Alan Finlay is arguably Britain’s most unforgettable TV doctor, the star of the BBCs hit medical drama series Doctor Finlay’s Casebook, first broadcast in 1962. With an abundance of high-octane hospital dramas such as Casualty and Holby City on TV today, what keeps us returning to the small Scottish medical practice in Tannochbrae and its young, handsome Doctor, over 50 years on?
It is gentle yet fascinating
Dr. Finlay’s Casebook is the antithesis of modern medical dramas which are usually set in huge city hospitals where each episode features multiple storylines, filled with melodrama and gory moments.
By contrast, Dr. Finlay’s stories of patients at the peaceful village practice of Arden House are much more relaxing. Opening with the upbeat iconic orchestral intro of Trevor Duncan’s march from A Little Suite and showing the countryside in the fictional Scottish town of Tannochbrae, episodes are wonderfully slow-paced, focusing on the everyday activities of the local medical practice.
Usually each episode dwells on a single patient, allowing the story to concentrate on all aspects of the case, including Finlay’s relationships with his patients the village at large. Dr. Finlay’s Casebook is much more about character-led drama compared to today’s adrenaline-fuelled situation-led dramas.
But it does not shy away from controversy and drama
Considering Dr. Finlay’s Casebook first aired in 1962, many of the cases Finlay dealt with were controversial at that time. The series offers a fascinating social history of a bygone era, through the medical issues of the time. There were storylines about a salmonella outbreak in the village, attempted suicide, the death of a baby, and patients with mental health issues – the drama was forward-thinking for its time, which is probably why the whole nation became glued to their TV sets!
Here is a clip from the first series showcasing the good doctors care and attention in such dramatic circumstances.
Dr. Finlay himself could be rather charming
The young and handsome Dr. Finlay certainly showed himself to be a hit with the ladies. Bill Simpson, who played Finlay, even had his own fan club because of the series!
He was also kind, devoted and patient with his patients, and he possessed a fine sense of humour. According to the Telegraph in 2011, he’s the doctor we all wished we had instead of our rude and grumpy GPs, and apparently doctors like Finlay don’t exist anymore.
And we all loved to watch his clashes with cranky Dr. Cameron
One of the most entertaining aspects of the show is watching Dr. Finlay and the craggy Dr. Cameron argue about how best to solve a patient’s crisis. Experienced and conservative, Arden House’s senior partner Dr. Cameron would rather keep to the tried and tested methods on his patients. He clashed with his more adventurous student Finlay who was keen to explore new modern medical techniques. These arguments were fascinating to watch. We get to hear both sides of the argument, traditional versus modern. Finlay’s determination to apply new methods sometimes paid off, but sometimes they didn’t…
Housekeeper Janet was an expert at keeping things under control
Arden House’s brilliant and ever-reliable housekeeper Janet was largely responsible for ensuring the consistently smooth running of the medical practice – and we love her for it. Unflappable and stiff-lipped, nothing ever seems to phase Janet. She worked to ensure Finlay and Cameron were kept in check as she watched and helped the village pass through their doors.
And without Dr. Finlay, we might not have our other favourite medical dramas
Dr. Finlay’s Casebook was the first BBC medical drama in a gloriously appealing countryside setting, with reassuring storylines featuring the day to day cases of local patients. No doubt it influenced many other rural-set medical dramas, including All Creatures Great and Small and Doc Martin.
So, thank you Dr. Finlay for many years of brilliant entertainment!
Our limited-edition Dr. Finlay’s Casebook: Collector’s Edition (21 Disc complete collection) is now half price on our website.
By Hannah Page