TV Review: Mr Bates vs the Post Office

Separated from the extraordinary impact it has had in the real world, Mr Bates vs the Post Office is a stand-up piece of drama

“One day we’ll get the bastards”

Gwyneth Hughes has form in writing good TV but not even she could dreamed for the level of impact that Mr Bates vs the Post Office has had. In some ways, it’s a sad indictment that it has taken a TV show in order for this case to be given a level of publicity that looks set to force further action from the government, the pressure of public opinion speaking that much louder than any sense of propriety about what should have been done long ago.

This ensemble drama, led by Toby Jones in the titular role, tells the story of the massive miscarriage of justice that has been the British Post Office scandal. Starting with an apparently small issue, a faulty computer system called Horizon reported cash shortfalls that subpostmasters across the UK couldn’t explain. Digging their heels in, the Post Office opted to prosecute them for fraud, theft and false accounting, destroying a range of lives in the process despite knowing the truth.

After its four episodes, it is a deeply empathetic look at the various ways in which the Post Office’s actions chipped away at the human dignity of its employees and the weight that being wrongly accused can carry on the innocent. And with a cast full of the likes of Monica Dolan, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Amit Shah and Will Mellor playing these people, their torment is painfully believably, even once they begin to band together under Alan Bates’ drive to put together a class action suit.

On the other side, the likes of Katherine Kelly and an exceptional Lia Williams are chillingly superb as the Post Office executives leading the charge to protect their interest as the legal case gathers apace. You can’t help but be appalled at how difficult it must have been to have to pursue justice this way and the show makes no bones about the personal cost. Essential drama.

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