Jodie Whittaker takes centre stage as she plays the role of a doctor in a BBC One drama series… but probably not the one you were expecting!
She may be the new Time Lord, but Jodie Whittaker is first earning her doctor credentials in Trust Me. Playing the role of nurse Cath Hardacre, her life turns upside down when she’s suspended from the NHS for whistle-blowing. When her best friend retires as a doctor, Cath decides to take her place. Literally. Cath becomes Ally Sutton, stealing her identity and pretending she’s a fully-qualified doctor. At first, this fraudulent lifestyle ticks all the boxes. She gets an income, a new home, and even a bit of romance. But her veil soon begins to slip and it’s not long before Cath finds herself very out of her depth…
From a Doctor Who perspective, the timeliness of this drama seems all too perfect. The show’s central conceit is brilliant, unintentionally meta. Indeed, every time you hear Jodie say the word “doctor” you can’t help but imagine her saying it with sonic screwdriver in hand. But, more importantly, it’s a very handy reminder of just how good Jodie Whittaker’s acting ability is. The show is very aware that it’s landed a star lead, and does all it can to put her in the spotlight. Over the course of an hour, she’s at the forefront of every one of the episode’s dramatic, emotional moments. If you want to see exactly what Jodie Whittaker can do, then this series promises to show off the full works.
“I think I’m gonna be a doctor”
If anything, Trust Me actually relies a little too heavily on Jodie herself. That’s not to take anything away from Whittaker’s performance – she’s exceptional from start to finish – but at times it does feel very much like it could just be ‘the Jodie Whittaker show’. Again, nothing wrong with that at all, but its plot and supporting cast do somewhat drift into the background. The most developed is Cath’s new colleague and eventual love interest Andy (Emun Elliott). It’s easy to see why Cath likes him, even if he does do the world’s worst Batman impression. Elsewhere, Blake Harrison of The Inbetweeners fame also makes a serviceable but brief appearance as Cath’s ex-husband Karl. But everyone else doesn’t quite get the opportunity to leave their mark – at least, not yet. We hope future weeks will give the other characters a bit more time in the sun.
Jodie’s performance also allows the script to get away with some discrepancies. While it shines a light on the dark side of the NHS, it does so at the expense of some real-world plausibility. Would Cath really have been able to steal her friend’s identity so easily? And would her new employer really not have carried out a more thorough background check? Of course, it doesn’t really matter. It’s all just a means to get Cath in the situation she needs to be. And, undeniably, Trust Me gives us an interesting fish-out-of-water scenario with lots of potential for things to go wrong. Cath’s web of lies are clearly going untangle sooner or later – the question is just how and when it will happen. Will the journalists force it out of her in their quest for a whistle-blowing scoop? Or will her inexperience lead to a more fatal turn of events?
“It’s like Braveheart with bad-tempered pensioners”
But, even when the story and characters may feel a bit by-the-numbers, Trust Me still manages to assert its own identity. Director John Alexander has given us lots of dramatic close-ups and some fantastic cinematography, especially when playing up the themes of duality. One standout shot sees Cath juxtaposed against her reflection – one Cath is clear and real, the other Cath is fake and blurred. Considering the theme of fake identity that beats at the heart of the series, this symbolism is profoundly strong. The soundtrack, too, is suitably tense and adds a nice psychological layer to the events happening on screen.
We ought to note though, certainly for our younger readers, that Trust Me is not for the faint-hearted. If you’re expecting family friendly viewing, you might want to think again. While this first episode doesn’t really go too over the top, the squeamish may need to look away at particular moments. Certainly, judging by the Next Time trailer, it looks like things are set to get even more extreme as the series goes on. Arguably this all goes without saying for a post-watershed medical drama, but it’s worth reiterating nevertheless.
So, one hour into its four-episode run, Trust Me shows a lot of promise as both a new BBC drama and a display of Jodie Whittaker’s acting prowess. The foundations may not be the most original or realistic, but the potential for dramatic payoff is huge if the scripts can get it right. Whatever happens next, we’re confident that Jodie’s stellar performance will be enough to steer the series towards success. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that the next three episodes give her even more strong material to work with, and offer up some truly shocking scenes in the weeks to come…