“There are more seals in Shetland than supermarkets” announces the narrator in the opening episode of Island Medics. Few viewers should be surprised by this fact. Any that are ought to be in the sea themselves, writes Jordan Ogg.
Yes, the narrator is annoying, but viewers can feel reassured that, despite some daft opening lines and a fairly bonkers map, the first instalment offers a pleasingly cheery and cheesy start to this BBC One 10-part series. It’s a formula that should serve well, given the early morning slot.
The focus is on exploring the unique challenges of being a medic in the isles. For several years Shetland has suffered an expensive and seemingly insurmountable NHS recruitment crisis, so there is anticipation about the impact the documentary might have.
While some will consider it far fetched for a television show to provide the magic ointment required, Island Medics may yet have the potential to deliver. This is due to what feels like a genuinely positive approach followed by the producers, alongside the openness of the local medical professionals featured.
Plenty of fine weather and generous helpings of jovial folk are supplied, even when said individuals aren’t at their best; like Danny who smashed himself in the face with an extractor fan; or crofter John, who has not passed urine for days. Then there is retired nurse Anna, who is taken to hospital after appearing to have suffered a stroke, but just wants to go home and eat duck in plum sauce.
Dr Lalla, from South Africa via London, speaks of his love for Shetland life in a way that only someone who has experienced the grinding roar of metropolitan living can.
He also notes the satisfaction he gains by working as a generalist, responding to all kinds of medical situations. A case in point being an airlift from an oil rig which requires all of his experience to handle.
The only unbelievable thing appears to be the lack of rain. Not one drop appears in a full 45 minutes. This is astonishing, and surely an unexpected boon in appealing to any doctor with itchy feet who might fancy a move north.
The other good, or perhaps bad, news is that dialect extremists — those who were so vocal when the drama Shetland aired — will be delighted by the many local voices on offer. The distinct brogues of Yell, Dunrossness and Lerwick are all heard and, mercifully, without the addition of subtitles.
That said, the scene where an ambulance gets lost on Burgh Road will raise the hackles of many a Lerwick driver.
With another nine episodes to follow there seems much to tune in for. Will tragedy befall? Will we see a love story develop between the medical staff? Maybe.
And will we get to relish more narrative gems such as “the sea around Shetland is very cold”? Probably.
Island Medics is on every morning at 9.15am for the next two weeks. Island Medics is also available on iPlayer at https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/b09j3dvw
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