A Young Doctor's Notebook (TV series)

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A Young Doctor's Notebook
Young-Doctors-Notebook-DVD.jpg
Series one DVD cover, featuring Hamm (left) and Radcliffe (right)
Also known as
  • Playhouse Presents: A Young Doctor's Notebook,
  • A Young Doctor's Notebook & Other Stories
Genre British dark comedy
Based on A Young Doctor's Notebook
by Mikhail Bulgakov
Written by
Directed by
Starring
Composer(s) Stephen Warbeck
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 2
No. of episodes 8 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)
  • Kenton Allen
  • Jon Hamm
  • Saskia Schuster (series 1)
  • Lucy Lumsden
  • Matthew Justice
  • Dan Cheesbrough
  • Jon Mountague (series 2)
Producer(s) Clelia Mountford
Editor(s) Mark Henson
Running time 30 min. (with commercials)
Production company(s)
Distributor BBC Worldwide
Release
Original network
Picture format
Audio format Stereo
Original release 6 December 2012 (2012-12-06) – 12 December 2013 (2013-12-12)
External links
Website

A Young Doctor's Notebook is a British dark comedy television programme based on the short story collection of the same name by Mikhail Bulgakov. Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe both portray the show's main character, a doctor at the fictional Muryevo Hospital in Russia, at different ages. The first series was broadcast between 6 December and 27 December 2012 on Sky Arts 1, and a second and final series aired from 21 November to 12 December 2013. The first series takes place in the year 1917 during the Russian Revolution, and the second series takes place in the following year, during the Russian Civil War.

Production[edit]

A Young Doctor's Notebook is based on the short story collection of the same name by Mikhail Bulgakov (pictured in the 1910s) which drew on Bulgakov's own experience as a newly graduated young doctor in 1916-18, practicing in a small village hospital in Smolensk Governorate and his addiction to morphine and subsequent rehabilitation

The second series is based specifically on the short story titled 'Morphine' by Bulgakov, but is also dependent on writers for much of the subject matter as most of Bulgakov's works were utilized in the first series.

The title cards and credits use faux Cyrillic.

The music for the programme was composed by Stephen Warbeck. It features a strong violin line, a clarinet or oboe, an acoustic guitar, and a cello. The theme song was featured on Sky Arts' compilation album Sky Theme Tunes, Vol. 2.[1]

Series overview[edit]

Bolsheviks marching on Red Square during the Russian Revolution

Dr. Vladimir Bomgard leads a team at the fictional Muryevo Hospital in Russia. The team consists of Pelageya Ivanovna (Rosie Cavaliero), a junior midwife; Demyan Lukich (Adam Godley), a feldsher; and Anna Nikolayevna (Vicki Pepperdine), a senior midwife. The typical episode follows the team in their attempts to treat patients' illnesses. Bomgard contends with the uneducated populace who refuse his treatment. He regularly provides them with rapid and accurate diagnoses.

Bomgard has a physical relationship with Pelageya. In the third episode, they have sex for the first time. In the second series, they try being a couple and make their relationship work. In the sixth episode, Bomgard tells Pelageya he never loved her, and they separate.

A Young Doctor's Notebook is set in the fictional town of Muryevo, Korobovo in Russia. The first series takes place in the year 1917 during the Russian Revolution and the second series takes place in the following year during the Russian Civil War. The programme also takes place in the years 1934 and 1935. The show's main character reads his old diary and recalls his experiences, interjecting himself into the story of his younger self. The doctor interacts with his younger self, having conversations that reveal aspects of the story yet to unfold.

In the second series, the Russian Civil War begins to affect the fictional Muryevo Hospital, as an influx of wounded soldiers from both the Bolsheviks and the White Guard arrive for treatment. Meanwhile, the young doctor is battling an all-encompassing morphine addiction. His older self stands watch over him and a young aristocrat named Natasha arrives in the hospital. The young doctor takes an intense, destructive interest in Natasha. At the same time, The Feldsher takes a romantic interest in a tall, moustached Colonel of the White Guard, who is also staying in the hospital. They are both fond of each other, and share a love for pickled sprats. At one point The Feldsher was seen to be bringing him a bouquet of flowers. The Colonel reciprocates.

A significant plot element is Bomgard's use of morphine to manage pain, caused by living in a remote and isolated community and abdominal pain. When he has no access to morphine, he occasionally self-medicates with cocaine. Bomgard also frequently chain smokes when he is on medical duty. In the first series finale, the young doctor reacts to mercy killing by taking morphine, and his addiction recurs. At the close of the first series finale, the young doctor begins to hallucinate. His addiction leads to conflicts with Pelageya. In the last episode, the young doctor admits he is addicted to morphine, describing himself as a "hopeless addict". In the first series, the older doctor is under investigation for writing false prescriptions for morphine for himself, before he descends back into his use of it and his subsequent incarceration as a result. At the opening of the second series premier, the older rehabilitated doctor/Bomgard is released from a mental institution/prison, with his addiction under control.

