TV | 37 Days – A wonderfully witty docu-drama

With Downton Abbey going from strength to strength, this drama about the period between Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination and the declaration of war is quite like a costume drama mixed with politics.

War buffs will enjoy this three-part BBC drama about one of the greatest political crises to ever hit Europe: it charts the diplomacy, or lack thereof, that took place between the various nations who were involved in the four year conflict that claimed 20 million lives.

The narrator is a young Scottish clerk based in the Foreign Office, describing events as they take place in docu-drama style, although light on the drama. The haranguing of the various ambassadors by the Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey is both intelligently written and mesmeric at the same time. Though we know what the ending is going to be, it gets tenser every time we see the clock counting down the number of days till the start of war, followed by diplomats getting angrier and more scared and smoking more and more cigarettes.

Ian McDiarmid, as Sir Edward Grey, is no Emperor Palpatine, but instead the stiff-upper lip Englishman trying his best not to worry about the oncoming European tragedy. His interrogation of various Ambassadors in his office is wonderfully witty and full of acuity. Just like this miniseries.

You can watch the three part series on BBC i Player now

Harry Wise 

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