TV Review: The Salisbury Poisonings

Deeply sensitive writing and direction mean that The Salisbury Poisonings proves a powerfully effective treatment of the story

“God knows what’s happened here”

Whodathunkit, a drama about a public health crisis in the middle of an actual public health crisis proving to be just the thing we needed. Anyone thinking about writing a Covid 19 drama would do well to examine writers Adam Patterson and Declan Lawn and director Saul Dibb’s deeply sensitive approach here in The Salisbury Poisonings.

What works particularly well is that they’ve determinedly gone for a fact-based telling of the story, which steadfastly refuses to indulge in overly dramatic or cinematic touches/ And their focus is on the human aspect of how this whole affair affected actual people rather than extrapolating to the whole of society or going dwon the wormhole of a spy thriller.

The show depicts the events of the 2018 Novichok attack in Salisbury where a Russian MI6 agent and his daughter were poisoned and immediately flips the focus onto the civil servants, the police officers and the nerve agent’s unintended victims as the city struggles with their own version of lockdown whilst the authorities try to figure out what the blazes is going on.

And it is so, so affecting. As we follow Wiltshire’s Director of Public Health, Tracy Daszkiewicz (Anne-Marie Duff), DS Nick Bailey (Rafe Spall), and Dawn Sturgess (MyAnna Buring) and Charlie Rowley (Johnny Harris) through their experiences, it is hard not to feel so wholeheartedly for these people living through such exceptional times. The acting is excellent across the board (seriously, Duff’s laugh is like a tonic) but it is the coda that will ultimately destroy you emotionally in the best possible way. 

Photos: James Pardon/BBC/Dancing Ledge

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