The doctor is constantly reminded of the former doctor Leopold Leopoldovitch's austere presence through comments comparing them by the midwives and the several large, foreboding portraits of Leopold sporting a huge beard on the walls of the medical practice. The young doctor often feels insecure and inadequate when faced with the Leopoldovitch's reputation and skills, which grows into resentful annoyance.

Cast[edit]

Jon Hamm (left, 2014) and Daniel Radcliffe (right, 2014) portray the show's main character at different ages

All five of the main actors appeared in every episode. All five play staff who work at the fictional Muryevo Hospital in Russia. Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe received star billing.

  • Jon Hamm as the older Dr. Vladmir "Nika" Bomgard. The older doctor fails to prevent his younger self from making the mistakes he currently regrets.
  • Daniel Radcliffe as the young Dr. Vladmir "Nika" Bomgard. Graduate at the top of his class at the Moscow State University of Medicine and Dentistry, he arrives idealistic with no practical experience. In the face of ignorant patients, an endless workload of hopeless cases, little support, a personal illness, and extreme isolation, the young doctor quickly degrades into apathy and despair. The young doctor struggles all the while; gradually descending from chain smoking into morphine addiction.
  • Rosie Cavaliero as Pelageya Ivanovna, a junior midwife. She is brusquely kind.
  • Adam Godley as Demyan Lukich, a feldsher. Trained as a field doctor, he practices as the doctor's assistant during operations. He smokes a tobacco pipe and is fond of pickled sprats and atlases. The young doctor views Feldsher as socially inappropriate and annoying, though well-intentioned.
  • Vicki Pepperdine as Anna Nikolayevna, a senior midwife. She has a loving devotion to Leopold Leopoldovitch, the much-admired, much-accomplished previous doctor. She is very stern, and treats the doctor as a child because of his age and inexperience. She has a worshipful fondness for Leopold Leopoldovitch and often compares the doctor to him or cites his many accomplishments.

Despite the programme's short run, several recurring characters emerged.

  • Christopher Godwin as Leopold Leopoldovitch, the former doctor at the hospital. He has an austere presence and high reputation and skills. He appears in hallucinations in the final two episodes of the first series.
  • Shaun Pye as Yegorych. He appears in three episodes of series one.
  • Tim Steed as NKVD Agent Kirill, who investigates the older doctor on behalf of the law enforcement agency NKVD. He appears in all four episodes of series one.
  • Margaret Clunie as Natasha, a beautiful young aristocrat who arrives at the clinic during the war. She appears in the final three episodes of the second series.
  • Charles Edwards as The Colonel. He appears in the final three episodes of the second series.
  • Tom Forbes as Anatoliy. He appears in the final three episodes of the second series.
  • Daniel Cerqueira as Vlas, a morphine addict-hating vagrant travelling by train with the older doctor. He appears in all four episodes of series two.

Episodes[edit]

