Review: 37 Days, BBC 2

37 Days, BBC 2.

SE01EP01: One Month in Summer.  First Broadcast 06/03/2014

I will first offer an apology for not posting a final review of the Paxman documentary Britain’s Great War, nor The Pity of War and The Necessary War. My time has been taken up with Uni work and such, though I do endeavour to watch the entirety of this new series and post my thoughts at least a day after the episode has aired, if not a few hours. I must also remark on something I have seen mentioned several times. Are the BBC overdoing their coverage? It’s only the beginning of March and by my own count, there has been one documentary series, two separate programmes dealing with the historiography, an episode of Andrew Marr’s The Making of Modern Britain and now 37 Days. Of course, there is also the series of programmes on various BBC Radio stations and the like. I, for one, wonder if there will eventually be an overload of programming and it will be interesting to see how the BBC decide to spread the rest of the season out until 2018.

I will admit that I view dramas such as these with a dose of scepticism -would everything be made to seem simpler for the casual viewer with only a passing knowledge of the reasons for the outbreak of the First World War? Would, heaven forfend, major parts be left out or glossed over? Would I find the whole thing terribly tedious? Would there be awful, ham-fisted dialogue, laden with foreshadowing? I was pleasantly surprised while watching 37 Days to find that my worries did not manifest. 

Indeed, for a political drama, I very much enjoyed it. I often find such programmes to be boring, but I found myself to be engaged throughout the whole hour and fully intend on watching it again. Beginning with the young man who delivered the telegrams and further using him in the voice-over was something that I particularly liked -the way in which we occasionally saw what it would have been like to those around the men who were engaged in wading through the whole mess, rather than it being purely from one point of view.

Another aspect of this drama that I liked was the fact that the men each had their own distinct personalities in what could easily have developed into a seamless mush of characters without their own defining characteristics, merely a parade of moustachioed men, nattering at one another over a boardroom table. The inclusion of Vienna and Berlin was also good as it offered a separate viewpoint to something that might so easily have been boring. It also offered chance to see the distinct differences between the different countries and they way they handled events -even the simple inclusion of the clipped English exchange on a cricket pitch, versus the Russians speaking to one another whilst engaged in a massage.

The dialogue was fluid and – to my ears – there were no heavy handed lines or painfully obvious foreshadowing. I did like the telegraph boy’s line (regarding the telegram that carried the news of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand) “it was not forgotten and I think it never will be.”

It never should be forgotten.

Overall, I think this was a strong, excellent drama and look forward to seeing more tomorrow evening. Feel free to comment with your own thoughts; did you see it? If so, what did you think?

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