Doctor Foster: the drama that gripped 10 million viewers

For those of you out there who watched BBC One’s latest drama, Doctor Foster, I hope you will agree with me that it was epically thrilling and tantalising. And to those of you who didn’t, I urge you to catch up and experience all the emotions that we went through whilst watching it. As a warning there were many emotions, mostly of frustration and anger. 

It was never my intention to watch Doctor Foster as I hadn’t seen it advertised, but it just so happened that one night after watching the Great British Bake Off I stayed in front of the TV, spending time searching through social media as most of us do. Disinterested as to what was coming on next I had missed the beginning credits of the programme, I looked up at the screen to see what was going on and to my dismay it was a sex scene. The ultimate cringe when your mum is in the room (we’ve all been there) and before I could turn it off a twist in the story began which made it so captivating from start to finish. 

Mike Bartlett, the writer of Doctor Foster, led us to believe that Gemma Foster played by Suranne Jones and Simon Foster played by Bertie Carvel along with their son Tom Foster played by Tom Taylor were ‘the perfect family’. Moreover, both parents had respectful jobs, Gemma being a senior doctor and Simon a property developer, a lovely home, new cars and good neighbourly relationships; what could possibly be wrong with their lives we asked? However, being a drama we knew everything couldn’t all be rainbows and butterflies for long and we weren’t wrong.

In the first episode we witness Gemma’s world spiral out of control. Everything she trusted in: her marriage and friends, become false as she has an inkling that her husband is having an affair. After finding another woman’s hair on her husband’s scarf she is intrigued to know what her partner gets up to and why he doesn’t come home till 7pm as he finishes work at 5pm. Gemma requests the help from one of her patients who is ordered to follow Simon. This mission confirms Gemma’s gut feeling as discovers Simon is having the affair with a family friend’s daughter who she has met on previous occasions. To find out someone you love has cheated on you is soul destroying enough but she then learns her long-time friend and colleague as well as her neighbours are all in on the secret.

Like many dramas, we often think how can the story become better each week and particularly in this case as everything was laid out for us in the beginning episode. I was certainly hooked after these terrible secrets were revealed to Gemma Foster and to the audience for the first time. It was poignant that we travelled through the experiences alongside her, finding out hidden secrets when she did and feeling aggravated for her situation that seemed to get progressively worse.

It is important to note that many people watching will have gone through something similar to Gemma; whether it be an affair, money troubles or unreliable friends. I happen to think that the main actors played their characters exceptionally well, in particular Suranne Jones who was everything from fierce to heart broken. For instance, she expressed severe shock and sickness when she initially found out about the affair and she managed to convince us all that she had killed Tom by intensely crying and talking about him so attentively. I hope she is rewarded for her outstanding performance in up and coming award shows.

As an audience we all developed a hatred towards Simon Foster, this is something we all do with villains, admit it, you know you would have loved to give him a good ‘kick up the backside’ shall we say. Bertie Carvel also displays great acting skills as he made lying look effortless with effectively living two lives. Remember when he lied to Gemma’s face about the affair? Or when he stole every penny from her and was near to bankruptcy? After all these terrible events she did not even reveal to her betraying husband or friends that she knew anything of their scheming ways. Consequently, this built up suspense in all of us about how and when she would expose everything she knew about.

Credit should also be given to Tom Taylor who played their son, he made us feel sorry for him as he felt confused and neglected by both parents. However, it was touching in the end scene of the finale when he looked incredibly proud of his mum when she used her marital name ‘Foster’ even after they had divorced.

Whilst watching the episodes (particularly the finale), the unknowingness of how the series would end and the nail biting dinner table extravaganza set off sparks amongst me, my family and my friends. Impatiently we sent text messages guessing what would happen next; we jumped to numerous conclusions hoping she wouldn’t do anything silly in her state of craziness. Our reactions imply that Doctor Foster was well-received by the audience because we were engrossed by the story, connected with the characters and shared our views with our social circles. In contemporary society many of us, including celebrities, look to social media like Facebook and Twitter to voice our opinions as is evident in the images below.


I find this programme difficult to fault because the series ended in favour of Gemma Foster which is what we wanted as a collective audience. However, this does not always happen in real life but I guess that’s why it’s called fiction. Moreover, I would say in episodes 3-4 the momentum dropped as not a great deal of excitement was happening between the main characters. Additionally, frustration was felt from the audience when Gemma returned to Simon and forgave him. Then again the story line resembles real life events, people forgive their partners and likewise try to maintain their marriage but sometimes have to deal with the further consequences. Doctor Foster was a combination of tragedy, anger and distress which all made for a captivated audience and a great drama.