Watching Trust Me is a stressful experience. That may sound like a bad thing, but it absolutely isn’t – because BBC1’s new psychological drama has been intentionally designed to flood you with second-hand anxiety and leave you on edge. The tension is so thick you could cut it with a scalpel.
Cutting things with a scapel is, incidentally, something Jodie Whittaker’s character Dr Ally Sutton is extremely nervous about – specifically, she’s understandably hesitant about cutting into patients’ bodies. That’s because she’s not really Dr Ally Sutton at all: she is Cath Hardacre, a nurse and single mum who has stolen a friend’s identity and is trying to make it as an impostor doctor.
But it turns out reading a few medical textbooks and watching YouTube videos about suture techniques is very different from the real thing, when a patient is dying on the gurney and his life is in your hands.
Whistleblower Cath has been fired from the hospital in Sheffield where she works as a nurse, but conveniently her doctor friend Ally is emigrating to New Zealand, leaving her CV and personal details in a bin for Cath to find.
So Cath becomes Ally, and takes her young daughter Molly off to Edinburgh where she’s managed to win a job as an NHS doctor in a hospital. All she leaves behind her is Molly’s deadbeat dad Karl (Blake Harrison), and a journalist called Sam who wants to follow up on the whistleblowing (Nathan Welsh), and a senile father in a care home.
So can she get away with it? So far, so good – but of course, living as an impostor doctor is fraught with danger. And even if you disapprove of Cath/Ally’s career choice, you will find yourself rooting for her and hoping nobody discovers her true identity.
It’s a tense drama and very well written by screenwriter/doctor Dan Sefton, but it only works so well because Whittaker is so good. She’s fraught, but not so fraught that her lie are glaringly obvious: she’s anxious, but not so anxious that her boss Dr Brigitte Rayne (Sharon Small) would be suspicious. She’s vulnerable, caring, funny – and yet is doing something completely deceptive and undoubtedly dangerous.
The tension comes from the knowledge that any small trip-up could expose Ally for who she really is.
Firstly, those three men left behind in Sheffield – Karl, Sam and Mr Hardacre – look set to make a comeback. He may be perpetually unemployed with a history of addiction, but Karl clearly loves Cath and Molly and he is unlikely to let them go without a fight. Then there’s Sam: he has a story, and it will be hard to shake him off. And a sick father is a big tie, one she cannot easily sever.
Then there’s a new man: Dr Andy Brenner (Emun Elliott), a single dad who Cath/Ally predictably falls for. Will letting someone get this close be a recipe for disaster – particularly a co-worker who can expose her?
There are plenty of other hurdles facing Cath/Ally in her life as an impostor doctor: both the admin side (what about her NI number? Passport? The General Medical Council?) and the practical side (can she get by as a doctor without making any horrific mistakes?).
You may think these would be pretty difficult to fake, but surprising numbers of impostor doctors have managed to work in the NHS – sometimes for years. It’s more plausible than you’d think.
Trust Me airs on Tuesdays at 9pm on BBC1