The Salisbury Poisonings, BBC1
Spread over three consecutive nights, this series sought to tell the story of the poisonings of Julia and Sergei Skripal from the point of view of the residents of Salisbury. And it succeeded in spades. It’s just the sort of thing I wish the BBC did more of.
I imagine this sort of TV is very expensive to make, but the rewards must surely have been in the viewing figures. Yes, we all knew the basics, but the three episodes really brought home the human impact of what happened – not just on the families concerned, but the wider community too.
At the end of the third episode we learned on screen than it took a year to declare the city clear of Novichok. The impact on the local economy had been massive and many of the shops and restaurants only reopened many months after the attack. And then within another year they had to close again due to coronavirus.
The Salisbury Poisonings concentrates on three families at the heart of the tragedy. Julia and Sergei Skripal only feature at the beginning, sitting on a park bench and convulsing. That’s the last we see of them.
We see the investigation into the origins of the attack through the permanently worried eyes of Salisbury’s Director of Public Health Tracy Daszkiewicz, played superbly by Anne-Marie Duff. Suffering from a case of imposter syndrome, Daskiewicz was the central figure in coordinating the local response. She was working 24 hours a day and had to almost ignore her family in her quest to find out where the Novichok had come from.
The second main character is DS Nick Bailey, played by Rafe Spall, son of Timothy. A family man, his life is turned upside down when he goes to the Skripal’s house and grabs the handle on the front door. For some days he feels unwell but doesn’t make the connection. The story of his battle to survive, and his family’s internal conflicts, play out in the most moving and convincing manner.
The only person to die from the poisoning was an accidental victim, Dawn Sturgess, played by MyAnna Buring. A rather sad character, Sturgess was trying to rescue herself from alcohol and drug dependency, aided by her boyfriend, Charlie Rowley, who suffered from similar problems. They were both getting their lives back on an even keel when Rowley found a bottle of what he thought was Nina Ricci perfume in a dump bin. Sturgess sprayed it on her wrist, wiped it over her neck and face and, well, she never stood a chance.
The most poignant part of the story comes at the end. The return to normality is signalled by two family scenes at the Daskiewicz and Bailey families’ dinner table. And as the credits role, we meet the real people played by the actors. I felt myself tearing up at this point. It made the whole thing real.
Having enjoyed it immensely, I do wonder if the writers missed an opportunity with this series. A few news clips appear in the narrative but there was precious little political context or content provided. I guess this could provide the material for a follow up series, looking at how it all played out in Whitehall, Parliament and the security services, but it might have been better to have stretched The Salisbury Poisonings to four or five episodes and include the whole shooting match.
One of the Family podcast with Nicky Campbell
Given his ITV show Long Lost Family, which he co-hosts with Davina McCall, you might be forgiven for thinking that this podcast is all about finding long lost relatives. It isn’t.
It’s all about dogs, owning dogs and why they mean so much to us. It’s a mixture of learning about the way dogs behave and think, and conversations with well-known people about their dog owning history. The series is only two episodes old, but already, as a dog lover, I am totally hooked.
If you’re not a dog owner you can have no comprehension of what they mean to individuals and families, and this podcast enables non-dog owners to learn more about the joys of dog owning. I grew up with dogs, first a Collie called Shep, and then a Jack Russell called Glen, along with two Labradors, Sandy and Honey. We lived on a farm and they had fantastic lives.
But dog lives come to an end all too quickly, and I hope a future episode will concentrate on dog grief and how people react to losing their best friend. I remember when my Jack Russell, Gio, died in 2011; I was inconsolable.
Dogs are not just a part of the family. They are part of us. And if you think that’s a weird thing to say, listen to Nicky Campbell talk about his dog, Maxwell, and you’ll understand.