It’s only taken 2 years to bring to screen a miniseries of The Salisbury Poisonings incident in Salisbury, England -a quick life cycle in TV drama.
The 4 part drama -set to screen across consecutive nights on SBS- is gripping stuff, principally because it has drawn upon such meticulous research and witness experiences.
At the centre of the story is the Director of Public Health Tracy Daszkiewicz (Anne-Marie Duff), whose life is turned upside down when two people collapse suddenly on a park bench in the town centre.
They are spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. But the locals have no idea what they are dealing with. Attending the scene is DS Nick Bailey (Rafe Spall), who soon falls victim to the deadly nerve agent when he inspects their house.
Also central to the drama are locals Dawn Sturgess (MyAnna Buring), although just how is a bit of a spoiler, and Ross Cassidy (Mark Addy).
Watching this regional town of 46,000 deal with a chemical weapons attack is strikingly familiar to current circumstances: nobody knows quite what they are dealing with, infection transmission, town barricades and dilemmas over panic and freedoms.
Even the local police can’t quite believe what Tracy is asking of them in order to keep the community safe. In this role Anne-Marie Duff (Shameless, His Dark Materials) is pitch perfect, and never at risk of overshadowing the weight of the script by Adam Patterson and Declan Lawn. This is contrasted by the life and death battle for Rafe Spall’s character, and the fears of wife Sarah (Annabel Scholey).
The series uses newsreel footage as the magnitude of the attack reached Parliament with then-PM Theresa May vowing to take action against Russian perpetrators. There’s also some heavy focus on families under siege by media who camp outside the homes of those already under immense pressure.
The timing of this may not be to everybody’s liking given our current crisis, but it’s so tautly crafted I found myself bingeing through it in its entirety. If Chernobyl left you gob-smacked The Salisbury Poisonings will leave you both horrified and relieved it didn’t happen here.
The final coda with the real-life locals is incredibly powerful.
The Salisbury Poisonings airs 8:30pm Monday Aug. 24 – Thursday Aug. 27 on SBS.