Life: is the Doctor Foster spin-off as good as fans expected it to be?

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Life, the new Doctor Foster spin-off, finally kicked off on BBC One with the first episode, but was it any good?

Warning: this article contains spoilers for episode one of BBC One’s Life

Doctor Foster is, arguably, one of the best BBC dramas to grace our screens in recent years. The story of a reputable GP, Gemma Foster (Suranne Jones), unravelling her husband’s affair in the most vengeful and painful way was gripping, whip-smart and, let’s face it, pretty steamy at times.

That’s why fans had such high expectations for the new spin-off series, Life, brought to us from creator and writer Mike Bartlett and his team. 

The new show follows the lives of four people living in a block of flats in Manchester. Belle, who lives in one of the apartments, is the link to Doctor Foster – she was Gemma’s neighbour who left to start a new life when the series ended. 

So, is Life any good? Does it live up to the hype?  

In episode one, we’re introduced to the four residents whose stories we’ll be following over the next six episodes.

Gail (Alison Steadman) bumps into an old friend who makes a startling observation about Gail’s marriage to Henry (Peter Davison). This leads to Gail wanting to leave her husband, until she discovers he is terminally ill.

Belle’s (Victoria Hamilton) life is thrown into disarray by the hospitalisation of sister Ruth (Susannah Fielding), and the subsequent arrival of wayward niece Maya (Erin Kellyman). This makes her address her relationship with alcohol, the lack of meaningful relationships in her life and her career happiness. 

Life: Alison Steadman stars as Gail.
Life: Alison Steadman stars as Gail.

English tutor David (Adrian Lester) goes on holiday without his wife Kelly (Rachael Stirling) and has his head turned unexpectedly by Saira (Saira Choudhry). When he returns to work, he is startled to find that Saira is one of his students.

And heavily pregnant Hannah (Melissa Johns), who recently coupled up with Liam (Joshua James), is surprised by her connection with Andy (Calvin Demba) – the father of her unborn child, who has been away travelling for the duration of the pregnancy.

For those wondering how it compares to its parent series, Life st first seems much lighter than its predecessor – a bit “PG”. But, as we reach the end of the first episode, serious issues that characters have kept well-hidden start to expose themselves.

We discover that Alison is in a toxic relationship with the man she’s been married to for most of her life. David’s infidelity shows that even the most perfect looking relationships have problems. Through Belle, we explore the reality of dating and having casual sex for a divorced woman in middle age. And the three-way parenting of Hannah’s baby proves that life sure is complicated.

There really is more than what first meets the eye when it comes to this bunch. 

Although it takes a while to warm up, Steadman and Hamilton’s performances are excellent (but of course they are), and it’s clear that we’re going to take a big journey with them. 

And while it might not be as compelling as Doctor Foster so far, it’s refreshing to see women over 40 being explored in such a thoughtful, nuanced and often funny way on our screens. 

It’s just a fresh and interesting take on… well, Life.

Life begins on BBC One and BBC iPlayer this Tuesday, 29 September, at 9pm. All six episodes will then be available as a boxset on BBC iPlayer, with the series continuing weekly Tuesday nights at 9pm on BBC One.

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Images: BBC

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…