|Genre||Medical soap opera|
|Created by||Chris Murray|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||22|
|No. of episodes||4,029|
|Executive producers||Currently: |
Peter Eryl Lloyd
Simon J Curtis
Steve M Kelly
|Production company||BBC Birmingham|
|Original network||BBC One|
|Original release||26 March 2000 –|
Doctors is a British medical soap opera which began broadcasting on BBC One on 26 March 2000. Set in the fictional West Midlands town of Letherbridge, the soap follows the lives of the staff of both an NHS doctor's surgery and a university campus surgery, as well as their families and friends. Initially, only 41 episodes of the programme were ordered, but due to the positive reception, the BBC ordered it as a continuing soap opera. Doctors was filmed at the Pebble Mill Studios until 2004, and was then relocated to the BBC Drama Village. Episodes are filmed three months prior to transmission.
Since its inception, Doctors has consistently won the share in its daytime time slot, and as of 2020, it averages at 1.6 million live viewers. The programme has been nominated for and won numerous awards, and has been praised for tackling issues that are considered to be controversial and taboo issues in British culture and social life that are typically unseen on British television. Doctors takes three annual transmission breaks across the year; at Easter, during the summer, and at Christmas.
Creation and time slot
Doctors is produced by BBC Birmingham and is screened on BBC One. It was created by Chris Murray, with Mal Young as the original executive producer. Doctors was originally shown at 12:30 pm as a lead-in to BBC News at One. For a brief trial period in mid-2000, selected episodes from the first series were shown on Fridays at 7:00 pm, but due to rival soap Emmerdale being transmitted at the same time, Doctors suffered from low ratings, and was trialled in a 2:10 pm time slot instead. The series later moved into its current timeslot of 1:45 pm in 2008. Cast member Diane Keen opined that Doctors should be broadcast in a primetime slot. Controller of BBC Daytime scheduled Liam Keelan commented: "its true home will always be as a hugely appreciated early afternoon drama". In a 2010 review of BBC continuing dramas, it was reported by Digital Spy that Doctors regularly won the largest share in its time slot, and attracted consistent audience numbers, with an average of 2 million viewers per episode. In 2020, executive producer Mike Hobson was asked by Allison Jones of Inside Soap if he would consider a late-night time slot, to which he commented: "for our audience, we sit quite nicely". He felt that if the soap was shown at nighttime, producers would "still tackle all the powerful subject matters [they do now], and that seeing more sexual or swearing scenes would not add to the quality of the programme".
Filming and location
Since the programme's inception, Doctors has filmed episodes three months in advance of broadcast. The episodes are filmed from January to November, and due to the effect weather has on the output, producers implement "seasonal episodes" to give the impression that the soap is set in "real time". Episodes are filmed in groups of three, described as a "block". Each of the blocks have the same production crew, and it takes seven days to shoot each block. Typically, two blocks are filmed at once, with periods of three at a time. When there are three blocks being filmed, the regular cast members can be filming up to nine episodes within the same period of time.
From 2000 to 2004, Doctors was filmed at the BBC's former Pebble Mill studios in Edgbaston. The series used space originally occupied by Pebble Mill at One, and as Studio A had been mothballed a year before production started, the existing building had to be used for the show. After the closure of Pebble Mill, BBC Birmingham moved to a smaller production base in Birmingham City Centre which had no studio space for the show. In the light of this, the show moved to the new BBC Drama Village development in Selly Oak, with the transition between locations achieved on screen by an explosion destroying the Riverside Health Centre, named after the series' original production home. Alongside the Mill Health Centre, other regular locations include the police station, the Icon Bar, the Campus Surgery and HMP Letherbank Prison.
Doctors takes two holiday-related annual breaks; at Easter and Christmas. On 4 June 2016, it was confirmed that Doctors was to take a three-month transmission break from 10 June 2016; the first long break since 2006. This was to accommodate the BBC's coverage of UEFA Euro 2016, Wimbledon, Rio 2016 Olympics and Red Rock. The series returned on 30 August 2016. It has taken annual breaks during the summer since then, to accommodate the coverage of various programming, including: Wimbledon, Red Rock, the FIFA World Cup, the European Championships, London Kills, 800 Words, the UEFA Euro, and The Heights.
