see masks and hazard suits, forensics teams bathed in showers of disinfectant. families unable to touch their sick loved ones, even with gloves. Government
officials make stupid swerves away from panic, trying to keep the economy
breathing. And you'll hear the ominously prescient phrases like ‘contagion’ and ‘locking
down’, uttered by the series’ hero Tracy Daszkiewicz (Anne-Marie Duff), director
of Public Health in Wiltshire. Given the scale of Salisbury’s outbreak, which is comparatively small, this feels like a three-part prequel to a seven-season box
a story that most are familiar with. It's not only an enticing,
post-cold war tale of violent espionage, but also has a calm, quiet and mostly harmless
setting. The suburban absurdity is almost Lynchian: a nice city in the countryside with dark
powers lurking underneath.
series kicks off with the infamous park bench, where the former double-agent
Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia have palpitations, vomit, and fall unconscious. DS
Nick Bailey (Rafe Spall) arrives on the scene and touches the victims – exposing himself to the poison.
Tracy is soon tasked with containing the Novichok, navigating an overwhelming new existence as a fish out of tainted water, conflicting
with police officers and government fixers. Duff plays her with imperative
self-determination. Her job (which she can’t talk about) invades her family
life, to the point where she sleeps in the police offices – causing an unbearable
friction with her husband and son, who grow frustrated by her absence.
Spall is equally vivid as Nick Bailey, whose story traces the impact of Novichok
on the body. Coronavirus anxieties can’t help themselves: as he enters his
house after the poisoning, he hugs his daughters and kisses his wife on the
mouth. You want to shout at him: Haven’t you heard of social distancing!?
Obviously, that’s not a phrase yet. These scenes exist in a naïve, pre-Covid
mental state that may never be completely resumed. The sharp shadows, sickly colours and invisible antagonist encourages a visual nausea, much like Chernobyl did last year.
MyAnna Buring plays the ill-fated Dawn Sturgess. Photo: BBC/Dancing Ledge/James Pardon
Running beneath these pressing threads is Dawn Sturgess (MyAnna Buring), the only
casualty of the Poisonings. She drifts in and out of the first two episodes,
struggling with alcoholism and motherhood. Lawn and Patterson clearly attempt to correct a
warped perception of Dawn, whose parents have recently criticised various media outlets for demonising their daughter as a homeless drug addict.
the series she’s far from perfect, but tries to better herself – Buring’s
performance a fractured image of sadness and regret. Her life’s been shattered
and she’s trying to glue the pieces back together. This culminates in a
furiously upsetting final episode, which examines her pointless passing.
The fate of Dawn Sturgess and the way it's approached personalises the numbers that appear on our screens every day. All had names and lives and families. Given the easing of
lockdown and fears of a second wave, The Salisbury Poisonings comes at a
The Salisbury Poisonings airs on Sunday 14 June at 9pm, continuing on Monday and Tuesday at the same time.
|What||The Salisbury Poisonings, BBC review|
14 Jun 20 – 16 Jun 20, ON BBC ONE