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Heart Surgeon, The (BBC-1 1997, Nigel Havers, Orla Brady)



Nigel Havers stars as Alex Marsden, a handsome and celebrated cardiac surgeon with a champagne lifestyle in gripping three-part drama The Heart Surgeon. His two closest friends are Marcella (Orla Brady) and her husband Larry (Lorcan Cranitch). Marcella and Alex are in the middle of a passionate affair when Larry develops a heart problem.

A heart by-pass operation will save his life, but Larry, who has a terror of hospitals, only agrees to go under the knife on one condition – that his great friend Alex performs the surgery. Marcella does all she can to stop Alex from operating, but his loyalty to Larry prevails. All seems to be going well – when tragedy strikes.

Speaking of the role Nigel Havers said: “One of the things that appealed to me about The Heart Surgeon is that there’s no Mr. – or Miss – Nasty. It’s more complicated than that because you have sympathy for all the main characters and can see how it’s possible to end up doing what they do.

“It’s basically about a romance which is tragically ill-timed,” he explains. “Alex has got everything he wants in life except what Larry and Marcella have, which is a loving relationship. He has never really fallen in love.

“Very early on, when he goes to stay with them, Marcella asks him why that is and he jokingly says ‘Because I keep comparing all these other girls to you’. Then he realises what he’s said and that he’s been in love with her for all these years.

“It’s a bit like a love triangle in a Terence Rattigan play. It’s not some thriller in which a villainous leading man murders the husband to get the wife, though that’s what some people in the story think. It’s a very human story about people and their emotions.”

To research his role, Nigel witnessed some real heart bypass surgery. “I’m now an expert – Dr. Havers,” he smiled. “I didn’t really know beforehand whether I was squeamish or not, but I wasn’t at all. It was absolutely fascinating, and I’d love to see more.”

production details
UK / BBC One – World Productions / 2×75 minute episodes / Broadcast 4-5 May 1997

Writer: John Collee / Executive Producers: Sophie Balhetchet, Tony Virgo / Producer: Bill Shapter / Director: Audrey Cooke

Nigel Havers as Alex Marsden
Lorcan Cranitch as Larry Duggan
Orla Brady as Marcella Duggan
John Castle as Charlie Hawkesmore
Michael Troughton as Bill Lester
Gabrielle Glaister as Paula Shears
Mark Addy as Phil Mycroft