Entertainment & Arts

Jimmy McGovern army drama 'fails soldiers' says veteran

Col Tim Collins and Jimmy McGovern
Image caption Col Tim Collins (L) said McGovern (R) had "stabbed [the Army] in the back"

A BBC TV drama about British troops in Afghanistan "fails the soldiers on the front line", a prominent veteran of the 2003 Iraq war has claimed.

In the Radio Times, Col Tim Collins says that next week's episode of Jimmy McGovern drama Accused "abjectly fails the responsibility test".

The story sees two friends join the British army only to be bullied and intimidated by a superior officer.

Cracker creator McGovern defended the piece, calling it "a work of fiction".

Col Collins gained worldwide recognition for the eve-of-battle speech he gave his men in the Royal Irish Regiment in March 2003.

The decorated soldier, who retired from the Army in 2004, attacked the episode - to be screened next Monday - for its "gratuitous violence" and use of "foul and abusive language".

"Having served in the British army for 23 years I can unequivocally say this has absolutely no basis in reality," he added.

"There is no point to Accused except to try to shock," he said in this week's edition of Radio Times.

Image caption Mackenzie Crook (centre) plays a bullying lance-corporal in the drama, which airs next week

"My worry is that the parents and partners of soldiers serving in Afghanistan will regard this as in some way believable."

In response, McGovern said he had not intended to slur British soldiers for whom he had "the greatest respect".

"As a dramatist I was interested in exploring how soldiers have to be at a certain mindset to kill."

A BBC spokesman echoed those sentiments, saying the drama was "not an attempt to denigrate the British army".

"It simply seeks to examine issues around crime and punishment using a fictional military setting as the backdrop," he continued.

Best known as the creator of crime drama Cracker, McGovern has also written dramas about the 1989 Hillsborough disaster and the Bloody Sunday shootings of 1972.

His six-part Accused series began on Monday with a drama starring Christopher Eccleston as a cash-starved plumber driven to taking desperate measures.

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