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Masterpiece Mystery!: Breathless

Starts 8 pm Sunday, Aug. 24, on WILL-TV: Jack Davenport stars as a brilliant London surgeon in 1961, when doctors were treated like gods and acted the part.

Jack Davenport at Otto Powell

Jack Davenport at Otto Powell

Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Caribbean, Smash), Zoe Boyle (Downton Abbey), and Catherine Steadman (Mansfield Park) team up for a medical series with astounding suspense, supreme satire, and smart sixties style on Breathless, airing in three parts on MASTERPIECE MYSTERY!, Sundays, Aug. 24 - Sept. 7 on WILL-TV.

Also starring in this compelling drama about a vanished era and sensibility are Iain Glen (Downton Abbey), Natasha Little (Case Histories), Oliver Chris (Sharpe’s Challenge), Joanna Page (Love Actually), and Shaun Dingwall (Touching Evil).

Critics were hooked on Breathless during its UK broadcast. The Times (London) marveled, “Jack Davenport [is] a suave gynecologist with a glint in his eye, a revolver in his pocket, and a hospital full of nurses ready to start swinging as the 1960s hit Britain.” And The Independent (London) gasped, “Breathless looks absolutely lovely—it takes our breath away.”

Set in London in 1961, Breathless follows the exploits of doctors, nurses, and spouses connected with a busy obstetrics ward at a National Health Service hospital. It’s a time when gynecologists are all men and nurses aspire to a trip down the aisle with a good-looking doctor. Abortion is illegal, the Beatles are still nobodies, and society is on the cusp of profound change.

No one seems to have more going for him than Otto Powell (Davenport), a well-off gynecologist who can perform miracles in the operating room and has a trophy wife (Little) and a bright, well-mannered son (Rudi Goodman). Otto also has a wandering eye, which alights most recently on new nurse Angela Wilson (Steadman), who plays uncommonly hard-to-get.

Unknown to all, Angela is already married—although abandoned years earlier—and is the sister of another of Otto’s nurse conquests, Jean (Boyle). Jean is now engaged to Otto’s posh colleague Richard Truscott (Chris), due to failure to take contraceptive precautions. Angela and Jean hide their relationship in order to aid Jean’s climb up the social ladder.

Both sisters are mixed up in Otto’s occasional “specials”—secret abortions that he performs with anesthesiologist Charlie Enderbury (Dingwall) out of concern for the health of women in dire straits. All risk imprisonment for their deeds—a prospect that is increasingly worrying to Charlie. Meanwhile Charlie’s wife, Lily (Page), cheerily tries to cope with his strange moods, not helped by the arrival of an officious new anesthesiologist, Omprakash Mehta (Ronny Jhutti), who is suspicious of Charlie’s moonlighting.

The plot thickens considerably with the appearance of Chief Inspector Ronald Mulligan (Glen), an obsessed detective who thinks out-of-the-box. The dots he is connecting link some of the characters to events in another country and a different decade.