Private Lives meets Prisoner Cell Block H meets It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum with a bit of Lost and The Sullivans for good measure. Series One Parts One to Three I watched some of this when I was young, but remember nothing other than a few specific scenes. And I discovered one significant spoiler on my travels a couple of years ago. But I’d like to keep spoiler-free to fully appreciate the series. I love how well the characters were unhurriedly set up in the first two episodes, seeing them go about their (mostly) privileged lives. The sets, the period setting and the relationship analysis in this initial period felt very Cowardesque. Stephanie Beacham more-or-less proto-Sable, dressed to kill and looking fabulous. Sister Ulrica stubbornly fasting in order to get money promised to her and her sisters. Stephanie Cole being bossy and unpopular. The transition to the POW camp has been an organic one. We could arguably have met the characters already interned in this environment and got to know them as the series progressed (or - as would be more likely today - though flashbacks), but I feel the way it happened got across the profound contrast of their world of just days earlier and the one in which they now find themselves. It also allows the viewer to understand both the shock and the seeming acceptance they have about their situation. Because it’s been part of a journey. There are facets of them that were exclusive to the pre-intenment selves. Gone, for instance, is the cool, accomplished ease that Christina Campbell displayed when giving people tours of Singapore. In her place is currently a terrified shell. But there will no doubt be new facets that emerge in each as a result of their new situation. The ensemble is a damned strong one. Like Cell Block H, actresses must have been falling over themselves to appear in this series. To do some real acting with no makeup and drenched in sweat (my God - the women really sweat in this. Soaking armpits and everything). And they got the best. Even in such a large group, many of them are already shining and excelling. Ann Bell is the perfect combination of grit and guilt. As Sister Ulrica, Patricia Lawrence has already shown us some of her determination. It’ll be interesting to see how she is in the camp. Stephanie Cole’s Beatrice is efficiency in motion, drilling the women as hard as the guards. As the brash Blanche, Louise Jameson is almost unrecognisable from most of her roles (I most associate her with Bergerac where my memory is of an almost ethereally classy lady). Renee Asherson as Sylvia had a terrific moment in the third episode when she refused to bow to Entwistle Major Yamauchi. Stephanie Beacham’s Rose is delightfully self-centred and spoilt, which has given me many smiles already. During the panic on board a ship after an enemy ship was spotted close by, Rose loudly complained about Christina laddering her stockings when running past. After the ship is torpedoed and many have been lost at sea with a few making it to an island, Rose sits looking mournfully at the water where her husband was last seen. But it turns out she’s worried about her missing luggage. In the midst of her search, her husband shows up, only for her to immediately start whining to him about her suitcases without so much as a “hello”. When Sylvia refuses to sleep next to Christine because she’s not white skinned, Rose chastises Sylvia and swaps beds with her. But it turns out that she had her eye on Sylvia’s mosquito net which she claims as her own. She has all the best one-liners in the series so far (“I don’t suppose it’s à la carte”, she asks of the camp’s cook as she eyes up the gloop being served). This angle is a nice surprise. I'd long assumed that Steph B's character was a bit of a mouse in this series. That's the impression I get from most of the cast photos where she always looks like she's nervous or hiding. And I suppose that could have been fun to watch as well, but for different reasons There’s a nice balance of camaraderie and the underlying horror. With a bit of naturalism (Dorothy visibly vomiting here, Blanche stripping off there). All served up with a hefty dose of humanity.