The doctors will see you now- A Young Doctor’s Notebook episode 1 (Sky Arts 1)
This week I found something a little more off the beaten track than what I usually write about (ie it wasn’t on the BBC) Sky Arts 1’s adaptation of the Russian short stories by Mikhail Bulgakov. Short and sweet at about twenty minutes an episode, this show proves, sometimes being a little adventurous can really pay off.
The premise of the show (being uncultured I haven’t read the short stories and therefore cannot comment on whether it is the same) is a doctor, played by Jon Hamm (he of Mad Men fame as I am sure you all know) finds, whilst for some reason that is not yet apparent being presided over by some very grumpy looking soldiers, an old notebook documenting his first job as the doctor in charge of a hospital literally in the middle of nowhere in 1917’s Russia. We then jump to Hamm’s younger self played here by Daniel Radcliffe. Now in this show Radcliffe manages to pull off what I thought may have been impossible. He did not make me hate him. In the past I have found him so terrible and cringey to try and watch that most of the time I have just given up. However here he was entirely likeable and succeeded in looking about 12, something which it seems is imperative for the character. Here is a young man, fresh out of medical school (graduating top of his class, as he is very keen to point out) well and truly chucked in at the deep end. He can’t even grow a beard, poor lamb.
The show is billed as a comedy and there are some moments of genuine fun. For example, the constant repetition of the grandeur and prowess of the former doctor, Leopold Leopoldovich and his magnificent beard made me giggle as our hapless doctor is consistently reminded of the fact that whatever he may do he will never live up to Leopold Leopoldovich. The comedy also comes from the novel device by which Hamm as the older doctor communicates with Radcliffe as the younger. There is a particularly amusing scene in which the fact that Daniel Radcliffe is actually quite short is played to great effect with Hamm-doctor holding aloft a book that Radcliffe doctor sorely needs in order to proceed with an operation that could save a pregnant woman’s life. What ensues is a fight on the same level of girly rubbishness as those between Mark Darcy and Daniel Cleaver in Bridget Jones and ends with Hamm sitting on Radcliffe, munching on the pages until the younger concedes.
The show is not one for the faint hearted I must add. I got a rather nasty shock when, battling with a particularly stubborn tooth, the younger doctor yanks out said tooth and half a piece of jaw bone, resulting in a great spurting of blood from the unfortunate patient’s mouth. Of course I knew it wasn’t real, I’m not sure I was quite prepared for a blood fountain of that magnitude!
The show is clever, witty and the pairing of Hamm and Radcliffe, against all odds, really seems to work. Hats off to you Sky Arts for going for something weird and wonderful. I can’t wait for the next instalment.