A Young Doctor’s Notebook and Other Stories

Starring Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm as versions of the same doctor, removed only by time, this series is surprisingly dark and good. Instead of focusing on the doctor as a dependable miracle-worker in a big hospital/practice, the show examines what working in a small, backwoods practice is like when you are a selfish, flawed young graduate.

Feeling like more of a butcher than a healer, and barraged by patients who refuse to take his advice, Radcliffe’s doctor slowly descends into the morphine addiction that has Hamm’s doctor under NKVD investigation. The doctor’s addiction only exacerbates the worst qualities he possesses, leading him to lose several patients, including his midwife Pelagaya and an inspector that has come to investigate his practice’s suspicious activities.

The older Hamm tries to save the young Radcliffe, pledging forgiveness, pleading, cajoling- to no avail. Radcliffe’s Nika even allows the aristocratic Natasha to die in a train fire after her leg was broken in favor of running away with more morphine, despite being completely besotted with her. It is here, in the last episode of season two that the viewer and Radcliffe’s doctor simultaneously realize that there is no saving him. Hamm’s quest to help his younger self was doomed from the start. And even as Radcliffe moves back to Moscow for a prestigious position (at the venereal institute), we know there is no bright spot in his future.

As gory and twisted as this series is, it never loses its sense of humor. Equal parts moral and wry, its four episode structure is the perfect format, and Hamm and Radcliffe both do a solid job. Although hearing Don Draper speak with an English accent certainly took some getting used to.

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