The COVID pandemic has already been depicted a few times onscreen, and now ITVX has released a new drama based on the account of an NHS doctor during the first days of the outbreak.

Starring actress Joanne Froggart (Downton Abbey), Breathtaking is a poignant and unflinching portrayal of not only Covid-19 but also the state of the country’s healthcare services.

What is Breathtaking about?

Breathtaking brings to life the memoir of the same name by Rachel Clarke, a palliative care doctor who worked in the NHS wards during the pandemic. The book – and now series – offers a searing look at what things were really like in the first days of the pandemic and lockdown, as the Covid-19 virus became increasingly serious and a threat to public life. 

It invokes a lot of emotions, from love and companionship to grief, loss and severe stress. The ITV adaptation is split into three parts and shows harrowing moments and struggles experienced by Rachel and other doctors.

Who stars?

While it’s based on Rachel Clarke’s book and experiences, Breathtaking centres on a fictional NHS doctor, Abbey (played by the Golden Globe-winning Froggart), who represents Rachel and NHS staff in general. In a large city hospital, Abbey is on the frontlines of the battle against the pandemic and has to endure the day-in day-out turmoil of a frightening new era. 

The series makes plenty of use of news footage and excerpts from the pandemic as a backdrop to the drama, and the action often takes place in real-time sequences to give a sense of urgency. Abbey is a mother to two small children and steels herself against her fears as more and more patients are admitted to wards. The country and world are placed into lockdown, and Covid cases turn into deaths.

While the events in Breathtaking are of course often distressing and difficult to watch, there are also moments of uplifting resilience in the face of an unprecedented task. Froggart is joined alongside Jed Mercurio (Line of Duty) and Prasanna Puwanarajah (Ten Percent).

When does it release?

Breathtaking is available to stream now on ITVX, with episode three out on ITV1 this evening, 9pm. 

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