Based on personal testimonies, the engrossing three-part The Salisbury Poisonings recreates the 2018 Novichok poisoning crisis in the city of Salisbury in the west of England.
A sedate cathedral city of some 50,000 people, Salisbury was rocked by the crisis as double agent and spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned. Collapsing on a park bench in the middle of the city, the two were initially assumed to have taken a drug overdose. But authorities discovered very quickly that one of the most lethal of poisons, Novichok, had been used. Local public services were called in to deal with an unprecedented event and national emergency.
The strength of The Salisbury Poisonings is that the series chooses to focus on the human story behind the headlines. Skripal and Yulia are background characters as first responder Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey (Rafe Spall) finds himself in ICU. It is his battle and the coping mechanisms of his young family that is central to the miniseries, juxtaposed with that of Tracy Daszkiewicz (Anne-Marie Duff) juggling personal and professional life. As Director of Public Health & Safety, she finds herself at the frontline. At odds at times with the local police force and Whitehall politicians, Daszkiewicz looks to ensure public safety is prioritised whilst the full extent and scope of the crisis is investigated. Sadly, weeks after Salisbury is declared safe, a second outbreak creates panic as the tough control measures are repeated.
Whilst guilty of occassionally slipping into melodrama, The Salisbury Poisonings is engaging, unglamorous, solid storytelling. Inserting actual news footage and Parliamentary debates as Russia is accused of the terrorist attack on British soil adds a sense of gravitas to proceedings.