The first series, which starred Jodie Whittaker as a nurse posing as a doctor, was a huge hit in 2017 but this time there’s a whole new cast and storyline. This wasn’t always the plan. The show’s writer and creator Dan Sefton recently told the Radio Times he was all set to pitch Jodie as season two’s central character but then discovered, along with the rest of us, she was the first female Time Lord in Doctor Who.
“I remember when she walked out of the Tardis, and I was like, ‘it’s f***ing her, Jesus!’ I was kind of numb. It was like, ‘Oh. Now what happens?’” Dan told the magazine. But not one to be deterred, he seized an opportunity to branch out with a new, self-contained story, one that’s set in the medical world, albeit a different hospital, and retains the tension and psychological game-playing that kept us guessing the first time.
At the centre of this story is Jamie McCain, a soldier who’s suffered a spinal injury while fighting on the front line and has returned to the UK for rehab. Broken, physically and mentally, he begins to believe there is an angel of death at work in the hospital.
There’s the ever-increasing death toll for one, and words of warning from his fellow patient Danny, an eccentric young lad who takes it upon himself to look out for the soldier.
More than once Jamie finds him hovering nearby, whispering things like, “We all have to be careful” and “People die in here”. But can we trust Jamie’s perception of events?
“Jamie is angry and damaged psychologically. We soon realise he has a secret - something happened when he was leading his troops and he’s struggling to deal with it,” says Dan.
“He’s also having to face life with a disability, and initially he almost wishes he hadn’t survived.” He reveals the team “had to be creative in keeping the action going” given Jamie’s immobility, and Alfred Enoch, who plays the wounded military man, agrees it was difficult.
“You’re reading the first script and think, oh boy this is going to be a challenge, but the challenges were the things that really appealed to me,” says Alfred.
“Jamie doesn’t know how long it will take for him to recover, he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to get back to his life in the army. Many of his unit were shot and killed, so when we meet him at the beginning of the series he is dealing with a lot.”
When events take an ever-sinister turn he becomes “an accidental detective”, determined to get to the root of what’s happening - and survive at the same time. The hospital is an immense, foreboding place with gothic towers, eerie corridors and a ward that would feel claustrophobic even if you weren’t confined to your bed all hours of the day.
It’s here we meet the person, or people, who could be causing the patients’ untimely deaths. Among them is the misanthropic boss Dr Archie Watson (John Hannah), a man who advises his staff not “ruminate on bad outcomes”, the no-nonsense physiotherapist Debbie Dorrell (Ashley Jenson), Dr Zoe Wade (Katie Clarkson-Hill) who’s hiding dark secrets behind the cheery demeanour, and her fiancé Dr Alex Kiernan (Richard Rankin), a seemingly friendly but enigmatic figure.
Of course, it might be Jamie’s mind that’s playing dark tricks as a result of PTSD, but you’ll be kept guessing until the fourth and final episode when Dan promises an “exciting climax”. The opening episode is a slow burner where time’s devoted to setting the scene, introducing individuals and incorporating flashbacks to Jamie’s fateful patrol on the front line but that’s not a criticism. The pace allows for the sense of suspense to gradually deepen, while the drip, drip, drip of information, along with ambiguous exchanges between characters, keeps the audience alert and looking for clues as to who is the guilty party.
There are squeamish scenes, including the disturbing use of a crystal, but it’s the premise and setting that’s truly frightening. We rarely feel more vulnerable than we do in hospital, so the idea of being harmed by someone who’s supposed to be taking care of us is the stuff of nightmares, and that’s where the drama excels. It isn’t so much about what you see but how you’re made to feel. The scares aren’t only playing out in Jamie’s mind, but our own too.
Trust Me begins on Tuesday, April 16 on BBC One.
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