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Adrian

Civvies

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I haven't followed Lynda LaPlante's recent career (this and Prime Suspect are all I've watched) but I do know that when she's on form there's no better writer of British TV drama.

 

The basic premise is: What's a Para to do when he leaves the forces? Sure, he learned a trade, but that trade doesn't translate so much into civilian life.

 

Frank leaves the Paras after a long period of service but whilst still young. Among the places he served was Belfast, where a bomb in a pub did much to change him and his colleagues, both physically and otherwise. This incident is used a lot in flashback and shows LaPlante's mastery of writing for television. The flashbacks are used sparingly and at the right times, something most writers get wrong.

 

He doesn't fit back well into civilian life and LaPlante is great at showing us that it's the families of the recently 404'ed and not just the man himself that suffer. She over eggs this aspect somewhat by making the big bad army man a little too nasty in domestic situations, but I can see why she did it. It's her "All Men Are Bad" philosophy at work.

 

Steve, the comrade with the throat wound is my favourite secondary character. So much to say and he can't say it. And he has a proper story arc, something that's missing from the other one-dimensional ex-squaddies.

 

The production has some faults. Peter O'Toole hams it up as the father of a soldier who died in the bar explosion, and there's the usual Token Black Man casting, but those are minor problems. This is LaPlante at the prime of her writing career. Jason Isaacs, who went on to play one of the Caffee freres in Brotherhood deserves a mention as the main character. All the male characters also deserve "Best Facial Hair in a TV Show" awards for their moustaches, though Willie Apiata VC shows that that look is still favoured today.

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