Why you should be watching Sky One’s Temple
Ivan Radford | On 15, Sep 2019
How far is too far? That’s the question facing Daniel Milton (Mark Strong) in Temple, Sky One’s rivetingly ridiculous new drama. Based on the excellent Norwegian drama Valkryien, the series wisely doesn’t change the based set-up: Daniel is a highly respected surgeon whose life is turned into disarray when his wife develops a life-threatening illness. When no support comes from the hospital: he goes underground, literally. Partnering with Tube worker Lee (Daniel Mays), he sets up a clinic in a space beneath Temple Tube station, where he can continue researching the condition, while Lee can provide off-the-books medical treatment to those who can’t go to conventional hospitals.
The result is a recipe for trouble, as Daniel lies to everyone he knows to conceal what he’s up to – and, even before the end of the first episode, has crossed a major moral boundary to help a patient. That patient is Jamie (Tobi King Bakare), a bank robber on the run, and their decision to treat him opens the door for all manner of complications, from the determined police chasing him (played by the always-excellent Chloe Pirrie) to the sinister associates who want revenge upon him (the reliably brilliant Craig Parkinson).
Our main trio is joined by Game of Thrones’ Carice van Houten as Anna, a researcher with her own connection to Daniel, whose guilt and loyalty fuel her own efforts to help Daniel’s research. It’s a carefully balanced ensemble, with each character just untrusting enough of the others to keep us – and them – on our toes; playwright Mark O’Rowe (Boy A) does a fantastic job of contorting the plot to keep things unpredictable.
It’s a quality that also defined the Norwegian original, which was laced with the ominous feeling of a looming apocalypse. Temple is a lighter, springier affair, one that steams along like a rush hour train, with directors Luke Snellin (Wanderlust), Shariff Korver (Fenix) and Lisa Siwe (Modus) lensing the underground tunnels with gorgeously claustrophobic shadows. Before things can go off the rails, though, Strong and Mays ground the whole thing.
Mays is wonderfully sincere as a man whose time is spent as a doomsday prepper, readying himself for the end of the world, to the point where he can’t hold down a job or form a relationship. Twitchy, earnest, foolish and ruthless, he’s a thrillingly, tragically unstable presence. Strong, meanwhile, is magnetic in the lead role, balancing a determination to save his wife’s life with a reckless disregard for other people’s. Over the course of 10 episodes, we see him become less and less the man he was – a transformation emphasised by judiciously placed flashbacks throughout, which show us his life before his wife’s illness, and how his paths crossed with Lee. By the end, any sense of inherent trust in him as a doctor is chillingly shaken.
“Whatever reasons I did this, guilt, pride…” he tells Anna. “Or love?” she replies. “Or love, sure,” he adds in his increasingly sinister baritone voice. That descent into a hellish nightmare – it’s surely no coincidence Daniel’s surname is “Milton” – makes him a surprisingly natural companion for Lee: both men are dealing with what they feel is the world coming to an end. As the series continues, though, what begins with the fear of whether Daniel’s wife will die eventually leads him to contemplate an even scarier question: what would happen if he ever succeeded?
O’Rowe’s script tightly links every new burst of chaos to what’s come before, ensuring that every action is a consequence of a character’s decision. That, combined with the superb performances at Temple’s heart, makes sure that even the silliest of twists remain gripping to watch unfold. How far is too far? Temple accelerates to the brink of being ridiculous, then stops just short every time. Don’t watch it on your train ride to work, or you may stay on till the end of the line just to finish it.
Temple is available on Sky One as a box set. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it live and on-demand legally on NOW TV, for £9.99 a month, with no contract and a 7-day free trial.