Trust Me, series 2 episode 1, review: daft premise but the canny cast carry it through

Gabriel Tate
Alfred Enoch as Jamie McCain in the new series - WARNING: Use of this copyright image is subject to the terms of use of BBC Pictures' Digital Picture Service (BBC Pictures) as set out at www.bbcpictures.co.uk. In particular, this image may only be published by a registered User of BBC Pictures for editorial use for the purpose of publicising the relevant BBC programme, personnel or activity during the Publicity Period which ends three review weeks following the date of transmission and provided the BBC and the copyright holder in the caption are credited. For any other purpose whatsoever, including advertising and commercial, prior written approval from the copyright holder will be required.

Screenwriter Dan Sefton’s background as a qualified doctor doesn’t necessarily guarantee plausibility in his work, as viewers of The Good Karma Hospital (eccentric ex-pat Amanda Redman runs Indian cottage hospital while having fling with dissolute Neil Morrissey) or the first series of Trust Me (nurse Jodie Whitaker’s whistleblowing backfires, forcing her to flee from Sheffield to Edinburgh with a stolen identity) can attest. But they were entertaining enough for the undemanding, a trend continued by BBC One’s second series of the latter.

Whitaker’s adventures in space and time as the new Doctor Who have necessitated a reboot, so this time the series stars Alfred Enoch (Dean Thomas from the Harry Potter franchise and Aeneas in BBC cheesefest Troy: Fall of a City). Enoch’s army corporal Jamie McCain, paralysed after a spinal injury sustained on duty in some hot, dusty and unspecified location, was convalescing in Glasgow’s  “Jimmy Stewart” spinal trauma unit.

When a fellow patient on the ward had a seizure after rolling onto a pair of scissors mysteriously left in his bed, McCain's suspicions were aroused, stoked by a young conspiracy theorist and confirmed as patients began to die unexpectedly. Loose cannon? Institutional corruption? Happily, McCain's background in the military police meant that he was well placed to investigate, albeit from a horizontal position.

Ashley Jensen as Debbie Dorrell and John Hannah as Dr Archie Watson

Ditto Enoch’s acting, which he did respectably enough given enforced limitations both physical and psychological. McCain spent much of the episode in sullen silence; understandable, given his neighbour’s penchant for watching loud porn, the gift of a healing crystal from a former fling, and visions of dead colleagues whose deaths on duty both weighed on his conscience and made him subject to a military enquiry himself. Tormented by flashbacks, PTSD and night terrors, McCain's lot was a particularly grim one and made him a particularly unreliable witness.

The hospital staff had secrets too, of course. Trust Me hasn’t yet resolved how to subvert audience expectations in a genre where the nice ones are generally up to no good and the surly ones decent but misunderstood. Thus the casting was canny but almost certainly counter-intuitive: Ashley Jensen’s bright and breezy ward matron and John Hannah’s wry consultant were too nice not to be nasty, although their transgressions so far amounted to an office fling. Doctor Zoe Wade (Katie Clarkson-Hill, the standout performer so far) was pocketing prescription drugs and apparently lapsing back into hinted-at addiction problems, but at least appeared to be on McCain's side.

The atmosphere was potent and pleasingly low key, the contained setting both necessarily claustrophobic and helpfully thrifty, and the sound design ominous and immersive. But the story itself, while tightly written and fairly absorbing, felt a bit thin and familiar, invoking without replicating the tension and “just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you” vibe of Paper Mask or Coma. A repeat prescription feels optional.