iPlayer Picks: BBC TV review: Our Girl (Episode 1)
Ivan Radford | On 28, Sep 2014
Turn on your TV today and what are you most likely to see? Crime thrillers. High-concept sci-fi mysteries. Period dramas.
If you turn on BBC One at 9pm on a Sunday, though, you’ll see something different.
Our Girl stars Lacey Turner, better known as Stacey Slater in EastEnders, as Molly Dawes, a young army recruit. After a heavy night of drinking, she joins the Royal Army Medical Corps and ships out to Afghanistan, where she struggles to find her feet. Surrounded by men, stuck in hostile territory, she’s a long way from Albert Square. And that’s precisely what makes Our Girl such a rewarding show.
Molly is your typical fish out of water newbie, unsure of herself and unwelcomed by the group around her. The team is typical too. There’s the stern-but-friendly leader, Captain James (Ben Aldridge), and even a boy Molly once slept with, Smurf (Iwan Rheon, better known as Ramsay Bolton). With everyone doubting her ability – including Molly – Episode 1 follows that usual narrative arc, as she develops her own self-confidence and wins over her teammates.
But that’s the only thing traditional about this show. When was the last time you can remember a BBC drama set in Afghanistan? The production design is spot-on, with the camp, the uniforms and outside deserts all ringing true (they were filmed in South Africa). But what sells it is the cast: it’s a pleasure to see up and coming young stars such as Rheon and Turner taking lead roles. Rheon, who is usually so twisted in Game of Thrones, is sympathetically unbalanced, a guy on the edge with a gun. Turner, meanwhile, is superbly likeable; a charismatic presence with enough youthful naivety and bolshie attitude to make her easy to root for.
So when she befriends local girl Bashira, despite Smurf and the Captain’s orders, what should be cliched is carried off convincingly. Will her relationship lead to risks later down the line? You can bet your M.A.S.H. it will, but after being developed for a full season following a well-received pilot last year, Our Girl is a show with real potential. Not just to entertain, but to provide something new in your weekly living room routine. Tony Grounds’ script arrives at a time when conflict in the Middle East is sadly commonplace and young soldiers are shipped abroad, away from their families, to a place and job that is alien to most Brits. Our Girl’s mix of talented cast, topical subject and familiar underdog story makes for a series that is provocative but highly satisfying.
Turn on your TV today and what are you most likely to see? For the next five weeks, the answer is lucky enough to be this.
Our Girl is available to watch on BBC iPlayer here.
Photo: BBC/Des Willie