Jodie Whittaker’s new drama in which she plays a doctor has of course been given added piquancy after her appointment as THE Doctor. But Whittaker is always worth watching, whatever she’s in, and she’s the big saving grace in an unlikely, even implausible, cautionary tale. We first see her as a nurse, Cath Hardacre, driven to become a whistle-blower after witnessing too many incidents of neglect and harm at the Sheffield hospital where she works.
She reports her worries to the hospital Trust, but her bosses are hostile and her altruism backfires spectacularly when she is suspended. So she decides to steal an emigrating friend’s identity and pretend to be an A&E doctor in a hospital far, far away, in Scotland. Ally, as she has become, swots up on medical procedure by watching internet videos and reading text books (at work!). Surely she will be caught out?
If you can stop yourself from becoming distracted by the fact that presenter Professor Richard Clay sounds just like Brian Cox (the scientist, not the actor), then there’s much to enjoy — and learn — here. In a three-part series, Professor Clay wonders why the compulsion to dream of a better world is hard-wired into humans. His search takes him to great works of literature, notably Gulliver’s Travels, to popular culture and to the fl ipside of utopia — dystopia — with The Hunger Games, The Man in the High Castle and The Handmaid’s Tale. In California, Prof Clay talks to Nichelle Nichols — Lieutenant Uhura in Star Trek — about its utopian elements: the striving for peace in a galaxy where anyone was free to roam and there was an easy acceptance of racial equality. Martin Luther King was a big fan.
Property entrepreneur Marco Robinson wants to give a three-bedroomed fl at in Preston to someone in need. When he advertises his intention, he (unsurprisingly) gets 8,000 applications — all of them deserving cases. Choosing someone who won’t simply sell up but will use the security of owning a property to move on with their life — through education, a career or starting a family — is a challenge. How do you decide between, say, a single young mum, a long-term unemployed man or a disabled woman? But while this is a heart-warming exercise in philanthropy, it also highlights the different reasons so many people are in such desperate situations.
Angelina Jolie takes a conventional but confident approach to directing the amazing life story of Louis Zamperini. Jack O’Connell (Starred Up, ’71) gives a lion-hearted performance as the self-proclaimed regular guy who competed in the Berlin Olympics in 1936. But Zamperini’s life took some terrible turns and he survived extraordinary circumstances. While serving in the US Air Force in the Second World War, he crashes in the Pacific Ocean and is cast adrift. He is saved, only to be thrown into a PoW camp where Japanese commander “The Bird” (Takamara Ishihara) singles him out for special punishment. But Zamperini’s heroic run in Berlin provides him with the inspiration to keep on keeping on.
If Jolie denies us a more complex portrayal of the man, she makes up for it with visceral scenes of struggle, which are well balanced with Zamperini’s bright, unrelenting optimism. He eventually died at the age of 97, just months before the film’s release, but this depiction of his undoubted physical and emotional stamina certainly lifts the spirit.
If you can stomach the sight of human bodies being picked apart with scalpels, this is a fascinating, in-depth guide to our hands and feet.