The Crimson Field’s Richard Rankin on Thomas and Kitty’s romance and hopes for a second series

"I think it shines a light on a very, very small part of the huge impact women had in the First World War"


As BBC1’s period drama The Crimson Field chugs into its third week, the flirty glances between surgeon Thomas Gillan and young nurse Kitty Trevelyan have progressed into spoken feelings. Is a forbidden romance on the cards…?


But that’s not the only turn of events rocking poor Thomas’s boat this week as he finds himself in direct conflict with a senior doctor who is none too pleased with the young surgeon’s progressive methods.

We caught up with Richard Rankin who plays Thomas to hear all about his character’s romance with Kitty, class wars and his hopes for a second series.

Thomas is an experimental doctor surrounded by old-fashioned methods – does he get frustrated by the system he’s working in?

Thomas sees a lot of flaws in the medical techniques that are used during the war and his principal goal is to improve and if necessary change the medical practices for the good of his patients. He’s a very focused and determined individual and he doesn’t like distractions.

Have you spotted any similarities between Thomas and yourself?

No, because he takes everything very seriously. I’m the complete opposite of that. I’m still fifteen in the brain so we’re quite dissimilar.

Episode three is a big’un for Thomas – what’s going on? 

He comes into a bit of confrontation with a new doctor in the hospital who doesn’t exactly promote Thomas’s techniques. I’m not sure if that’s because he’s envious of Thomas – there’s a huge class difference with the doctor and that forms a big theme of the story for Thomas. He challenges his professional integrity and Thomas doesn’t like that one bit but he outranks him so there’s not much he can do about it.

Thomas’s best friend Miles comes from the upper classes but the pair share a much better relationship…

It’s a very unlikely friendhsip – Captain Hesketh and Thomas, they are very much opposites of each other. Thomas is quite a passionate surgeon and Miles is in medicine by default because that is what’s expected of him so it does provide for quite a dynamic relationship. The friendship that’s forged is quite an interesting one because they are very honest with each other – they get along a lot better than perhaps you would think. 

Another MAJOR distraction in this week’s episode is Kitty – is romance on the cards…?

They’re quite similar in a lot of ways – they’re both quite stubborn, both quite proud, both quite guarded for various reasons. He keeps his cards quite close to his chest but he becomes quite intrigued by Kitty because there’s a lot to be explored in her. Obviously there’s the initial physical attraction right off the bat in episode one but I think that’s something Thomas tries to make a conscious decision not to pursue because he’s not really a man who likes to allow himself to be distracted. You should expect that to develop in some way or another, whether it comes into conflict or whether it comes to some sort of romance, because obviously Miles has a definite interest in Kitty as well.

How do you think you  would you have coped as a soldier and doctor in the First World War?

On set, as it got later in the year it got cold and damp and miserable and you’d often hear the occasional grumble but then you have to think that these guys pretty much lived in that for four years of the war in these ridiculously poorly sheltered tents. It was damp and muddy all the time. And then you have to think that as a surgeon, they would essentially have had two hours sleep a night and I read that some surgeons would have four operations on the go at the same time. I can’t quite imagine what it must have been like at the height of it. There was no nice warm trailer to escape back to – the work that the men and women of base hospitals did was just extraordinary.

The show’s been on for a couple of weeks now – have you been checking out the feedback?

I tend not to look at reviews but the direct feedback has been amazing. Quite overwhelming at times. We’ve had a lot of awesome chat on Twiitter and Facebook. At the very least, if it gets people thinking about these profound historical events that shaped where and what we are today then we’ve achieved quite a great thing and I’m very proud to be part of that. 

And a huge part of that is offering a different perspective on the war and the contribution of women at the front… 

I think one of the best and most intriguing parts of the show is the perspective that it’s told from – there are countless stories told and retold from the First World War and they’re very important stories but very few of them are told from that perspective so it’s refreshing. It shines a light on a very, very small part of the huge impact women had in the First World War. 

Are you hoping for a second series?

I would really love it. Sarah [Phelps, the writer] has had a bit of chat about some ideas she’s got which would be just amazing. I think there’s still a lot to be explored. We ended the first series in 1915 – there are another three years of the war to go and still quite a lot to be done.

The Crimson Field continues on Sundays at 9:00pm on BBC1