The first episode of Doctors was transmitted on 26 March 2000. In 2002, episodes received an average of 2.5 million viewers. Young departed from the position of executive producer on 6 April 2005, with Will Trotter assuming the position from the next day. In April 2006, Doctors aired the first same sex wedding on British television, when characters Greg Robinson (Ben Jones) and Rico Da Silva (Felix D'Alviella) got married. In 2009, the episode which reached the highest ratings in Doctors history was "Restraint", which was aired on 31 March, and saw Ruth Pearce (Selina Chilton) admitted to a psychiatric hospital after developing an obsession over colleague and friend, Michelle Corrigan (Donnaleigh Bailey). Another episode in 2009 that reached 3.4 million viewers was "Cold Comfort", which was the last episode aired in 2009; it involved the Christmas party, which saw Lily Hassan's (Seeta Indrani) marriage proposal to Heston Carter (Owen Brenman) turned down. On 26 March 2010, Doctors celebrated its 10th anniversary and 1800th episode. Under the title Decade of Doctors, the BBC aired five-minute episodes about the series after each day's episode during the anniversary week. In each episode, cast and crew members talked about topics including the conception of the series, their favourite storylines and facts about Doctors. That year, the highest watched episode received 2.9 million viewers. The average for the year was 2 million viewers.
On 16 February 2011, Doctors aired its 2000th episode, "Quarantine", which was extended and ran for 60 minutes. From 17 September 2012 for 5 days, special red button episodes aired after the regular episodes, focusing on the conclusion of the Harrison Kellor (James Larkin) storyline, exploring Elaine Cassidy (Janet Dibley) and how she dealt with Harrison's change of plea for Lauren Porter's (Alexis Peterman) murder. In 2012, Doctors aired a "Shakespeare week", with episodes themed around "a number of his most popular plays". On 16 June 2015, Trotter departed from the position of executive producer, with Mike Hobson assuming the position from the next day. Episodes in that year averaged at 1.7 million viewers, with the highest rating of the year being 1.94 million. In February 2015, Doctors sparked criticism after the word "pussy" was used in an episode. Due to the programme being transmitted in the daytime, the claims of "offensive language" led to an investigation by Ofcom, a broadcasting regulator. They were later cleared of any breaches of the code, with an Ofcom spokesperson stating: "Following investigation, we found this BBC One soap didn't break our rules for offensive language before the watershed. The language used in the show was justified by the context it was presented in and aired at a time when children were unlikely to be watching." On 10 September 2015, Doctors aired its 3000th episode, "The Heart of England", which was extended and ran for 60 minutes. The average viewing figures for 2015 was 2 million. Later that year, to commemorate the 400th year of Shakespeare's death, the soap revisited his work, with a week of episodes focusing specifically on his sonnets. The cast filmed scenes at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon for the episodes, one of which includes Heston Carter (Owen Brenman) reciting Sonnet 73 to girlfriend Ruhma Hanif (Bharti Patel). Series producer Lloyd also stated that due to the rise of homelessness in the Birmingham area that year, the soap would be featuring a week that focuses on homelessness. The "emotional and powerful" homelessness week aired in May 2016. Script editor Nasreen Ahmed stated that lots of research went into the week, with researchers contstantly finding new statistics and information. She added that it was tricky to cover the "darker stuff" with their daytime transmission slot, but opined that Doctors is the perfect platform for a homelessness storyline, due to the links to the medical surgery.
