Set in Russia in the 1910's and 1930's it is the story of the young Dr. Vladimir "Nika" Bomgard, with nearly perfect scores from his medical college being given his first assignment, a hospital in the middle of nowhere Russia. There he deals with his own staff, syphilis, the shadow of the former doctor, more syphilis, Bolsheviks, white star nobles, syphilis, very dumb peasants, pickled sprats, morphine addiction, syphilis, and the huge mortality rates of the Russian people.
Daniel Radcliffe plays the doctor in the main setting of the story. Jon Hamm plays an older version of the doctor living in Moscow 16 years after the main events of the show, dealing with an investigation by Stalin's police. The older doctor will often appear in the main setting to critique his younger version or reminisce on the events taking place.
This show provides examples of:
- Adult Fear: Any child brought into the hospital will make viewers suffer.
- Always Someone Better: The hospital staff heap nothing but praise on the memory of Nika's predecessor Leopold Leopoldovich. It quite literally drives him insane.
- Annoying Patient: From Nika's perspective, nearly all of them, since hardly any of them will take his modern medical advice
- Badass Beard: Leopold Leopoldovich's is one of the foremost of his many outstanding qualities, according to Anna.
- Beard of Sorrow: Nika grows a stubble in Series 1 as the depths of addiction and despair lead him to lose the will to attend to his hygiene.
- Black Comedy: The series is very funny, but only if you find jokes about deprivation, stupidity, horrible disease, and severe addiction humorous.
- Brawn Hilda: Anna and Pelageya. Rarely has Hospital Hottie been averted.
- British Brevity: 2 series of 4 episodes each.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: The Feldsher does not seem to live on this planet. Or have much understanding of contemporary medical science. Nika can tolerate the former, but the latter occasionally causes problems.
- Deadpan Snarker: Both Doctors, especially the Older Doctor. Both the nurses also qualify, particularly Pelageya.
- Ditzy Genius: The Young Doctor is fresh out of medical school and totally reliant on his textbooks.
- Flanderization: The Feldsher in the TV series. In the book he's a young guy, around the Doctor's age, and quite competent at his job as compared to the older and rather eccentric version of the series.
- Functional Addict: The doctor is a chain smoker from the start (which, to be fair, was par for the course in his day), but when he develops an appendicitis, he begins taking morphine. He is still very able to perform his tasks, but it starts taking a toll on his attitude and decisions.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: The Feldsher and the White Guard Colonel. The Feldsher is a breath short of declaring his love for the Colonel and he sacrifices his life trying to save him from the Bolsheviks.
- Infant Immortality: The little girl in episode 2, who manages to survive having both her legs mangled in a lathe, massive blood loss, and an extremely rough amputation (so rough that even the Doctor was praying she'd die on the table).
- Insane Troll Logic: A patient comes in with a complaint of a sore throat. The Doctor examines him to find that he's in the advanced stages of syphilis and needs extensive treatment. The patient just grumbles about city doctors and leaves; all he wanted was his sore throat seen to, and clearly this new doctor doesn't know what he's doing.
- Instant Sedation: The morphine kicks in rather quickly—possibly too quickly.
- Mr. Vice Guy
- Eye Scream: The baby with an ocular abcess in episode 2. Mercifully, we don't see it - less mercifully, we do see the byproducts of its treatment.
- The Tooth Hurts: The end of episode 1. The Young Doctor pulls out a patient's bad tooth... along with part of his jawbone.
- No Sense of Personal Space: The Feldsher is a VERY friendly guy.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The Younger Doctor and Older Doctor respectively. The Younger Doctor being more idealist and passionate while the Older Doctor being more cynical and stoic.
- Russian Guy Suffers Most: The series consists almost entirely of Russians suffering.
- Sanity Slippage: The main plot is watching the young Doctor's downward spiral, as dealing with the isolated location, eccentric and stupid locals, and medical emergencies way above his pay grade drive him to drug abuse, misanthropy, and madness.
- Trademark Favorite Food: The Feldsher absolutely loves sprats.
- Very Loosely Basedon A True Story: The stories of Mikhail Bulgakov, written in the 1920s and inspired by Bulgakov's experiences as a newly graduated young doctor in 1916-18