Clearly British productions are my Kryptonite. If you were to do a search of the ‘BBC’ or ‘British’ tags here, I’d wager you’d come away with several posts filed under either one of those tags. The Crimson Field, as is true of anything, won’t be for everyone, but I can safely and without reservation say, it’s one of my most favorite British productions to date. The details of which I will attempt to put into some semblance of order down below.
The Crimson Field (2014) BBC TV Review
Katherine Trevelyan (Oona Chaplin) knows scandal. Her painful and carefully concealed past can attest to this. Using her training, she volunteers as a member of the Voluntary Aid Detachment. “Kitty” runs away to lose herself, and is then posted to a British field hospital in France. Her fellow volunteers avoid her because of her impersonal attitude, which puts Kitty in a precarious position. Rosalie (Marianne Oldham) is among the wealthy in society, but by now, is considered an “old maid.” An innocent often offended by the tasks she has to undertake in her new role, she feels like a “throwaway” when her place in society should be about making a home as a wife. Then there is young and sweet Flora (Alice St. Clair). Flora isn’t the best hand at some of the things she’s tasked with, but she makes up for it with enthusiasm and kindness.
Grace Carter (Hermione Norris) is the Matron who watches them all. Earning the promotion of matron under the authority of Lt. Colonel Roland Brett (Kevin Doyle), Grace didn’t anticipate this new job. Instead it was assumed the title would go to Sister Quayle (Kerry Fox). Tough but fair, Grace sets about running the best hospital she can. Meanwhile, arriving late to her post is nurse, Sister Joan Livesey (Suranne Jones). Harboring a closely guarded secret of her own, Joan tries to befriend Rosalie by teaching her some of the harsher realities of nursing, only to have her secret discovered.
As wounded men rotate in and out of their hospital on the shores of Northern France, the British Doctors and nurses strive to provide the best care… all while becoming entangled in emotional relationships.
From the earliest moments of the first frame, this production surpasses some of its comparison peers. The first five-ten minutes along intrigue in ways other period dramas have not. The quiets scene of contemplation is beautiful before we’re thrust into the busyness of the story. Add in the events that follow (one of the most interesting albeit underrated “meet-cute” ever) and you have the makings of a classic period drama. What this drama deserves is a 15-20 minute window, and if in those moments, it doesn’t capture you, then Crimson Field is likely not for you. I knew in those opening scenes, this was the my kind of drama and past that, things only improve.
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Instead of hindering it, this production understands how to use the tragic setting to an advantage. There isn’t a moment that wastes time on unimportant things, nonetheless the script writers (the creator and writer Sarah Phelps penned the 2011 miniseries Great Expectations) is able to offer us some quiet reflective moments plus with Flora, levity. Her sunny personality and aptitude to work hard is admirable. Rosalie is the “pure” girl who traditionally sticks to her moral code. Then there is Kitty, whose past is anything but snow white. The way her story unfolds is quite wonderful. The slow build of hint dropping keeps us guessing, thinking the worst of her, only to discover perhaps there is more to our prejudged assumptions. I really like Kitty irrespective of her “cold” personality and push-back attitude. She lets no one in, and is remarkably good at pegging who the other person is.
Not to be forgotten, one mistake I’m making is to ignore the guys (who are great, too). Aside from the Lt. Col. who is in charge of operations, there are two Captains causing all sorts of chaos at the hospital, who also happen to be doctors. One is a full-of-himself flirt, Miles (Alex Wyndham) who hides the heart of a gentleman; the other is the quieter, more contained, Tom (played by Richard Rankin). I confess that I like Miles more than perhaps his character should be; I love his pursuit of Kitty ( just not in the way you might imagine). Tom’s relationship with one of the girls was swoon-y. That’s all I’m sayin’. In keeping with trying to not spoil you all, I’ll keep my fangirling over the guys of Crimson Field to a minimum.
As I put this write up together, I read some message board chatter that surprises me. It’s largely about an intense dislike for this show. Ironically, I think it’s my favorite war drama of this genre. I’ve seen a few like this, but it’s this one easily that wins. The balance of the effects of war and character drama is seamless. The acting is amazing – particularly one budding romance that is just… ahhh, so fabulously portrayed (that slow build never looked sweeter). We got to see Mosley (Downton Abbey’s Kevin Doyle) in something 100% different, and Johdi May (Daniel Deronda) guests in one episode.
I’ve been alarmed since the moment you arrived.
Sadly, cancellation is the word for this one. (Though fans did rally to see a different network pick it up.) As a swan song Crimson Field’s concluding episode is not a bad way to end. There are some unanswered questions, and naturally, we’d like to see more confirmation our favorite characters are going to be alright, but it’s a decent ending. The greatest complaint is simply that the episode ends too abruptly, whereas the rest of the series was more polished. There’s more depth to the characters as the series finale draws to its close and we admire them all the more for learning about their pasts. Fans of Downton Abbey (it’s roughly set in the same time frame circa season one) will take delight in this. But don’t take my word for it, watch episode one and see what you think. ♥THROWBACK #TVREVIEW | BBC's WWI drama, The Crimson Field - British Heroes Inspire Courage & Truth (and #Romance!) Click To Tweet
Have you seen The Crimson Field? Share your thoughts – good or bad, down below.
Content: episode three shows a dead male corpse, frontal nudity in full [albeit briefly]; episode four shows multiple shots of a nude male, backside only. We do see some “graphic” injuries as the hospital accepts new patients though thankfully, nothing is every overly disturbing. We learn a woman may have had an extra-marital affair; a man attempts to force himself on a woman, she escapes. There are three – five uses of the f-word over the entire 6-episode series.