In 2017, ratings for Doctors improved, averaging at 2.5 million viewers, with a peak of 4 million. In May 2018, Doctors aired another themed week, based around mental health. The transmission dates coincided with Mental Health Awareness Week. Writer Andrew Cornish felt that due to the seriousness of the topic, it felt "counter-productive and unrealistic" to "drop" regular characters into numerous mental health-related storylines for that one week, so he planned to have several storylines come to a head in the week. These included Rob Hollins' (Chris Walker) PTSD and Al Haskey's (Ian Midlane) struggle with the diagnosis of his mother's dementia. In November 2019, it was confirmed via Twitter that Doctors were filming for the 20th anniversary episode. As part of the celebrations for the milestone, Julia Parsons (Diane Keen) briefly returned to the series. It was also revealed that every regular cast member in the series will be featured in a scene together. To celebrate the 20th year of Doctors, a competition was opened for viewers to visit the set at BBC Drama Village on 18 March 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the set tour was postponed, and it was later announced that filming of Doctors had been postponed due to the virus. On 26 March 2020, a 60-minute episode titled "A Day in the Life..." was broadcast, which saw the conclusion of a long-running prison storyline involving Jimmi Clay (Adrian Lewis Morgan), and a documentary being made about The Mill. Also in March 2020, an episode starring Joe Pasquale was broadcast. The episode, titled "The Joe Pasquale Problem", displays patient Lizzie Milton (Adele James) suffering from the Fregoli delusion, seeing everyone as Pasquale. Beth Maloney of Entertainment Daily described the episode as "bizarre" but "amazing".
On 22 May 2020, despite having the government's permission to recommence production on set, Doctors announced that a lockdown episode was being filmed at cast members' homes using their mobile phones. Doctors became the first soap opera to address the pandemic, as well as the first to film an episode solely using mobile devices. The episode, titled "Can You Hear Me?", aired on 12 June 2020. On the same day of the episode's broadcast, series producer Peter Eryl Lloyd announced that the production team had donated all personal protective equipment (PPE) to the NHS, so upon the programme's return, the characters would not be wearing PPE in scenes broadcast on television. In August 2020, it was announced that Doctors had resumed filming, with Hobson stating that it was a "long process of preparing the set, the crew and actors, to make sure we are working in the safest environment possible". Doctors returned to transmission on 2 November with four weekly episodes, rather than the typical five. Series producer Lloyd stated that upon its return, the characters are in a "post Covid world, where social distancing and mask wearing are things of the past, but the ongoing effects of the virus are very much part of everyday life". Episodes in 2020 had an average of 1.6 million live viewers. In December 2020, it was announced that Doctors would be taking another extended transmission break until February, with no episodes set to be broadcast throughout January 2021. The series returned on 8 February 2021.
Earlier episodes included a noticeably smaller cast, with episodes more self-contained. However, with the increased number of episodes, the cast also increased to include continuing storylines. The original nine regular characters to be introduced in Doctors were Anoushka Flynn (Carli Norris), Joanna Helm (Sarah Manners), Kate (Maggie Cronin) and Mac McGuire (Christopher Timothy), Caroline Powers (Jacqueline Leonard), Helen Thompson (Corrinne Wicks), Rana Mistry (Akbar Kurtha), Ruth Harding (Yvonne Brewster) and Steve Rawlings (Mark Frost).
In 2005, Holby City actor Adrian Lewis Morgan was cast in the role of Jimmi Clay. Appearing continuously since, he has become the longest serving actor on Doctors. Also during the 2000s, numerous other longstanding characters were introduced, including: Daniel Granger (Matthew Chambers), Heston Carter (Owen Brenman), Lily Hassan (Seeta Indrani) and Zara Carmichael (Elisabeth Dermot Walsh). 2009 saw the introduction of the Hollins family; Karen (Jan Pearson), Rob (Chris Walker), Imogen (Charlie Clemmow) and Jack Hollins (Nicolas Woodman). Mrs Tembe (Lorna Laidlaw) was introduced as a receptionist at the Mill in 2011, who eventually became the practice manager. In 2012, several regular characters were introduced into the series, including general practitioner Mandy Marquez (Danielle Henry), practice manager Howard Bellamy (Ian Kelsey), police surgeon Jas Khella (Vineeta Rishi), general practitioner and police surgeon Emma Reid (Dido Miles), receptionist Valerie Pitman (Sarah Moyle) and general practitioner Al Haskey (Ian Midlane). Practice nurse Ayesha Lee (Laura Rollins) made her debut appearance in 2014. Midwife Ruhma Hanif (Bharti Patel) and general practitioner Sid Vere (Ashley Rice) were introduced in 2015. After the departure of Mrs Tembe, Ali Bastian was cast as practice manager Becky Clarke in 2019. Later in 2019, Bastian left Doctors after becoming pregnant, and in the programme, she is replaced by business manager Bear Sylvester (Dex Lee). Nurse Luca McIntyre (Ross McLaren) joined the series in 2021.
