Peter

"... after working such a lot around animals I think I'm starting to be less allergic..."
— Peter Wingfield in The Daily Telegraph, 27 Aug 1997

Wingfield @wingfieldfans.org Dr Helm

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Noah's Ark television review
by David Aaronovitch
The Independent
14 September 1997

... When ITV companies approach the ITV network controller with a proposal for a new drama series starring a vet, "No!" he or she should scream, "Go away! I do not want yet another show with tinkly piano and wistful clarinet; with opening titles of sheep a-grazing, Land Rovers a-cornering and smiley empathetic doctors a-grinning. And I particularly don't want one about a father-and-son relationship, showing how they find each other through crisis and then hug. Spare me scenes of clever cats, wounded badgers and delivering foals in the old barn. If I ever witness another craggy farmer on the verge of tears, or another nubile vet's assistant give the unmarried doc the admiring once-over in the middle of a hamster's appendectomy, I shall spew. So please, please, please fuck off!"

But they didn't say that, and so this week we got Noah's Ark (ITV, Mon). The writer, Johnny Byrne, has also written Heartbeat and All Creatures Great and Small and was clearly told this time to produce something less intellectually demanding, less complex, less dark. And he has succeeded, for — compared with Noah's ArkHeartbeat is positively Strindbergian. In fact nothing on earth is less complex than Noah's Ark. There are transparent, monocellular organisms in the depths of the ocean that hold more surprises, more secrets, than this vapid new drama.

For one scene, however, I will always remember it with affection. It was when — inevitably — father and son were taking it in turns to stick their arms up to the shoulders in a mare's fanny. Two main shots — of the two opposed ends of the horse — were used during this sequence. The first was of the lachrymose owner holding the horse's bridle, and comforting a seemingly unworried and calm gee-gee. The other was a shot of the horse's flank, with the vet at the far end, his head leaning against his equine patient's substantial derriere, grimacing as (presumably) his hand encountered slimy entanglements deep, deep inside.

But if the head of the horse was pretty still, its rear was completely inert. It didn't move at all, not even to breathe. Now, horses are not exactly like us — they are more stoical — but even so, imagine for a moment that some burly chap has his arm halfway up one of your (unanaesthetised) passages, and is pulling and pushing with all his strength. Would you not — at the very least — allow yourself a little shiver? A shuffle from leg to leg, perhaps? No, you have anticipated me — the answer is: not if you were stuffed, you wouldn't.

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