June 13, 2024

REVISED - Miniseries Review: "The Last Post" (BBC - 2017)


I originally reviewed this excellent miniseries in 2018 soon after it was released. I watched it again because of what is happening in the region, including the Yemeni Houthi involvement in the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza and the West Bank, and I was in the mood for some good entertainment. You can read that initial review here. I was able to get much more out of it the second time – there is a lot there.

I highly recommend it on the same two counts as before. Not only is it solid entertainment – the performances across the board of the BBC production are excellent – but also addresses the British experience in Aden (‘Adan) in the mid-1960’s; It is somewhat applicable to the geopolitical situations in which the United States finds itself today in the region.

"The Last Post"* follows a unit of the Royal Military Police and their families in Aden in 1965. Newlyweds Captain Joe Martin and his wife Honor arrive into the mix and must adapt to their new environment and their new lives together. Throughout the community, relationships are tested as the women struggle against what is expected of them as British Army wives and their own preferences.  At work, the soldiers fight a growing local revolutionary insurgency and face constant threats from hand grenades and snipers.

That’s the theatrical story that carries the underlying theme – a declining empire dealing with local nationalism and confronting “liberation” movements. It also deals with military relationships between the officers (and their families), noncommissioned officers, and enlisted troops. It offers insight into the British Army, still one of the best military forces in the world. The series did not fully explain the command relationships between the various military units in Aden, but, this is entertainment, not a documentary. An added predictable touch is meddling from an American journalist (ably played by Australian actress Essie Davis).

On November 30, 1967, British forces withdrew from Aden and the independent People's Republic of South Yemen was proclaimed. It lasted until 1990 when South Yemen and North Yemen (Yemen Arab Republic) merged to form the Republic of Yemen.

We’ve seen how that has worked out. The port of Aden was the location of the October 12, 2000 terrorist attack on the US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG-67) while the ship was conducting an ill-advised, politically-motivated refueling/“show the flag” stop in Yemen. Read my comments on that folly.

I want to give a shout out to the standout performances by Stephen Campbell Moore as Lieutenant Ed Laithwaite (I see some of me in his character), and Jessica Raine and Essie Davis for, well, first, being Jessica Raine and Essie Davis. Jessica Raine’s performance as Alison Laithwaite, a conflicted, alcoholic, unfaithful wife dealing with her marriage, is excellent, often to the haunting rendition by Ketty Lester of “Love Letters (Straight from Your Heart).”

I highly recommend the series. It moves quickly, and despite a few questionable military tactics, requires very little suspension of disbelief to watch.

Watch it on Amazon Prime.


* The "Last Post" is a British and Commonwealth bugle call used at end of day ceremonies, as well as military funerals, and ceremonies commemorating those who have died in war, similar to the US armed forces’ “Taps.” 

Listen to the “Last Post” by the Royal Marines at Prince Philip’s Funeral.