Alongside the regular cast, Doctors features numerous recurring and guest characters. Recurring characters typically have a connection to the regulars, such as Izzie Torres (Bethan Moore), the daughter of Daniel, and Eve Haskey (Rachel Bell), the mother of Al. Doctors also features guest stars in each episode, with examples including Emilia Clarke, Alison Hammond, Ruthie Henshall, Jamelia, Claire King, Joe Pasquale, Eddie Redmayne, Lisa Riley, Sheridan Smith, and Denise Welch.
The storylines originally dealt with the lives of staff and patients at the fictional Riverside Health Centre and its secondary location, the Best Practice. During the early years, many storylines revolved around the lead character of Mac and his family life. These storylines include his romance with Julia Parsons (Diane Keen) and his son, Liam McGuire (Tim Matthews), facing a sexual assault allegation. In 2007, when more episodes were shown and there were fewer breaks in transmission, storylines included: receptionist Donna Parmar (Martha Howe Douglas) breaking patient confidentiality and her sacking from the Mill (2007), Nick West's (Michael McKell) car crash and later death (2008) and receptionist Vivien March's (Anita Carey) rape in 2008. 2009 also saw the departure of longstanding family unit Ronnie (Seán Gleeson), George (Stirling Gallacher) and Bracken Woodson (Jessica Gallagher).
In 2011, Karen falls pregnant and has an abortion, which leads to a breakdown in her relationship with Rob, and their later separation. 2011 also sees the murder of temporary receptionist Lauren Porter (Alexis Peterman) by Harrison Kellor (James Larkin). In 2012, Heston embarks on a relationship with health visitor Marina Bonnaire (Marian McLoughlin), which sees Heston subjected to domestic abuse. 2012 also sees Zara and Daniel have a baby, Joe Granger Carmichael. After Keen departed from her role as Julia, Howard becomes practice manager. Zara and Daniel decide to separate after she finds out about his affair with Cherry Clay (Sophie Abelson), the wife of Jimmi. In 2013, Mrs Tembe gains a new love interest – Gordon Clement (Steven Elder), the vicar of her church. Later that year, Jas is harassed by an obsessive stalker, Al. In 2014, Karen is involved in a car accident, and suffers severe head trauma and as a result, loses all of her memories from the age of 18 onwards. She spends months trying to readjust, knowing that she has two adult children and a husband. After Jas leaves Letherbridge, doctor Niamh Donoghue (Jessica Regan) is hired at the Mill, and she begins a relationship with Al. Heston struggles with memory loss and undergoes several tests designed to determine whether he is suffering from early-onset dementia. Mandy decides that it is time to move on from the Mill and is replaced by a new nurse, Ayesha.
In 2015, Doctors 3000th episode is transmitter, in which a special storyline was created centring on a number of the main characters, most specifically Rob; when he was younger, he caused a car accident, but his childhood friend, took the blame as Rob was about to enter the police force. In 2016, Anthony Harker (Adam Astill) joins as a new practice manager, and he bullies Mrs Tembe, who leaves to work for a rival surgery. Anthony's autocratic management style then targets Jimmi, who forms a plan with Mrs Tembe and Daniel to take over the Mill. Mrs Tembe is offered his position, to which she accepts. 2016 also sees the beginning of a fostering storyline for Karen and Rob, with the pair getting the necessary training to become foster parents. The Doctors research team worked with British charity The Fostering Network for a year ahead of the storyline in order to represent fostering accurately, and they credited the programme with an insurgence of fostering representation on television.
