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Mar 13, 2023 Web Exclusive
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Far-fetched gothic storytelling is balanced with all too believable character development amidst intricate plot twists in creator Mark O’Rowe’s limited series Temple. The British drama, which is a hit in its native UK, is about a brilliant doctor with a dark secret. The series is newly available for US streaming.

Temple takes its name from the London subway station underneath which Dr. Daniel Milton (Mark Strong, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Tar) performs highly illegal yet lucrative black market surgeries.The transit service catacombs are made available for the good doctor’s covert operations, pun intended, by conspiracy theorist municipal service worker Lee Simons (BAFTA nominee Daniel Mays).

Daniel agreed to partner with Lee, and risk his medical license by wielding his scalpel off the books, in order to house his terminally ill wife Beth (Catherine McCormack Braveheart, 28 Weeks Later) upon whom he dotes. He has also enlisted her fellow researcher Anna Willems (Carice van Houten, Game of Thrones) to help find a cure. In that sense, these tunnels under Temple station are a shrine to his ill wife, not to mention a sanctuary for Daniel’s hope.

Lee provides the labyrinth-like locale, risking his job of maintaining those tunnels that he thinks of as a doomsday refuge. He also uses his municipal works connections to source the materials Daniel needs to care for his patients who pay top dollar for this discrete, albeit incredulous setup. However, Lee’s instincts prove far less reliable than his resourcefulness, as he brings through one sketchy patient after the next. Prime example: a barroom brawler who roughs Lee up and threatens to rob their underground clinic. Riskier still is runaway bank robber Jamie.

The series steadily piles on the thrills and plot twists. Some of the best jump-scares come from horrific thugs Craig Parkinson (Misfits) and Mercy King (Wunmi Mosaku, We Own This City) both of whom are hot on Jamie’s trail. But the biggest nail biter of all happens in a back half episode when Daniel rushes a contraband kidney on ice across London for ailing Beth.

The surgery is shot with gruesome realism by director Luke Snellin. So much so that audiences will squirm while also being unable to look away as they marvel at one particular scene’s technical brilliance in the premiere episode. Impressive as the props and makeup department’s work on the operation room are, Strong’s reading of O’Rowe’s understated everyday dialogue will leave you equally engrossed. Giving a grounded starring performance, Strong conveys more with a furrowed brow or flinty stare than most actors can muster with an entire monologue. It’s no wonder he steals so many silver screen scenes, although it’s just as exciting to see him lead a show of his own.

Strong gives this occasionally pulpy and ludicrously plotted series a heartfelt dramatic core by playing his character utterly straight. The combination works, ensuring Temple will take you under like a spin on the subway, or a potent anesthetic administered by a fearsome physician. (www.topic.com/temple)

Author rating: 7/10

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