No.
overall
No. in
series
Title Original air date U.K. viewers[2]
Series 1: A Young Doctor's Notebook...
1 1 "Episode One" 6 December 2012 (2012-12-06) 584,000
The older doctor is currently under investigation, and stumbles upon his journal. Dr. Vladimir Bomgard, a recent graduate from Moscow State University of Medicine and Dentistry, is a young doctor sent to the remote village of Muryevo to run a small hospital. He becomes acquainted with the senior midwife Anna, junior midwife Pelageya and 'The Feldsher'. His first patient arrives in the middle of his first night: a pregnant peasant with transverse lie. He comes to the realization that even with his "15 5's", he still needs real world experience.
2 2 "Episode Two" 13 December 2012 (2012-12-13) 317,000
The doctor begins to lose hope that he can heal the world "one peasant at a time", as he contends with the harsh realities of his medical practice. His drive to help people is disrupted because locals attempt to take advantage of his inexperience. In his effort to fight a syphilis epidemic he has to contend with the uneducated populace who refuse his treatment. His innocence and desire to better the community disappear after he is forced to perform a gruesome amputation on a young girl.
3 3 "Episode Three" 20 December 2012 (2012-12-20) 251,000
Despite his initial success in the operating theatre, his isolation in this remote town causes him to grow increasingly reserved and introspective. Adding to his discomfort, he suffers severe abdominal pains, which go untreated. He spends long portions of his time staring out into the snow, and he develops an addiction to morphine.
4 4 "Episode Four" 27 December 2012 (2012-12-27) 313,000
After his recent operating successes, a large number of people are drawn to the hospital. He struggles to conceal the effects of his morphine use from his colleagues. While struggling through his workload, he notices the prevalence of syphilis in the surrounding villages, and he begins an attempt to control the epidemic. Yet after one house-call where he fails to save a dying patient and instead euthanizes her, he regresses into his addiction and gives up hope for his own progress.
Series 2: ...& Other Stories
5 1 "Episode One" 21 November 2013 (2013-11-21) 187,000
It's 1918 and civil war rages throughout Russia, but it has yet to reach the remote hospital in Mureyvo. The young doctor and midwife Pelageya are in a relationship, albeit one based primarily on the fact she is able to both facilitate and conceal his morphine addiction. Skip to 1935 and an upbeat, rehabilitated the older doctor is in Moscow being discharged from the institution he was sent to at the end of series one. He returns to his memories of 1918 through his notebook and, in contrast to the first series, he now loves life and is no longer sneering towards his younger self, having forgiven him. The hospital staff learns that the Zemstvo is coming for an inspection, sending the young doctor and Pelageya into a panic, as the inspection is likely to uncover the morphine shortfall. But, under the disapproving eyes of the older doctor, they cover their tracks by re-filling the morphine bottles with water. The arrival of a group of injured Bolshevik soldiers means the young doctor's skills are fully tested.
6 2 "Episode Two" 28 November 2013 (2013-11-28) 85,000
We join the older doctor as he travels by train accompanied by Vlas, a morphine addict-hating vagrant whose disrespect for the older doctor's notebook is revealed when he "wipes his arse with Christmas", following some "bad borsht". Meanwhile in Mureyvo, the young doctor is attempting to hide the missing morphine that he's taken to fuel his addiction when the White Guard arrive at the hospital, asking for medical assistance. The beautiful aristocrat Natasha is part of the group, accompanied by her brother (an injured soldier), and the young doctor falls head over heels for her. He finds her attractive and he flirts towards her for a period. After accidentally shooting himself in the foot while drunk, the young doctor confesses his feelings to Natasha, but she reveals she is betrothed to a Russian General (who bears a striking resemblance to Leopold Leopoldovich), who is stationed in Paris. Though he fantasizes about her, and leaves Pelageya to make himself available for her, she views him more as a mother views a child than in a romantic sense. Pelageya falls ill but the doctor ignores her illness.
7 3 "Episode Three" 5 December 2013 (2013-12-05) 69,000
Pelageya is on her sick bed with typhus while the young doctor's infatuation with Natasha grows by the day. The Feldsher and the colonel discover a badly wounded White Guard soldier and Natasha is eager to know if he has any information about her fiancé. The injured soldier has news of the 5th Regiment (which Gregory was the general of) came to the hospital, the doctor used the opportunity to fabricate a story of his death, telling her he died in battle (while fleeing, no less), opening up Natasha for himself. The young doctor heads to his room, hoping to entice Natasha to visit, with the older doctor trying to convince him he should be looking after Pelageya and that his obsession with Natasha is as self-destructive as his addiction to morphine. After procrastinating, the young doctor finally visits the sick Pelageya, but he behaves with cold indifference and the older doctor is appalled at the callousness of his younger self.
8 4 "Episode Four" 12 December 2013 (2013-12-12) 113,000
The young doctor's preoccupation with Natasha meant that he arrived too late to treat Pelageya, and she perished. The young doctor delivers a self-serving eulogy at Pelageya's funeral in which he absolves himself of blame for her death. An explosion rocks the hospital; the Bolsheviks have returned. The young doctor pathetically attempts to persuade Natasha to stay. In desperation, he reveals that he lied to her about her fiancé. When she comes to know the truth, they have a falling out and she leaves. Bolshevik soldiers arrive at the hospital and the young doctor reveals that Natasha and the White Guard have left and are heading for a medical supply train to escape. The young doctor heads off through the snow with the Feldsher to try to warn Natasha, but they arrive to find it has been derailed by a massive explosion. The young doctor finds an injured Natasha, but also discovers a bountiful supply of morphine. With Natasha's carriage now on fire, he is faced with a stark choice between escaping with the morphine or taking a risk and saving her. Natasha later burns to death while the young doctor steals morphine for himself. Lukich is killed during the fighting between Red and White forces near Muryevo.

A half-hour behind the scenes documentary immediately followed the last episode on Sky Arts 1 on 12 December 2013.

Reception[edit]

External video
"I Am the Doctor"
The young doctor (Radcliffe) arrives at the hospital. Taken from episode 1.
"5 Days"
The young doctor (Radcliffe) examines a dying woman. Taken from episode 3.
"Pathetic and Weak"
The young doctor (Radcliffe) and the older doctor (Hamm) struggle with morphine addiction. Taken from episode 4.

The average viewing for the first series was 252,000 people making it the most watched programme on Sky Arts 1 at the time of its airing.[3]

It has been well received by critics.[4][5]

It was nominated for the Magnolia Award for Best Television Film or Miniseries at the 19th Shanghai Television Festival in 2013. It was nominated for the Satellite Award for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy at the 18th Satellite Awards in 2014.

Release[edit]

The first series was broadcast in the United States between 2 October and 23 October 2013 on Ovation, and a second series aired from 19 August to 9 September 2014.[6][7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Young Doctor's Notebook by Stephen Warbeck "Sky Theme Tunes, Vol 2", on Amazon.com
  2. ^ "Weekly Top 10 Programmes". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board. Retrieved 4 June 2016.  (No permanent link available. Search for relevant dates.)
  3. ^ Sweney, Mark (7 December 2012). "TV ratings: A Young Doctor's Notebook delivers Sky Arts' best ever figures - December 6". 
  4. ^ A review of the show by The Telegraph
  5. ^ review of the show by the Huffington Post
  6. ^ Elavsky, Cindy (22 September 2013). "Celebrity Extra". King Features. 
  7. ^ Elavsky, Cindy (29 June 2014). "Celebrity Extra". King Features. 

External links[edit]