‘Doctor Foster’ might feel like a very modern day tale of infidelity and revenge, but the writer behind the BBC drama has revealed it’s actually based on a story that’s almost 2,500 years old.
Mike Bartlett, who penned both series, says Gemma Foster (played by Suranne Jones), was originally conceived as a contemporary version of the titular character in ‘Medea’, a Greek tragedy about a wife who seeks violent revenge for her husband’s infidelity, first produced in 431 BC.
“In the original pitch, I never actually said, ’We’re going to do Medea at 9pm on BBC1 because it probably wouldn’t have gone down very well,” he explains. “But that idea was always behind it.”
This also explains why both series of ‘Doctor Foster’ are spread across five episodes like a classical drama, rather than the more familiar four or six for TV dramas.
The writer also reveals that the second series took inspiration from another classic genre of storytelling.
“I was thinking of a western: Gemma and Simon facing off at high noon in the main street of a town that isn’t big enough for both of them,” he reveals.
“I wanted to take some of those misogynist ideas about mad women and witches, and hopefully subvert them.
“I get upset when people describe Gemma as mad. I don’t think she is; she’s just very angry. If it was a man behaving like that, you wouldn’t say he was mad. You’d say he was fighting back.”
**WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILER AHEAD!**
Don’t say we didn’t warn you...
Anyone familiar with the ‘Medea’ story will know how that ends - so, will series two see Gemma Foster doing the unthinkable - and kill her son? Surely not?
Mike is giving nothing away, but teases: “Depending on what happens at the end of series two, a third might not be possible. That’s all I can say really.”
‘Doctor Foster’ continues on Tuesday at 9pm on BBC One. Read the full interview with Mike Bartlett in this week’s Radio Times, out now. www.radiotimes.com