“The armed forces are the last respected institution in British life,” explains Cary. “We don’t think much of politicians, we don’t think much of many people, but we think an awful lot of our soldiers and the cast realised that people would be watching them to be sloppy and unprofessional and they weren’t. They drilled, they trained and they really took it incredibly seriously.”
As well as thoroughly researching the subject matter by talking with military advisors, present and former members of the army, and families who have lost love ones at war, the cast also underwent a week-long boot camp to prepare for their roles.
“We realised that these people are professionals out in the field and they take their professional life very seriously,” reassured McCrum. “It was very important to us to portray that. We’ve made it absolutely clear that they’re doing a serious and dangerous job.”