The Young Doctor is a Sky Arts PlayHouse Presents dark comedy based on the works of Mikhail Bulgakov.
As a massive fan of Mad Men I was intrigued when I cam across Don Draper in a doctors coat standing with Daniel Radcliffe when browsing through Sky’s Now TV. I had wanted to watch the show since I first heard of it, but I only recently got round to watching it. This is a review of the first series of the show and will probably be followed by the more recent series very soon (once I’ve watched it).
Danielle Radcliffe stars as Dr Bolmgard, a young Russian doctor who, after passing his medical exams with record high grades, is sent to a remote Russian village to be the doctor of the hospital. In the series Jon Hamm stars as an older Dr Bolmgard looking back at his time in the Russian village. He interacts with his younger self trying to prevent a crippling morphine addiction from taking place. The show is set in 1917 and pans forward occasionally to 16 years later when the older Bolmgard is in trouble for writing fake morphine prescriptions to feed his own addiction.
This programme is, for me, an utterly unique TV experience. I have never watched anything like it and I mean this in the most positive sense. It’s refreshing to watch a show with a completely different tone to it. The show is a black comedy, filled with blood and guts and a tremendous amount of clever British humour. The laughs seem to come from out of nowhere, one minute you’ll be watching a foot cut off with a saw and the next you’ll be laughing (I won’t give away why). It is out of the young doctors despair that the laughs come. He is a young man at the top of his young profession, taken from the bright lights of Moscow (where he studied) and thrust in this isolated and frozen landscape. He just doesn’t know what to do and when the older doctor appears, he does little to help out the young doctor. The on screen chemistry between Hamm and Radcliffe is excellent, conveying the fact that the doctor used to admire who he was and despises what he has become. They argue, they fight, but you always feel like the older doctor has the younger doctors welfare, even if they don’t get along. It all makes for an interesting relationship, which is engrossing to watch. The other supporting characters are also fantastically portrayed by a stellar cast.
The shows Russian setting is also a startlingly unique experience on our TV sets. When you see Russians in the modern media, they are usually ill thought out villains in big budget action films. But here the rich Russian cultural history is explored and it makes the universe come alive.The Russian soundtrack is also excellent, helping to immerse you in the atmosphere even deeper.
It’s important to say that if you don’t like blood and gore, this show is not for you. It shows very graphic surgical scenes, which, using medical equipment used in 1917, is not pretty. An amputation and a tooth removal bring particularly horrific moments. But within this horror, there are some light-hearted moments, which nod to the viewer, ‘we know this is a bit horrific’. But then again this added to the immersion, surgery in 1917 was rather messy and so it is portrayed and overall I am thankful for that.
A Young Doctors Notebook is a fantastic TV show and with only 4 episodes it will leave you wanting more. But this is a show that needs to be cherished, it is fantastically written, acted and scored by a cast of fantastic individuals. This is what modern TV should offer, thought provoking yet funny, utterly unique experiences. I would give this show 9 out of 10, as I think it is brilliant and quite frankly I can’t wait to watch series 2.