July 25, 2021

autopsy of a Novichok alert


We have known the Franco-German channel more respectful of the consumer: the French title of this remarkable British miniseries is a deliberate misinterpretation intended to make the barge believe that he can expect a plunge into the underworld of post-Soviet intelligence. However, in four episodes, we will only glimpse Sergei Skripal, Russian agent of British MI6 recruited within the GRU (Russian military intelligence), imprisoned in his native country before being exchanged and settling in Salisbury, in UK.

In 2018, Skripal and his daughter Yulia were victims of an attempted poisoning by two Russian agents, with a poison from the Novichok family, the same one which almost was fatal to Alexeï Navalny, in August 2020.

The original title, The Salisbury Poisonings, can be translated as “the poisonings of Salisbury”. This clinical description is better suited to a dispassionate work, which aims to define a reality through fiction. The reality in question is the eruption of an unknown threat into the life of a prosperous city in the southwest of England, so far best known for its cathedral.

A modern society facing a health emergency

Contrary to the rules of fiction, the protagonist will be neither a secret agent nor a police officer, but the director of health services for Wiltshire, the county where Salisbury is located. Creators Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson barely take the time to stage an ordinary breakfast in the life of Tracy Daszkiewicz (Anne-Marie Duff) before she is summoned on an emergency basis. On a bench in a city park, a sexagenarian and a young woman were seized with convulsions and vomiting. In a matter of hours, Tracy Daszkiewicz passes into another dimension: what the authorities had taken for an overdose is, in reality, the result of an attack carried out using a nerve agent, about which little is known in Salisbury. .

Rarely the adjective « procedural », which designates that part of detective fiction devoted to the meticulous description of methods, will have been also adequate. Except that it is not a question of showing investigators launched in pursuit of the culprits, but an official determined to contain the threat weighing on her fellow citizens. We will follow the detective sergeant Nick Bailey (Rafe Spall), but he soon finds himself on the side of the victims, poisoned in his turn. Saul Dibb’s precise staging, devoid of pathos, clearly exposes the mechanisms that a modern society implements in the face of a health emergency.

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