Whiskey Echo is the story about a group of aid workers in south Sudan, trying to bring some sanity to a worn-torn country where violence and starvation and death is a way of life.
In this ensemble cast, Callum Keith Rennie plays Dr. Rollie Saunders, a Canadian from Toronto and a long-time member of All World Medicine. And even though Jenna is the mission coordinator, it's Rollie who is the heart and soul of this group of people. He's their father, their mentor, and the emotional anchor in their uncertain lives.
The IMDB page: Whiskey Echo (2005)
Whiskey Echo was a Canadian-Irish television collaboration. Directed by Harry Hook, created by David Young, teleplay written by R.B. Carney and Shelley Eriksen.
Cast / Characters:
Callum Keith Rennie
Dr. Carlo Scanchelli
Dr. Rafe Fletcher
Dr. Rollie Saunders
Runtime: 4 60-minute episodes
IMDB rating: 7.8 (44 votes)
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Callum Quotient: 25%
Pictures (taken from scriggle's screencaps):
- Rachel: “Have you done this before?"
Mo: “I am an epidemologist. Not a surgeon."
- Rafe: “I though you Canadians were a peaceful lot."
Jenna: “Haven't watched a lot of hockey, have you, Rafe?"
- Jenna: “You still pissed with me?"
Rollie: “What do you expect? You made a deal with a warlord." With a fake English accent and brandishing a syringe. “If you were my daughter I would spank your bottom."
Jenna: “Hmm, I might like that."
- Rollie: “Once upon a time in Angola, there was this mission. Guy who was running it was a cowboy, thought he could tough anything out. Broke some rules, violated his neutrality, got on the wrong side of a local warlord. That warlord showed up at the compound, shot it up. All World Medicine guys had their asses pulled out of there so quickly they didn't even know what hit them."
Jenna: “They got out."
Rollie: “Yeah, yeah, they got out. And the next day the warlord shows up and he systematically executes every single one of the patients. Rapes and kills all the local nurses. And that's what you're dealing with here."
Jenna: “You weren't in Angola, were you?"
- Creator David Young wrote several epsiodes of My Life As A Dog, starring, yes, you guessed it, Callum Keith Rennie.
- Inspired by the work of Medécins Sans Frontiéres (Doctors Without Borders), which has been active in Sudan since 1979.
- David Young volunteered for two missions in Africa with Medécins Sans Frontiéres in an effort to make Whiskey Echo as realistic as possible.
- Several of the songs in the show are by Dinka Malual, a Sudanese musical group that highlights traditional musical forms.
- Carlo oogling Rollie's legs as he tries to fix the jeep.
- Rachel chasing Carlo out of her tent with the rock python.
- Rollie talking about the mission in Angola.
- Mo's speech about neutrality.
- Rafe directing Mo through the surgery to repair his femoral artery.
- Rollie comforting Jenna after the fighting at the compound.
- The bush doctor in the measles tent.
Do I want to show this to my parents / friends / co-workers?
Could be worse.
OMG! *covers eyes*
Really quite fluffy.
A little violence.
Some shots fired, some people injured.
Need some body armor and a gun. Maybe some hand grenades.
Oh, god, the blood!
I spent a lot of time on the floor, laughing.
There's some cute and funny moments.
Blood and guts, people. Not funny.
Boinking like bunnies!
They're too busy to have sex.
It's like a bar - some people are getting lucky, some aren't.
A couple of people are getting some.
No one gets laid. No one.
Some mentioned in passing.
Yeah, there's a lot of craziness going on.
A lot of people are overtaken by bloodlust.
Dr. Rollie Saunders
Rollie is a saint!
He's a good person, but he's got some flaws
Neither good nor bad - he just is.
He's a pretty bad person, with the occasional good personality trait.
Jack the Ripper has nothing on Dr. Rollie!
How many people does he kill?
None! He's a doctor, for god's sake!
Oh, maybe a couple, by accident.
Do exact numbers really matter? He means well.
Pragmatic. Not crazy.
A little bit odd.
Got a few issues to deal with.
Needs some serious therapy.
Is he talking to his imaginary friend again?
Shorts! Hat! Sandals! Oh my god!
Yeah, I'd do him.
Did you see him making eyes at Carlo?
Sometimes he likes women.
He's been known to swing both ways.
He was married! With a wife!
Does he die?
You really want to know? Are you sure? Really sure? Well, then. (highlight to read)
::Not dead. But not in Toronto, either. Probably on another mission for All World Medicine.::
Usual Stereotypes Surface in Sudan Drama
January 23, 2005
Ever eat poutine? It's a high-calorie Canadian fast food consisting of chips with gravy and curds poured on top.
The odd thing is that poutine - which tastes virtually of nothing but has the consistency of lumpy sputum - was invented in Quebec, the most exciting part of Canada.
The bits of Canada that are habitable are full of almost scarily polite people. It's lovable, except for the poutine. The Canadian film industry, however, is another reason to have qualms about the place.
As children, we were brought up on a diet of short films, the equivalent of poutine, made by the National Film Board of Canada.
In cinemas in those days, films were shown ‘continuously' - ads, the ‘B' picture, a short, a cartoon, a newsreel and then the main feature, and back to the ads and on again, with audience members arriving and leaving as they wished.
Well-meaning and ardent NFB shorts sent audiences racing to the toilets or even into the street. Those who actually died from the experience could be in their seats for hours, until the cinema closed, as the entire programme played over and over.