In 2018, Zara and Daniel are driven apart again, this time by Daniel's daughter Izzie, who pushes Zara to her limits. Zara slaps Izzie, causing Daniel to walk out on her. After Daniel returns home, he finds a drunken Zara has slept with Sid, which results in Daniel punching Sid and ending his relationship with Zara. In 2019, Mrs Tembe becomes engaged to Gordon, and decides to leave Letherbridge with him; Mrs Tembe meets Becky, who she hires as the new practice manager of the Mill. Becky begins a relationship with Daniel, and eventually becomes pregnant. However, she miscarries, and Daniel sees it as an opportunity to reveal that he does not want more kids, and that he has cheated on her with Zara. Becky ends her relationship with Daniel, and departs from the Mill. Becky is replaced by business manager Bear. Sid tracks down his long-lost brother, Laurence Richards (Rishard Beckett), who he learns was put up for adoption by his parents since he has Down syndrome. In late 2019, twin brothers Adam and Gareth Regan (Edward MacLiam) are introduced. Adam begins a relationship with Zara, while Gareth moves in with Emma. Weeks into their relationships, it transpires that Gareth is addicted to drugs and jealous of his brother. He goes to Zara's house pretending to be Adam, and attempts to rape Zara. He is subsequently arrested and charged. In the final episodes of 2019, Jimmi begins to experience strange events; he is mugged, his house alarm alerts on several occasions, and strangers arrive at the Icon asking for him. He is eventually arrested for the possession of drugs, and despite the staff at the Mill trying to prove his innocence and get him freed in time for Christmas, they fail.
The beginning of 2020 sees Jimmi's colleagues discover that Jimmi was framed by his solicitor, John Butler (Richard Huw). John blames Jimmi for the death of his son, George Kenway (Lewis MacKinnon), so he orchestrated a plan to avenge George by ruining Jimmi's life. When he is released from prison, Keen reprised her role of Julia, who helps Jimmi with post-prison life. Ruhma is suspended from her midwifery role when she is kissed by Doug Machin (Michael Hobbs), which leads to the introduction of Deborah Kovak (Jamie-Rose Monk), who temporarily replaces Ruhma at the Mill. Another focus of 2020 is Karen and Rob's fostering experiences, including Abz Baker's (Amy Bowden) rape and Jayden Hunt's (Ciaran Stow) epilepsy. 2020 also sees the departure of Ayesha, when she is given the opportunity to front a worldwide malaria campaign, and despite her beginning a romance with Bear, she leaves to pursue it. Lily Walker (Verity Rushworth) is temporarily hired at the Mill, and when her and Al are drunk, they agree to get married. When Al later informs her that they cannot get married, she stalks him. Karen and Rob are given the responsibility of caring for Tom (Max True) and Ella Robson (Lily-Mae Evans), after it is claimed they witnessed their father murder their mother. It later transpires that Ella killed her, due to their mother abusing their father.
Awards and nominations
In 2003, Doctors was nominated for Best British Soap at The British Soap Awards for the first time, where it has been nominated annually since. The next year, Doctors then won their first award at the British Soap Awards, when they won Best Single Episode for "Say A Little Prayer". At the 2009 British Soap Awards, Vivien's rape won the award for Best Storyline; Carey also won the award for Best Female Dramatic Performance for her role in the storyline. The storyline was nominated again at the 2018 ceremony in the category of Greatest Moment. Also at the 2018 ceremony, Doctors won a shared award with fellow BBC soap EastEnders. Both soaps won the award for Scene of the Year; the first time two soaps have won a singular award.
Doctors is nominated annually at the Inside Soap Awards. Laidlaw won the award for Best Daytime Star for her role as Mrs Tembe in 2017, while the soap itself won Best Daytime Soap the following year. The soap has also received annual longlist nominations from the National Television Awards, with Walsh having two nominations for her role as Zara Carmichael. At the Royal Television Society Midlands Awards, Miles has won the award for Acting Performance of the Year twice, in 2013 and 2017. Doctors has also won the Drama award three times at the ceremony. In 2017, the Writers' Guild of Great Britain awarded the soap for Best Long Running TV Series.
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