As if Poldark was not enough to tide you over this Summer from a drama standpoint, along comes another bit of drama gold from across the pond that will help ease the separation anxiety that has set in waiting for Downton Abbey and Sherlock. The Crimson Field, which premiered back in April 2014 on BBC One, is headed to PBS in June.
For Kevin Doyle, his portrayal of Colonel Roland Brett in the World War I drama is a far cry from his earlier demotion to and subsequent stint as ‘first footman’ at Downton Abbey and his interminable suffering at the hands of Carson. “It’s nice to be giving orders rather than receiving them,” he told RadioTimes.com. “It took me a while to get used to being a figure of authority – to have someone with quiet authority who is rather placid.”
Following the lives of nurses and their patients at a Western Front field hospital in France, The Crimson Field begins at the beginning of World War I. Creator/writer Sarah Phelps has crafted not so much the usual war story of soldiers in the trenches but more of the tented field hospitals where the injured found themselves in the care of military doctors and nurses. For those keenly aware of telly in the 70’s and 80’s, this can be easily defined as M*A*S*H meets Call the Midwife.
The Crimson Field begins in 1915 with the Voluntary Aid Detachments, or VAD’s, and their arrival as the first volunteer nurses at the field hospitals on the coast of France. Starring Hermione Norris (Ros Meyers in Spooks), Oona Chaplin (The Hour, Sherlock, Game of Thrones) and Suranne Jones (Scott and Bailey, A Touch of Cloth), The Crimson Field tells a WWI story that is not that widely known, especially not one taught in school.
The VAD’s were young women primarily from the middle and upper classes and were unaccustomed to hardship and discipline. Dealing daily with the injuries, casualties and, ultimately, death, took its toll. Every dying man at a field hospital would have had a nurse with him to the end, and it was her responsibility to write to the family, always stating, whether it was true or not, that the loved one died peacefully and without pain.
While period drama isn’t anything new for the downstairs Downton Abbey star, it was a first on the CV’s for both Suranne Jones and Hermione Norris. “Joan is a very modern character in this world so I think that’s what worked,” explains Jones. “I usually do contemporary pieces but Joan’s quite a contemporary character.”
The Crimson Field begins Sunday, June 21 on PBS at 10:00p ET/9:00p CT.