Michelle Keegan (Coronation Street) takes over from Lacey Turner (EastEnders) in the new series of Our Girl, but she isn’t playing the same character.
When Lacey Turner left EastEnders in 2010 she played the lead in a number of dramas, but it was playing Molly Dawes in Our Girl which really struck a chord with viewers and critics alike.
Initially a one-off drama, the success of that hour led to a full series with Lacey Turner once again at the helm. But then she went back to EastEnders and had to choose between sticking with the soap or returning to Our Girl and she chose Albert Square over Afghanistan.
That didn’t mean the end of Our Girl though as creator Tony Grounds came up with a story which this time featured the British Army on a posting in contemporary Kenya. Two Section are back but have a new female medic at their centre; Lance Corporal Georgie Lane, played by Michelle Keegan.
She is a brilliant and committed soldier who loves the adrenaline and adventure of her job and during the series will have to earn the love and trust of her fellow soldiers, and the greater respect of her commanding officer. All this whilst working alongside aid workers in the biggest refugee camp in the world.
Kenya is a complicated and volatile posting, one which Georgie will find full of surprises that will challenge her professionally in unexpected ways, and which will change her personal life forever.
Such is the modern world we live in that the story actually begins on BBC iPlayer rather than episode one, with a 6 minute prequel called Georgie and Elvis.
The prequel tells the story of Georgie's first meeting with maverick SAS captain Elvis Harte, played by Luke Pasqualino and charts their growing attraction for one another.
Is it vital to have seen the prequel before episode one? Well no, but it does give you a better understanding of their relationship, how they met and how they got to be where they are at the start of the series.
So where are they at the start of the series? Well, it appears as if Georgie has found the man of her dreams in Elvis and the couple are due to get married. But is married life really want either of them want? Well it turns out that no, it isn't.
Exactly who calls it off and what happens I'll leave for you to discover but what I will say is that the story then picks up two years later and Georgie is engaged (again), this time to Doctor Jamie Cole, played by Royce Pierreson.
As she heads out on a humanitarian tour to Kenya, Georgie promises Jamie that she'll return home soon to marry him. But will she?
Out in Kenya, experienced army medic Georgie is greeted by Captain James (Ben Aldridge) who is back along with Two Section who are posted to a refugee camp near the border of Somalia and as soon as they pull into the camp Georgie jumps straight to work when an IED explodes harming many refugees.
The story really gets going when aid-worker, Kicki (Anna Tenta), is kidnapped and Georgie’s determination to find her lands her in great danger leading to one hell of a cliffhanger at the end of episode one. If that won’t leave you wanting to come back for more, I don’t know what will!
As the series goes on, Captain James (Ben Aldridge) and Two Section are horrified to hear what has happened to Georgie with Jamie worried about her state of mind. With a finale that promises to leave Georgie wondering what the future holds for her, this is one series not to be missed.
Of course, comparisons will be made between Lacey Turner and Michelle Keegan, but they’re playing two different characters, involved in two different stories. It just so happens that the series is still called Our Girl.
After leaving Coronation Street, Michelle appeared in Ordinary Lies, which was very much an ensemble piece, so in many ways Our Girl is her first leading role since leaving Corrie and she does a brilliant job. Her acting ability shines through and proves that there’s a lot more to her than tabloid headlines and Tina McIntyre.
At the press launch series two, Tony Grounds was asked about the future of Our Girl and whether he’d like to continue with Michelle’s character Georgie should the series return for a third run, or if he’d rather tell someone else’s story.
There was no denying that Tony was a fan of Michelle’s as he said:
“I think there’s another series. She’s got the legs for another series. With Lacey actually, we did the film and then we did the series. I’m sure Michelle won’t want to be doing it in ten years time. She’s absolutely brilliant”.
Obviously I haven’t seen beyond the first episode so I can’t comment as to whether or not the series will be left open at the end, but it certainly seems that way from what Tony said at the screening.
Whilst some die-hard Lacey Turner fans out there might disapprove of Michelle (many without even giving her a chance), I’d really like to see her return to Our Girl. I think she did a really great job and I can’t wait to watch the rest of the series to see how her character develops both in her professional life and her personal life - a balance which is so brilliantly played out. A real strength of Our Girl.