Thread: Getting On Board: Oblivion / Ship of Fools.

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Posted by Angloid (# 159) on :
Have we had a thread on this wonderful BBC4 series?

For those who have not seen it (or been unable to because of location) it is a marvellously understated comedy ... following the trend of spoof documentaries like The Office ... set in a NHS female geriatric ward with three main characters: ward sister Den (played by Joanna Scanlan - Terri in The Thick of It); put-upon nurse Kim (played by Jo Brand); and self-obsessed consultant Dr Pippa Moore (played by Vicki Pepperdine). The very clever script has been written by the three of them together.

I think it is one of the best things to come out of the BBC in recent years (and is one very good reason why the BBC should not sink under the Jimmy Savile scandal or any other). The three women have all got very obvious flaws (Den is neither a very good nurse nor a competent administrator, and is a very poor judge of men; Kim is lazy, foul-mouthed and sits very light to hospital rules and discipline; Dr Pippa has an atrocious bedside manner, seems concerned only with her personal advancement and the outcome of her divorce proceedings) but they are not caricatures. Kim, of the three, shows the most human sympathy and identification with her patients, but the others both reveal glimpses of humanity from time to time.

The bureaucratic obsessions of the NHS are shown up particularly well by Hilary Loftus (Ricky Grover), the male former 'matron' who has taken on a role as external adviser to the hospital (and despite being gay has had a relationship with Den who is pregnant with - possibly - his child). Pippa's entourage of medical students are regularly patronised, especially Josh who says very little.

Has anyone else seen it and has any other comments? There are several shipmates who work in the NHS and I wonder if it is an accurate portrayal. To me as an outsider it seems as well-researched and true to life as Rev is of the urban C of E.
Posted by Heavenly Anarchist (# 13313) on :
Ex-nurse here [Smile]
I haven't seen this but will look for it on iPlayer. I usually avoid medical dramas but this sounds interesting because of the cast. Jo Brand used to be a psychiatric nurse so would be well placed for writing it.
Posted by Not (# 2166) on :
It's brilliantly observed, written and acted - painfully true about the madnesses, bizarreness, and (at times) inhumanity of working in the NHS but also, unusually, shows the moments of intense humanity warmth and vulnerability. It's very real and very funny. Love it.
Posted by Polly Plummer (# 13354) on :
A brilliant programme, one of the best I remember seeing on the Beeb. A shame that they tucked it away on BBC4.
Posted by Doublethink (# 1984) on :
Some aspects of it - such as the way consultant physicians / surgeons tend to communicate - are dead on the money. My theory is that you have to be so completely obsessive to get to be a specialist physical health consultant, that most of your brain space is taken up with that and you lose some social awareness - that and everyone treating you like a god will do it.
Posted by Jigsaw (# 11433) on :
Another nurse here. Can't believe that none of the writers actually work nowadays in the NHS as they seem to know exactly what the bureaucracy and the jostling for position is like. But it's not just a drama-doc: the interplay between Kim and Den is very moving and the scripts have had soem great twists and turns. An understated little gem.
Posted by Schroedinger's cat (# 64) on :
Yes I have been watching this series, and loving it. The comedy style reminds me a little of "Roger and Val have just got in" - an undercurrent, but brilliantly done.

It strikes me that the characters are very human. Den is trying to cope with being a professional ward sister, while trying to deal with a pregnancy - and ***spoiler alert*** the miscarriage of one of the twins.

The division of the work/personal life is crucial - you can sympathise with her personally, even if she is rather a stiff personality at work. Kim is someone I relate to, in that she wants to get her job done - and she is good at it - but get frustrated by "The System". Her attempts too train as a doctor should be laughable, but is engaging. You think she could probably do it, if she could really give a shit.

Pippa is perfect. How anyone can talk about vaginas in that way is extraordinary. Her disdain of everyone else is exactly what some consultants do (not all, I should point out).

And the other characters are also perfect. Hilary is brilliantly ineffective, and the cleaner who has 2 law degrees a fantastic social comment.

But none of it overstated. All very real. And stunning.
Posted by que sais-je (# 17185) on :
Originally posted by Jigsaw:
Another nurse here. Can't believe that none of the writers actually work nowadays in the NHS as they seem to know exactly what the bureaucracy and the jostling for position is like.

I fear that part of the attraction is that wherever you work (or just interact with large organisations) you will see the same thing.

It's rare you get a quote from Trotsky on SoF (and I can't remember where it's from) but: "Bureaucracy is like a tumour. Sometimes it's benign but you'd still rather not have it" seems apposite here. Especially applicable to that creepy male nurse or whatever he's morphed into.

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