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Whiskey Echo (TV post)

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:

Joanne Kelly
Dominique McElligott
David Alpay
Jason Barry
San Shella
Callum Keith Rennie

Jenna Breeden
Dr. Carlo Scanchelli
Dr. Rafe Fletcher
Dr. Mo
Dr. Rollie Saunders

Year: 2005

Runtime: 4 60-minute episodes

Country: Canada/Ireland

IMDB rating: 7.8 (44 votes)

Genre: Drama

Keywords: none



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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?"
    Rollie: “Yeah."


  • 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.

Interesting scenes:

  • 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?
Poll #1237071 Whiskey Echo

Overall rating

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.
Pretty humorous.
There's some cute and funny moments.
Not really.
Blood and guts, people. Not funny.

Sexual content

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.

Sexual violence

Umm, nope.
Some mentioned in passing.
Yeah, there's a lot of craziness going on.
A lot of people are overtaken by bloodlust.

Dr. Rollie Saunders
Poll #1237072 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.
A few.
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.
Mostly not.
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
Emmanuel Kehoe
The Post.ie
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.

From here.


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.

Final Words

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


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 8th, 2008 04:44 am (UTC)
yay! wonderful post, aka! and OMG, SO MUCH LOVE for rollie. (as you know...HEEEE! thank you for quoting my squee.)

Aug. 9th, 2008 01:18 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Z. And thanks to you for helping instill in my heart a love of Rollie that knows no bounds...

Plus, that quote is just too cool...

I'm glad I did Rollie justice in this post.
Aug. 8th, 2008 06:06 am (UTC)

I have to say, I FFed through the "young beautiful people up to soap opera hijinx" angle--I would have been just as happy with a focus on mature, pragmatic characters like Rollie and the locals they are living among. But still, \rollie/! SHORTS!!! Made of awesome. :-)
Sep. 8th, 2008 12:19 am (UTC)
Yeah, that was a big problem. All the characters had such potential...and they wasted that by turning it into a soap opera...*sigh*
Aug. 8th, 2008 01:20 pm (UTC)
I have to say, CKR was the best thing about Whiskey Echo. I've only sat down and watched it all the way through one time. I wanted to shake the Jenna character until her teeth rattled. Oh! Thanks for the link to my story.
Sep. 8th, 2008 12:21 am (UTC)
Yeah, we were calling Jenna names when we watched this in chat. She's so...young and naive. And you're welcome for the link. Unfortunately, in spite of Rollie's manifest coolness, not many people have written fic about him...which is too bad, really.
Aug. 8th, 2008 03:12 pm (UTC)
*sputters uncontrollably*


Thank you for posting this! I wish there was a way to see the show. :-( I'll troll youtube --- there's always a chance.
Sep. 8th, 2008 12:23 am (UTC)
Yah, this one is well worth tracking down...SHORTS! 'Cause as sexy as CKR is normally, he's much sexier in SHORTS! *g*
Aug. 8th, 2008 07:03 pm (UTC)
Overload of nice-guy!callum - after Duck, we get Rollie, burned out but not half as cynical as he pretends to be, caring, worrying, funny. Lonely, though. I love rollie!fic for the hints at his background, there's just not enough (although you're doing a good effort, I must admit). Great post, oh, and bonus points for tiny!rollie pic!
Sep. 8th, 2008 12:25 am (UTC)
I love Rollie!fic. Rollie is such a fascinating enigma that I just love to explore the possibilities of his character...*wiggles happily*

Gonna have to write some more soon, I think...

Glad you liked the tiny!Rollie. He sits on my bookshelf, keeping tiny!Ray and tiny!Fraser company.
Aug. 8th, 2008 10:12 pm (UTC)
...I should probably watch this, shouldn't I?

But seriously, dude, thank you for such a comprehensive and interesting write-up. I was particularly interested in the article, since some of my reservations about the project were addressed there, and I definitely want to see it myself. It sounds like CKR gave a very interesting performance. Thanks for reminding me to check out the film!
Sep. 8th, 2008 12:29 am (UTC)
It does have issues. Serious issues. It could have been so much better. But really, CKR does such a wondrous job that it almost makes up for it. *sigh* It is worth watching at least once, though, Nos.
Aug. 10th, 2008 04:06 pm (UTC)
Rolliiiiieeee! \c/ \post/

Creator David Young wrote several epsiodes of My Life As A Dog, starring, yes, you guessed it, Callum Keith Rennie.

Ha! I didn't know that. But I like it.

Interesting article, I was worried about some of that stuff myself. *sigh*

I love your final words about this, because, well. WORD. And Zabira's, too. ♥
Aug. 10th, 2008 04:09 pm (UTC)
Oh, and I did a few posts about WE as well, back when I saw it for the first time. It's, like, picspam and stuff, in case you are interested: here, here, here and here. :)
Sep. 8th, 2008 12:29 am (UTC)
Added. Thanks for the heads-up.
Sep. 8th, 2008 12:31 am (UTC)

Thanks. It is an uneven movie, but I think it's worth seeing. CKR really does a great job with Rollie, who is at turns fascinating and frustrating. \ckr/
Sep. 3rd, 2008 07:04 pm (UTC)
Very nice post, Aka.

Even though I am not getting Rollie's hotness yet. But I am usually slow and have only seen this once. So I am sure it will come eventually.
Sep. 8th, 2008 12:31 am (UTC)
You could pretend he has a turtle waiting for him in Toronto...that might help. *g*

Thanks for reading and commenting even if you don't see the hotness that is Rollie.
Sep. 8th, 2008 05:49 am (UTC)
A turtle that he'll be sharing an apple with.

Yeah, that helps. ;)
Sep. 16th, 2017 02:54 am (UTC)
I finally got a copy of Whiskey Echo! Haven't watched it yet, but TYK in advance for these fic links which I'll be checking out after watching the show.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )



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