The Crimson Field DVD/Blu-ray

Sunday, 18 May 2014 23:00

The Crimson Field - out on DVD and Blu-rayProduced as part of the BBC’s commemoration of 100 years since the beginning of World War One, The Crimson Field is a lavish six-part drama about the experiences of the medical and military staff and patients in a British hospital close to the front line in France. The mini-series was written by Sarah Phelps whose recent work includes the 2011 BBC adaptation of Dickens’ Great Expectations, and 2007's Oliver Twist.

The star-studded cast includes Oona Chaplin (Game of Thrones, The Hour), Hermione Norris (Spooks, Kingdom), Kerry Fox (“Shallow Grave”), Suranne Jones (Scott & Bailey, Doctor Who), Kevin Doyle (Downton Abbey), Alex Wyndham (Little Dorrit, Rome), Jack Gordon (“Captain America: The First Avenger”, The Great Train Robbery), Marianne Oldham (WPC 56) and Alice St Clair (“Before I Sleep”).

The series is essentially an ensemble piece but there is a slight focus on volunteer nurse Kittle Trevelyan (Chaplin), who along with fellow volunteers Rosalie Berwick (Oldham) and Flora Marshall (St Clair) gets a real baptism of fire when she arrives at the hospital base.

Norris plays the stern but fair Matron Carter, backed up by scheming Sister Margaret Quayle (imagine a less evil version of Nurse Ratched from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”), and the easy-going and slightly tomboy-ish Sister Livesey (Jones). Head of the base is Lieutenant Colonel Brett (Doyle) who is tasked with making the hard decisions and keeping the peace, which proves to be a considerable challenge!

Each episode does a good job of balancing the trials of a new set of patients whilst developing the regulars' back stories and tracing their ongoing arcs. To me it feels like a great blend of Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife, in that there is plenty of drama and soap opera-style plotting. The relationships between the staff and patients recall the latter, whilst the regimented, sometimes uneasy interaction of staff of different ranks feels very familiar to viewers of Downton.

The episodes deal with some difficult wartime topics including psychiatric conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, and the repercussions of physical trauma such as limb loss and chronic diseases. It also covers areas like compassion for German civilians caught in the crossfire and domestic abuse, and it does so with a good deal of sympathy.

The production values are excellent, with terrific attention to detail in terms of sets, costumes, vehicles and medical procedures. The blood-caked, filthy soldiers stretchered into the hospital look shockingly authentic.

If I had to raise a criticism it would be that the soap opera aspect starts to grates slightly later on in the series, when it feels like every single character has a convenient secret that might compromise their values. Thankfully the characters are generally nicely rounded and engaging, so this small chink does not undermine the drama very much.

I strongly recommend this series to fans of good British drama, and based on the six episodes included here I wish the makers would consider producing more as the topic has plenty of scope for further exploration.

Special features include:

  • Behind the Scenes and Cast Interviews
  • Picture Gallery
  • Subtitles

“The Crimson Field” (2014) is out now on 2-disc DVD and Blu-ray, courtesy of RLJ Entertainment. The series has a running time of 360 minutes approx, carries a ‘15’ certificate and retails for £19.99 on DVD and £24.99 on Blu-ray, or less from


Last modified on Wednesday, 28 May 2014 11:21

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