Originally broadcast in the U.K. last October, BBC One’s historical drama The Last Post has now arrived in the U.S. as an Amazon Original. Set during the mid-1960s, The Last Post follows life in and around a unit of Royal Military Police operating in the port city of Aden—now part of the nation of Yemen. The result is a little bit Mad Men and a little bit Army Wives, and it’s most definitely unique.
The Last Post was created by Peter Moffat, an English playwright and screenwriter who previously created several U.K. legal dramas such as North Square and Silk. He also created the 2013 historical drama The Village (not to be confused with the regrettable M. Night Shyamalan movie), which explored life in a small Derbyshire village throughout the early decades of the 20th century. Like The Village, The Last Post uses a tight-knit community—in this case, the occupants of a British military base—to explore larger historical events—in this case, the so-called Aden Emergency, an uprising that hastened the end of British rule in the area.
The show mixes on-base domestic drama with larger storylines such as the local insurgency fomenting against British rule. The day-to-day boredom of being stuck on a base in a scenic but heat-baked part of the world weighs heavily on both the men making up the Military Police unit and their wives. That boredom spurs tensions among the men, and it aggravates personality clashes that otherwise might just simmer quietly.
And since it is a small, tight-knit but also co-ed community, naturally there’s infidelity and other relationship drama in the mix. It occasionally veers close to soap opera territory, but both the unique setting and the other storylines ensure that The Last Post never feels like The Bold and the Beautiful: Yemen Edition.
Much of the tension beyond the interpersonal on-base affairs comes from the fact that the British soldiers aren’t welcome in this part of the world. Aymen Hamdouchi plays Kadir Hakim, leader of the local uprising determined to drive the British forces out of its homeland. This allows the show to comment on subject matter that remains all too timely in 2017, as the tensions between various factions of the Middle East—along with the Western forces that continue to have an economic, military, and diplomatic footprint in the region—continue to this day. By exploring the final days of British colonial rule in one particular corner of the late British Empire, The Last Post examines how few lessons we seem to have taken away from the decades’ worth of misadventures by Western powers in that part of the world.
This resistance continues raising the stakes during the course of The Last Post’s first season, culminating in a tense multi-episode arc involving a hostage situation involving a child. While this section of the show is the most action-heavy it gets, most of the intensity is drawn from the performances of Ben Miles and Amanda Drew as the parents of the kidnapped child. Both give very different performances, but each are entirely convincing and compelling in capturing the grief, shock, and horror of their situation.
Thanks to its unique setting (both narrative and literal—the show was shot along some truly gorgeous stretches of coast near Cape Town, South Africa), The Last Post stands as an intriguing exploration of a slice of history many viewers likely don’t know much about, but which is both evocative of and instructive for our own modern era.