Doctor Foster series one, episode one review: Suranne Jones sets the pulse racing in the BBC’s new tense and emotional thriller

SPOILERS: Ben Dowell is impressed with the opening episode of Mike Bartlett’s drama about a small town GP who suspects her husband is having an affair...


**Major episode 1 spoilers follow**


Well, well, well. So Suranne Jones’ Doctor Gemma Foster was right about her husband Simon all along. Judging by the contents of his second mobile phone, which she discovered right at the end of the first episode of Doctor Foster, he has not only been having it away with the young daughter of some close friends but, bizarrely, pretty much everyone in their small community seems to be actively helping them to get away with it.

But Gemma is clearly not going to take this infidelity lying down. There she was at Simon’s birthday barbecue, reeling with shock but clearly plotting her revenge – and she started by giving her husband a big fat kiss right in front of the woman he has been having his wicked way with. It was a clever touch and psychologically plausible.

Because Jones’ Gemma is a clever woman. OK, it clearly took her a while to realise what a dastardly so and so property developer Simon was (isn’t the clue in the job? Only kidding, property developer people).


But the drama very cleverly unpeeled her growing suspicions. First it was the stray blonde hair on his jacket, then, when she went and hacked into his work diary, the fact that every afternoon on every weekday was unaccounted for.

He’s a clever so-and-so too. He got wind of her interest in his private goings on and (we realised at the end) arranged a visit to his mum in her care home because he knew he was being tailed by his wife. He even bought flowers – something Gemma had initially assumed was for his mistress. It was a cruel bit of gamesmanship, that. I suspect we’ll see more of this nasty side in later episodes.

What was very satisfying was the way Suranne Jones brought you into her character’s world. You really did care for her plight. Maybe there are some viewers among you who identified with it – all you lovers, husbands, wives spouses who have been tempted to check their others halves’ phone. Jones herself, at the press launch for the drama, admitted that two of her own friends have succumbed to that temptation.

It was all smartly written by Mike Bartlett who is clearly fascinated with the idea of someone who, as a doctor, is right at the centre of her community – people come to her for help (many of them are quite annoying) – but is not at the centre of her own marriage and family life. It’s an intriguing contradiction.

It also looked great – the sunny bucolic feel of early scenes giving way to a more sombre palette as he suspicions mounted. I suspect this will get darker as the series progresses.

But it has been very nicely set up. With four episodes to go Gemma knows the truth – but nobody else does. She has crossed the Rubicon and will now never again be the woman who doesn’t spy on her husband. But will she get her own back? Or will we come to understand what Simon has been up to and why?

At the moment he looks like a bit of a psycho, a sexually incontinent wrong ‘un. But at the press screening Bertie Carvel hinted that there was a way of understanding his motives and urged us not to rush to judgement.

“If you hang out everybody on a washing line who has been unfaithful who shall ‘scape whipping?” the actor put it with a slightly excessive poetic flourish.


Well, we’ll see whether Doctor Foster is in the mood for flagellation in episode two…