Although we’re introduced to the (literal) underground surgery in the first episode, it’s not until the second that we learn why – and how – Daniel has found himself here.
He’s teamed up with a former patient, Lee (Daniel Mays from Line of Fire, Good Omens), who, as an employee of London Underground, has access to a little-known labyrinthine network of tunnels and chambers beneath the city. Lee is merely supposed to maintain the tunnels, checking their structural integrity and the like, but as a dedicated Doomsday prepper – a survivalist preparing for the end of the world – he relishes the privacy and space, and dreams of creating his ultimate underground bunker there.
He strikes a deal with Daniel (again, for reasons that would give too much away) and the unlikely pair begin working together under the city; Daniel treating and operating on people who won’t, or can’t, front up to hospital seeking legitimate healthcare: illegal immigrants, eccentrics and criminals.
The first episode opens with a scene that seems from a different genre altogether: a bank heist gone wrong, and an inexperienced gangster who ends up badly injured after panicking when he’s stopped by the cops. This hapless crim is Jamie (Tobi King Bakare) an old mate of Lee’s, who comes to Lee for help. Reluctantly, Daniel agrees to operate on him, and then harbour him in his ‘clinic’. Jamie’s fugitive status becomes a second narrative thread in this bizarre set-up, and his and Lee’s oddly sweet friendship provides some of the dark comedy.
Added to this misfit crew is Anna (Game Of Thrones’ Carice Van Houten), who worked with Beth in her research – and also had an affair with Daniel. She’s a reluctant addition, but has her own reasons for understanding the bizarre set-up.
The series looks incredible; the set, based on the real-life disused Aldwych tunnels beneath Temple tube station, was built in a 4200 square metre basement space in a former cereal factory, and took several months to create.
Temple is decidedly not a comedy – but there are some very funny moments, which add to the joy of this unique story.
It’s tightly written and the narrative structure – time jumps and flashbacks – will keep you hanging. As hard to categorise as it is to describe, Temple is at once a thriller, a love story and something of an odd-couple tale; the dynamic between the jittery but pragmatic Lee (brilliantly portrayed by Mays) and Strong’s Daniel, who vacillates between morally torn pillar of the community and mad scientist is never over-cooked. The plot is, admittedly, highly implausible, but it works in the hands of these two.