Daniel Radcliffe has impressed me. I’ve never read the Harry Potter books so he is what I imagine Harry Potter to be. It will also mean that if I ever do read Harry Potter, it will be Daniel Radcliffe that I see in my mind, rather than the description that J.K Rowling presents to me. This also means that I have typecast Radcliffe. It was only natural because all I know him as is a young wizard.
It doesn’t help that when he is being interviewed or doing an appearance to promote a movie, he seems very “silly.” Too giddy and excitable, a lot like a child-star would act (even though he is now clearly in his twenties). It surprised me when he was chosen for Woman in Black but he did a very good job, although failed to convince me as a father and a lawyer, it was a small gripe in an otherwise good performance.
It’s as “Young Doctor” in A Young Doctor’s Notebook that he has actually shown something of the decent acting talent he has and the life beyond Harry Potter. It’s a role where his fresh-faced, naive and young style actually pays off. He is a character who is constantly out of his depth, struggling with the poor resources, crazy staff and bizarre illnesses and ailments he is forced to treat. It couldn’t be further away from Harry Potter while at the same time being a perfect role for Radcliffe and his style of acting.
Radcliffe manages to carry the show brilliantly, walking the fine line between drama and comedy. It can be very funny, although always tinged with drama and realism that can be very shocking. It’s actually a very unique television show, which is a triumph considering it’s another medical show.
The difference is the setting. This is a medical show based in a remote hospital in Russia. It takes a day to get to the nearest town and is constantly surrounded by a snow blizzard. The staff is close to insane, each in their own very unique way, while the hospital itself is poorly equipped but in constant need by the local population. It makes for a very strange but engrossing mix.
The unique elements of the show don’t end there. The whole show is a flashback, a recollection of events from the point of view of the “Older Doctor” played by John Hamm. It feels like a leap to imagine that Daniel Radcliffe will grow into John Hamm but in this setting it works and very well. Older Doctor will “advise” and interfere with his Younger self’s life, warning him of things to come, helping him through situations and in some cases, making his life slightly worst. There is an over-arching story involving the Older Doctor and the Russian authorities which frames the whole show. It makes for another interesting aspect of the series as we watch fresh-faced, enthusiastic Radcliffe become the dishevelled, cynical, addict Hamm.
This does present the series with its major issue. Its a great series, brilliantly written, with a great story to tell. Unfortunately, it’s telling that story in four, half hour episodes. Its part of a series called Playhouse, which gives me the impression that it’s a one-off series, rather than something that will be returning for multiple seasons to come. This means that a lot of the stories feel disconnected to each other, giving the impression that you’ve missed something.
Radcliffe’s transformation from the doctor who was keen to help and enthusiastic to heal to the sombre, defeated doctor of the final episode feels too sudden. Spread over at least one season of twelve episodes would have made more sense but here it feels rushed through. There are even moments that seem to come out of nowhere, like Radcliffe suddenly beginning to have sex with the nurse Anna. This is jarring when it happens because there has been no build-up to this.
There are loads of potential for smaller stories and moments that are hinted at or developed and stopped quickly, to be explored further. The whole series overall story-arc is the real victim of the series being too short, particularly because John Hamm’s screen time is what actually suffers.
Overall, A Young Doctor’s Notebook is a great series. It is a unique, dramatic but also very funny medical show. The performances are brilliant, particularly from Daniel Radcliffe. It’s just a shame that its only four episodes long, when there is so much more potential to the story and elements to develop and explore further.
Best Episode – Episode 2; Difficult to choose because all four are so brilliant but episode 2 and a poor girls leg amputation just about tops the rest.
Best performance – Daniel Radcliffe as Young Doctor
Should there be another season? – Definitely. There is so much to explore and develop. I just can’t see it happening though.
Season Rating – 3.5
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)