Canada and the movies were not exactly a stairway to the stars. I can remember only two Canadian films that didn't pretend slyly to be set somewhere in the US: Jesus of Montreal and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, a mawkish affair starring Richard Dreyfuss.
More recently, the city of Vancouver had a starring role in Jackie Chan's Rumble in the Bronx. It played New York.
So the heart sagged like those French fries wilting under curds 'n' gravy when I saw that Whiskey Echo (RTE 1), a new four-part drama featuring medical aid workers in Sudan, was an Irish-Canadian co-production.
Would it be all angst and earnestness? Would the growing Irish flair for television drama be smothered by whatever it is that makes Canadian movies almost invisible to the naked eye?
Then there is the rather tricky business of making a drama about a conflict that is still going on and still claiming lives. Whiskey Echo, according to RTE's press information, is set in Darfur province, in a situation that continues to be very real for the people living there and the aid workers.
A peace treaty signed on January 9 in Nairobi between the Khartoum government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army ostensibly ended one of Africa's longest wars, which had cost two million lives. However, the agreement does not apply to the western province of Darfur, where the humanitarian crisis continues.
But one character at the start of Whiskey Echo says: “Welcome to southern Sudan'‘. Another says the genocide is taking place “far away up in the north of Sudan'‘. So is it set in Darfur at all?
The BBC drama series Warriors, about British troops in Bosnia, was virtually contemporaneous with events there. One critic said of it: “This is what drama is supposed to do: to tell you what you already knew, but this time to make you feel it."
Will Whiskey Echo, a Little Bird/Barna Alper (Canada) co-production for RTE and CBC, do the same for this crisis in Africa? Might it also set a trend for dramas about aid workers, making them glamorous - a sort of hybrid of M*A*S*H, ER and Young Doctors in Love?
It certainly feeds into the stereotype of Africa as violent, corrupt, hopeless and deeply reliant on assistance from the ‘developed world'.
Send a lot of good-looking, do-gooding white folks and everything gets just a little better, in spite of the worst efforts of the local warlords, armed factions and endemic diseases.
The doctors and nurses of All World Medicine are mostly white, and all are good-looking, from mercurial Canadian team coordinator Jenna Breeden (Joanne Kelly) to former leading plastic surgeon Rafe Leger (Jason Barry) and - irresistible stereotyping at work - the sexually predatory Italian Carlo (David Alpay).
Carlo immediately directs the full glare of his attentions at the newly-arrived doctor from Dublin, the winsome Rachel (Dominque McElligot). Amazingly and stereotypically innocent, she claims this is not only her first mission but also her first time out of Ireland.
There surely was no need to go quite that far to establish her as the ultimate Irish virgin.
There are a lot of bad and dubious characters in Whiskey Echo, and most of them are black. The only white villain is an oil company executive who is involved with Khartoum's plans to push a pipeline through the area. The first episode ended with Rachel and Carlo captured by a group of drugged and armed boy soldiers.
Whiskey Echo, directed with some style by Harry Hook, features good performances and a strong atmosphere. Reservations taken into account, it is likely to prove popular, given the Irish appetite for supporting humanitarian causes.
The more cynical might consult their bookies for odds on who, if anyone, gets killed first.
The Little Bird Whiskey Echo site, the Irish half of the production team.
The Barna-Alper Whiskey Echo site, the Canadian half of the production team.
The Telefilm Canada Whiskey Echo site.
The CBC Television Whiskey Echo site.
The Wikipedia entry.
akite wrote Born On Monday, a Whiskey Echo/Buried On Sunday Rollie/Gus story.
akamine_chan wrote Whiskey Echo snippets: Leaving, No Unwounded Soldiers, Milk Chocolate, Video Camera, First Meeting, and Letter From Laura To Rollie.
akamine_chan wrote a Winter Dreams Of The Past, a Whiskey Echo/due South Rollie/Fraser story.
Two Whiskey Echo drabbles were anonymously given as Valentine's gifts – one to malnpudl and one to zabira.
stormymouse's Cap It! Before I die of waitin' archive has screencaps of Whiskey Echo here.
scriggle has also screencapped the hell out of Whiskey Echo: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
ETA: c_regalis posted some picspams with bonus squee here, here, here and here.
ETA: jadelennox wrote a lovely bit of meta.
The television mini-series is not commercially available.
Whiskey Echo isn't without its flaws. The creators of the show tried to spotlight some of the brutality and hopelessness that exists in many parts of the world while still showing how the human spirit can rise above it all. On some levels, they succeed. On others, they fail...some of the characters are shallow caricatures that never manage to break out of their stereotypes while others are so real you feel you already know them.
If nothing else, this was a wonderful part for CKR, giving him a chance to take Rollie's rich, nuanced character and bring him to life. Rollie is such an interesting combination of practicality and idealism, of cynicism and empathy. You can't help but think that Rollie has a lot more in common with Jenna than he'll ever admit.
Rollie is one of my favorite CKR characters and his contradictions fascinate me to no end. On the outside, he's gruff and realistic but inside...inside he's still hoping that things will turn out for the best.
“You are my one true, angsty, hat-wearing, chain-smoking, pragmatic, shorts-wearing, compassionate-hands-having, gentle-hug-giving, jaded, beautiful LOVE." - zabira