Welcome to Coopers Crossing, a sleepy township somewhere in New South Wales in (south-eastern) Australia; a town with a pub/hotel, a garage, a convenience store, a rotunda/gazebo, a war memorial statue, a flying doctor base and hospital, and an airfield nearby, and that just about covers it. Those are the main locations, along with the harsh and deadly yet beautiful landscape of the surrounding area.
The show has been loved by viewers all over the globe, and it’s easy to see why. It has a warmth and humanity to it. It doesn’t romanticise the Outback – well okay, not too much – but shows how hard it can be to survive out there, and shows the people who call it home, for better or for worse. It’s not the most fast-paced show in the world, but that’s fine – it’s not as if it’s E.R. in the Outback.
The DVD production itself is simple and unexciting. The picture quality not the best (can be argued that it’s because the show was shot in the days before digital cameras, digital editing and HD) and there’s been no digital remastering to improve it, which is a shame, but let’s not complain – at least they finally made it available, and that’s all that matters! The complete series one box set comes with 26 episodes portioned out on seven discs, and so far I’ve seen the first three episodes which make up disc one.
There are extras as well, like a blooper reel, an interview with Andrew McFarlane (Dr Tom Callaghan) and such, but I’ve yet to find which disc they’re on – probably the last one, unless they’re spread out. Disc one had the options of playing all episodes, or playing individual ones, or read a synopsis of each one. You can get a synopsis to read before you watch an episode, which gives you an abridged version of what the episode is about. There are no subtitles in any language, nor is there additional audio languages or audio commentary. It’s fairly basic, in other words. The background is just a piece of flying through some clouds with the text in yellow (highlighted in red), which is mentioned as a special feature on the back cover: “animated menus”. Eh, that’s not really special, that’s pretty much standard?
One of the show’s strong points is the ensemble cast. There aren’t just a few main characters, there’s about a dozen. Not all of them will appear in every episode, but there is a core cast, and you will see most of them in each episode. Each character with their very distinct personalities. There’s what feels like everyone’s parents, Vic and Nance at the Majestic; overbearing town gossip Violet Carnegie; Ray Masters, the mechanic who isn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the box; charming pilot David “Gibbo” Gibson, whom I didn’t really think too highly of last time I saw series one on TV years ago, but who I now – after two episodes – absolutely adore (which is a shame, as I also remember how he left the show); self-serving rich man George Baxter; kind yet spirited angel in blue Kate Wellings (oh, just wait till Geoff gets here!); bright Chris Randall; dreamy Tom Callaghan … and so on and so forth. This series doesn’t have characters like Geoff, DJ, Sam and Emma, which to me really defined the show, but they’ll come along eventually.
If all doctors were like those in Coopers Crossing the health service would look very different indeed. Sad to say that growing up with this show might’ve given me some unrealistic views on what doctors should be like.
The cast all shine, making you feel part of the town. The guest stars … well, that’s a bit varied, at least in the first three episodes, but who cares? There are story-lines to draw you in and keep you glued to the screen. I was only going to watch the first episode, but then it sort of ended on a cliffhanger and then I had to see the next one, and then I might as well see the third one too. It’s addictive!
Sure, the show might feel a little dated now, and the scripts are a bit clunky at times, but also, there’s some laugh-out-loud dialogue, quirky characters and stories about life in the Outback, both for patients and medical staff. It’s not just about the medical stuff, it’s about human stuff. The people are what drive the show forward, not so much the plots, Which is similar to the way NCIS works and its appeal – and, as it happens, there’s a link between the two: Shane Brennan. I thought I recognised the name some time last year, looked him up on IMDb – and sure enough, he’s been writing scripts for both shows! Surprise! (UPDATE 2021: He’s also the creator of spin-off show NCIS: Los Angeles.)
All in all, best £23 I’ve spent for some time. Now I just need to watch the remaining 23 episodes, the extras, and then decide how soon to buy series two, while clutching the first season to my chest, hissing “my preciousssss” at anyone who dares venture too close.
P.S. I was planning on reviewing the discs, three episodes in one post instead of separately, but I discovered the posts were getting a bit too long for that, and as I’ll be attempting to write about every episode in the whole nine seasons … I may have decided to set up a blog specifically for the purpose, so that I can keep this one fairly random still. If you’re interested in what I have to say on the subject of flying doctors, please take the nearest flight from Broken Hill over to Coopers Crossing.