TV miniseries review: The Golden Hour (2005), directed by Julian Holmes and Tim Leandro
When I first tried watching this I was on a train on my way to London. I was on my work laptop … only to find out it didn’t have a DVD codec. Second attempt was also on a train, except I had my own laptop. I managed about 17 minutes before I felt too queasy to continue. Watching surgical procedures in public was perhaps not a great idea anyway – if I was queasy, someone nearby catching sight of my screen might complain.
So, finally, I managed to plonk myself in front of the telly, and found a contemporary medical drama following four emergency doctors in central London – specifically, the helicopter ambulance crew – and follow their work. I was wondering how accurate it was in portraying the work of the London HEMS, but according to an IMDb user who apparently works in the field, “the ambulance community and in particular London HEMS rejected this crap for what it is. It is not factual, it bears absolutely no relation to real life or how air ambulances operate.” So yeah. To a lay person, though, it looks real enough.
The title, The Golden Hour, refers to the first hour after an incident, which is critical when it comes to saving a patient’s life. The four doctors are Alec Track (Richard Armitage), his girlfriend Jane Cameron (Zoe Telford), Paul Keane (Ciarán McMenamin) – who has the hots for Jane – and Naz Osborne (Navin Chowdhry), who is going through some marital problems. In the four episodes, we’re faced with four emergency situations, and how the four doctors work around these, along with how they get along with life outside their uniforms.
The emergency situations feel authentic enough (to a lay person), but the way we get the backstories of the events leading up to the emergency gets repetitive. We get a glimpse, then the same glimpse again, with an extension … and then that will be shown again, extended … and so on. Couldn’t they have cut it down a bit just once?
Other than that, it doesn’t feel like a very high quality production. Picture quality isn’t great, acting isn’t great, although I’m quite impressed by the actors (Richard Armitage in particular) getting through all that medical jargon without stumbling, while handling scalpels and needles and all manner of things.
Which brings me on to the issue of surgical procedures. The production team have left very little to our imaginations, and if you’re squeamish about seeing blood and guts, you’re going to have to either choose not to see this production at all, or you’ll have to look away a lot. (I watched the second two episodes while doing the ironing – that worked quite well.) That’s my warning. There are shots of cut-open chests, bellies, and so on. Very gruesome, not for the faint-hearted.
The doctors I didn’t really care all that much about. Naz was a complete dick – a father of two who walked out on his wife because, well, he just didn’t fancy being with her any more. Paul didn’t really do much, and I never got a very clear understanding of why he didn’t see his daughter. He also over-stepped boundaries when trying to get with Jane when he already knew she was seeing Alec, and Jane is a fool for not telling him properly to sod off. Alec is a bit awkward in the relationship department, but you can tell he cares. In fact, he doesn’t even admit the real (very nice and honourable) reason for being late for his own party. Not sure why he doesn’t even tell Jane about it.
It’s fascinating following the procedures of the air ambulance, but if it’s not an accurate depiction, why do they even bother? It looks real, so why not just make it real, if that’s what you’re after? Yes, us common folk won’t know the difference, but there are people out there who do. Why not make it realistic for those people too?
I don’t know, but I didn’t get the feeling these four 75-minute (ish) episodes were prime time telly. Just felt … sub par. Bonus points for Richard Armitage, obviously, but if I had seen it on TV, I might have lasted about five minutes before switching over to something else. It’s not exactly the same kind of production value as Spooks. It’s more akin to Moving On, except Moving On gets away with it, because the storylines are lower-key, less dramatic, and less reliant on props.
So no, if I had to sell my DVD collection, I wouldn’t be too heartbroken to let that one go. Still, nice to see Richard Armitage as a doctor. A flying doctor. Not just that, but a nice, kind, lovely sort of guy. He’s not a baddie by any means, and that’s refreshing. Shame the rest of it is a bit meh, with big spots of eww, and it doesn’t follow up on all the plot points it sets up: end of episode one – we don’t find out what happens with the girl. That’s annoying. I was expecting a resolution, not a bloody cliffhanger that never gets resolved!
So hmm, it sure tries the best it can, but it doesn’t really get there.
2.5 out of 5 ketamine shots. (They did seem keen on using that. And adrenaline. Well, it didn’t exactly get my heart racing, that’s for sure.)