End of Series review: Bluestone 42

It seems fair to say that BBC3 original comedies are usually distinctly average. Bluestone 42, however, is one of the channel’s best and most original shows in a long time, thanks to its mixture of appropriate banter and mostly successful military advisors.

Set in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan, Bluestone 42 follows a bomb disposal unit led by Captain Nick Medhurst (Oliver Chris) as we see their daily routine and it contrasts the squad’s light-hearted personal relationships at the base with their sudden changes into serious mode on discovery of an IED. One arc over the whole series was Nick’s pursuit of the new Padre, Mary Greenstock (Kelly Adams), with other recurring ideas around the characters including the crude jokes of Scottish pair Mac (Jamie Quinn) and Rocket (Scott Hoatson), the trials in the organisation of Simon’s (Stephen Wright) wedding and the sexism continually aimed toward Corporal Bird (Katie Lyons).

The camaraderie between these soldiers is what the whole show hinges on, with storylines such as Nick and Simon helping each other learn to dance- leading to a sequence of brilliant moments as various members of the squad stumble in- the men trying to prove to Bird that they really do appreciate her and the team helping Nick get over his superstitious use of Fisherman’s Friends before disabling a bomb after he runs out. These ideas are all combined together brilliantly in episode seven, a bottle episode in which the squad is stuck in groups of two or three sheltering from a mortar attack. This enables relationships between unlikely combinations of soldiers to be examined in the context of an undeniably scary military occurrence, and is an example of what the show does best.

The Bomb Disposal Unit of Bluestone 42. ©BBC; Image credit: BBC3

Although the entire cast is a joy to watch- especially Oliver Chris, best known for Green Wing, who plays Nick with an excellent balance of charming, predatory and sarcastic- so many scenes are stolen by Tony Gardner as Lieutenant Colonel Phillip Smith. The ease with which he strolls around and into situations, has his say with an insightful knowledge of his troops hidden among cutting quips before strolling out again is genius and a constant joy to watch.

Many fictional military TV programmes feature a wealth of inaccuracies which can be frustrating to those in the know and misleading to those who aren’t. Although Bluestone 42 is not perfect in this sense, it seems to have been more carefully researched than other programmes, and most errors are things that viewers would expect to see, such as the way the soldiers look through their guns, meaning that at least most won’t question it.

Bluestone 42 has been renewed for a second series, and deservedly so. There are few comedies with such a realistic edge that it can be compared to at the moment, and its success at mixing comedy with such a serious matter is impressive- especially due to the need for sensitivity, as there are still soldiers in Afghanistan right now.

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