Looking Back At TRUST ME - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Looking Back At TRUST ME

Tony trusts nobody.
Trust Me, written by Dan Sefton and starring Jodie Whittaker, began broadcasting just as the news broke about Whittaker’s casting as the female Doctor in mainstream Doctor Who (Joanna Lumley, we shall always salute you! And you too, Arabella Weir!).

There’s a very real sense in which the incoming showrunner of Doctor Who, Chris Chibnall, showed a spectacular talent for cataclysm by announcing when he did, because a female Doctor was always going to be hard enough to sell to some sections of the fandom.

Announcing the news as the chosen actor was about to star in a drama of betrayed trust, about a nurse who stole the identity of a highly qualified and much-loved doctor, lied to everyone around her, got people killed and came close to having the whole world around her unravel was, to put it mildly, less than ideal.

The fact that “Trust me” had become a catchphrase of the Time Lord in recent years, and the Jodie Whittaker drama took that phrase and made it intentionally hollow was just the icing on the cake for those who would never accept Whittaker in the role of the Doctor. For those who hadn’t noticed her in Broadchurch, or Attack The Block, or any of the other notable successes of her career to that point, Trust Me was their first chance to see their new Doctor in action. And she was playing a fraud, a liar, a conspiracist, and someone who was dangerously out of her depth in the role of a doctor.

Cataclysm. It’s a gift.
Meanwhile, outside the rarified air of Doctor Who fandom, in Trust Me, Whittaker played committed nurse Cath Hardacre. Realising that the hospital at which she works is riddled with sloppy standards and people dying needlessly, Cath takes her witness statement at first to a local journalist, Sam Kelly (Nathan Welsh). When he reveals he needs her to go public on it, she withdraws, and takes her findings instead to her NHS Trust.

Rather than admit she’s seen what she’s seen, they sack her. The NHS loses another committed nurse.

And, as it turns out, a committed doctor. Cath’s friend, Dr Alison Sutton, is giving it all up and going to Australia to marry a hunky sheep farmer.

She’s dumping her CV, her medical credentials, all of it, and heading into the oblivion of Down Under, with a hearty V-sign to the NHS, the drizzle, and everything British. But for Cath, she has a message. “If there’s ever anything you need from me, it’s yours.”



The absence of the real Dr Alison Sutton.

It’s yours…

Let there be no mistake, we’re never entirely sure whether we’re supposed to sympathize with Cath Hardacre, but on the whole, we don’t.

She has a daughter, Molly, with a man more keen to get back together with her than she is to get back together with him. She has a father in a nursing home with dementia. She has, above all, connections to the time and place she’s in.

But still…

CVs. Certificates…

Her nursing knowledge has always been second to none. Why should she not just…re-invent herself, somewhere else, with Molly, to give the child a chance in life?

Obviously, beyond the fact that it’s morally and ethically wrong on every level and deeply dangerous to boot?
She applies for jobs in Casualty departments as Dr Alison Sutton, and is more or less immediately taken on at a hospital in Edinburgh by Dr Bridget Rayne (a brilliantly ragged-nerved performance by Sharon Small).

The action Cath takes is determined, if a little underscripted and underplayed, so there’s very little sense of her falling into some moral dilemma of ethical decay. It takes deliberate, sustained effort to teach yourself to sign your friend’s signature, to learn her employment and education history, to step literally into her shoes – shoes you’ve never earned or bought.

But from the moment Cath gets the Edinburgh job, Jodie Whittaker comes into her own, and what you get for four episodes is the story of a women whose life hangs forever in the balance, waiting for one wrong look, one wrong word, one – god help us – medical disaster – to bring the whole thing crashing down.

It’s an unusual and intense performance, because Cath always feels like she’s living on her nerves, but for the most part it's as though that battle for continuing sanity and clinical decision-making is happening down below the surface, and Whittaker fixes Cath’s face as ‘Ally’ Sutton so that it can do all the normal, jolly things required of her, falling to almost expressionless again whenever she’s alone, and allowing herself to cry and yell and panic only when she’s really alone.

Over the course of the four episodes, we see her almost constantly focusing on anything that might even possibly bring her life to an end – every unexpected phone call, every awkward explanation, every glance or chat of colleagues across the room, all the flotsam and jetsam of employment, like having a passport on record.
But the story develops far beyond its original premise too. Along the way, Cath falls for a ‘fellow’ doctor, is nearly spotted by someone who knows her as Cath at a medical conference, hears the confession of Bridget Rayne about a patient she killed through negligence. Her ex-husband, Karl, straightens out his life in the hope of getting increased contact with Molly, if not of getting back with Cath. And Cath’s father dies – an event that prompts what is ultimately the long-threatened collapse of her world.

When her Edinburgh partner, Andy (Emun Elliott, giving us Scotland’s George Clooney) discovers her past, his decision is crucial. If he supports her, she can keep the lie going. If he doesn’t, she’s done for. There’s a degree of almost horrifyingly mundane body-bargaining involved in this. His price for his support and silence is that she move in with him – something she’s previously proved unwilling to do.

Meanwhile when Karl comes to Edinburgh, ostensibly for a job, but also to see his ex-wife, Cath Hardacre, he’s mystified to find only ‘Dr Ally Sutton’ wearing her face and caring for her daughter. And, for that matter, sleeping with a total stranger.

We’d love to spoiler the ending for you, but we won’t – if only because the number of surprises involved in the ending is higher than you might be expecting. But when Cath’s and Ally’s worlds finally collide after four long episodes of expecting every minute for the other shoe to drop, only one of them can survive.
As a piece of drama, Trust Me, Series 1 is a nail-biter almost from the start right to the very end. It begins with a premise that seems absurd, and grows ever more believable the longer Cath gets away with it, because one crucial thing that holds the story in place is that she’s good at what she does, bringing first class clinical decision-making to her department, even as her personal decision-making frays beyond immorality in increasing steps. With every life she saves, or improves, her case for doing what she does becomes worryingly stronger, and by the end you’ll wonder about the compass of your own morality.

As a performance from Jodie Whittaker, it has its sparky moments, where the character is given blasting speeches, desperate bargaining sequences, and moments when, unlikely as it seems even to her, she gets away clean with things that could have brought her world crashing down.

By the end, you’re not sure whether anything Hardacre says comes from a place of truth at all – especially when she’s given an opportunity to get on an ethical high horse or two.

As a piece of drama, it’s mostly successful with some clunky moments that feel like they’re there to be a new disaster for Cath to encounter. And there’s one seriously annoying technical element, which is that it’s directed throughout in the JJ Abrams Star Trek style, with more lens flares than you can throw shoes at your screen. But as an extended breath held, waiting for disaster to swallow up a whole handful of lives, Trust Me, Series 1 is a nerve-wracking experience, held together more than capably by Jodie Whittaker.

It’s not by any means a romp, but once you start in on Trust Me, Series 1, you can’t stop watching till it’s done – even if you’ll hate yourself, and possibly every character in it, by the end.

Watch Trust Me today with a seven day free trial of BritBox.

Tony lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk

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