Review: Occupation (BBC1)

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I watched the first episode which aired on BBC1 this evening. Powerful stuff. Following a high octane start, this modern day war drama focuses on three British servicemen who, following a violent tour of duty in Basra, struggle to return to normal life back in the UK. Their inability to ‘fit back in’ – something that is so often the case – sees them return to Iraq in different capacities.

As dramas go this is rather intense and episode one was just the beginning. I am not, generally speaking, James Nesbitt’s greatest fan – but he is very good in this, playing the lead role as a medic who returns to his wife and children in the north of England – but only after having met and slowly fallen in love with an Iraqi doctor during his time in Iraq.

I liked the nuanced depictions and the lack of cliché. It captured the dysfunction of the return and the total inability of those ‘back home’ to have any kind of true understanding or empathy of that which the soldiers have come from. Drug abuse, mental and family breakdowns – all ensue.

The script has been penned by the renowned screenwriter Peter Bowker, who also wrote the BBC’s Blackpool and whose new adaptation of Wuthering Heights will be seen on ITV1 this autumn. In preparing to write Occupation, Bowker worked with the charity Combat Stress, and spoke at length to members of the British military who had served in Iraq. The resulting script, says Murphy, is “really human, and incredibly accessible and engaging”.

Nesbitt agrees. “There’s bound now to be a glut of dramas about Iraq – there had to be a little grace period before the stories could start to be told,” he says. “I love the notion of our three interwoven stories, and of the terrible impact this experience has on these men and their lives.”
(Source: Telegraph).

It’s on again both tomorrow and Thursday night. Has had good reviews in the press including in The Guardian and The Telegraph.

Well worth watching.


I’ve now seen all 3 parts. Wow. Incredibly powerful stuff, especially the final part. The pretence that war is somehow heroic or exciting is so strongly quashed. It may start like that. But the sacrifices – personal and mental – are very much in evidence and I think the storyline in this was top notch – as was the acting.

The drama also strongly served as a reminder that in war, there really are no victors, nor is there a good side or a bad. In this, the British and Americans had just as much to answer for as the Islamist militias. So much immorality and inhuman behaviour on both sides – the human condition at its worst.

9 thoughts on “Review: Occupation (BBC1)

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  1. I loved it – but then I could ogle James Nesbitt for a year and not get bored. This is going to be a very enjoyable week for me 🙂

    Didn’t enjoy that Personal Affairs though – thought it was rubbish.

  2. I loved it – but then I could ogle James Nesbitt for a year and not get bored. This is going to be a very enjoyable week for me 🙂

    Didn’t enjoy that Personal Affairs though – thought it was rubbish.

  3. Jen – yeh, is v.good. Watched episode 2 this evening. Heartrending but exceptionally good.

    I didn’t see Personal Affairs in the end but by the sound of it I didn’t miss much.

  4. it was fantastic, anyone who enjoyed this should see the fallen. it’s 3 hours long and what documentaries should be like, amazing and powerful stuff without any conclusion made for you.

    as one review said, occupation justifies the licence fee.

  5. I saw all 3 episodes and thought it was quite brilliant. After the 2nd episode where they left you hanging with the death scene I just couldn’t sleep thinking how moving their portrayal was. I thought that whilst the 3rd part rounded things up it was not too manufactured.
    I also heard the trailer for Personal Affairs and thought it sounded good but will have to wait until we get it over in USA before I get hooked.

  6. Birdie – hope you’re having a good time in Europe on your mammoth trip! I think you’re in Italy now?

    Yeh, was v.good drama. Probably the best thing that’s been on so far this year.

  7. Yeah heading to florence on the train right now. Can post and read comments on my blog but can’t reply to them at the moment. Haven’t watched any Italian TV so far except for MTV showing endless Michael Jackson videos which hardly counts……

  8. Birdie – that’s cool to be able to blog whilst on the go and heading to Florence! You will love it! Send my love to David! And enjoy the gelato! :^)

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