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Dr Finlay's Casebook (1962-71)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Dr Finlay's Casebook (1962-71)
BBC, 16/8/1962-3/1/1971
8 series, 178 x 50 minute episodes
Created byA.J.Cronin
Directors includeJulia Smith
 Laurence Bourne
 William Slater
Writers includeN.J.Crisp
 Elaine Morgan
 Donald Bull

Cast: Bill Simpson (Dr Alan Finlay); Andrew Cruickshank (Dr Angus Cameron); Barbara Mullen (Janet); Effie Morrison (Mistress Niven); Madge Brindley (Mistress Higgins)

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Dr Alan Finlay is a young medical student working in a country practice in the Scottish village of Tannochbrae, under the tutelage of the veteran Dr Cameron.

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ITV's highly successful hospital-based soap opera, Emergency - Ward 10 (1957-67), clearly showed that the TV audience had an appetite for medical drama. What was a surprise, perhaps, was that the BBC's chosen reply, Doctor Finlay's Casebook (1962-71), was set in a pre-NHS medical practice in the fictional Scottish town of Tannochbrae. However, the daily medical needs of a sleepy lowland community between the wars proved hugely successful with viewers - Doctor Finlay's Casebook was one of the most popular programmes of the 1960s.

The show's success was partly down to some excellent casting. The young and forward-looking Doctor Finlay was played by the dapper Bill Simpson, while his senior medical partner, the slightly staid but highly pragmatic Doctor Cameron, was portrayed by the veteran actor Andrew Cruickshank. The third series regular, housekeeper Janet, was played to stiff Presbyterian perfection by Barbara Mullen. This combination of ages and outlooks generated an underlying tension which helped create a spark at the heart of their friendships. But despite any temporary conflicts the characters' relationships were grounded firmly in compromise - Doctor Finlay's Casebook was a programme that eschewed discord in favour of conciliation, a quality that looks slightly quaint when judged against modern dramatic preferences.

The basic concept for the series was based on the characters and settings created by the writer A.J. Cronin in a number of short stories based on his own experiences as a doctor. The BBC took great pains to maintain period detail and there was a surprisingly large amount of location footage, clearly shot in rural Scotland. This helped create a realistic setting for the stories as well as provide a sense of isolation. The outside world, away from provincial Tannochbrae, is a distant and often unpleasant place. In the episode 'A Test Of Intelligence' (tx. 12/1/64) city life is portrayed as dirty and disordered and clearly a potentially bad influence on those that live there.

During the final season, the inhabitants of the Arden House surgery also appeared on radio, where they carried on dispensing common sense and rubbing ointment for a further seven years. And then, after a break of 15 years, the characters were once again pressed into service on primetime television, this time by ITV for Doctor Finlay (1993-96), with Ian Bannen, Annette Crosbie and David Rintoul playing the parts of Doctor Cameron, Janet and Doctor Finlay.

Anthony Clark

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Video Clips
1. The School (5:39)
2. 'Good with his hands' (3:08)
3. Finlay's intervention (2:33)
Glaister, Gerard (1915-2005)
Smith, Julia (1927-1997)
Medical Drama