In THE GOOD DOCTOR, we meet Dr. Shaun Murphy. He has autism and Savant syndrome, and he's on his way to interview to become a surgeon at San Jose St Bonaventure Hospital.
Immediately, two plot strings play out: Shaun making his way to the hospital, and being sidetracked when a young child is hurt by glass from a falling train station sign. And the hospital boardroom, where the higher-ups debate the potential upsides and downsides of a surgeon with autism.
Freddie Highmore steps straight off playing notorious killer Norman Bates in Bates Motel and into the shoes of Shaun, while Richard Schiff of West Wing fame plays Dr. Aaron Glassman, President of the hospital and Shaun's biggest promoter. He's in Shaun's corner the whole episode, pushing hard for Shaun's right to become a doctor despite being on the spectrum. It's a powerful moral that has to be balanced with realism: Shaun may have unique abilities that other doctors lack, but he also has deficits that must be acknowledged. This argument barrels on in the boardroom for the length of the episode, and ultimately a decision must be made: can Shaun be allowed to work at St Bonaventure?
I think it's no great spoiler to say that Shaun is hired for the job - if he wasn't, there wouldn't be much of a story, would there? - but perhaps the arguments of the detractors would have been overwhelming were it not for the second narrative in which Shaun treats a young boy hurt by falling glass from a train station sign. It provides them an instant showcase of his medical capabilities, which is actually something that is never really questioned by the boardroom. It also creates a lot of Internet buzz when the clip is uploaded to video sites, which is the only part that takes away from the emotion of the episode given the backlash from not hiring Shaun after a video like that went viral would be significant.
That's not to ignore those parts that are emotionally significant, including the flashbacks to Shaun's troubled life as a teenager, and the speech he makes to the board members near the episode's end. And that also isn't to ignore the other characters introduced: Attending Dr. Melendez, and new surgeons Dr. Browne and Dr. Kalu.
The Good Doctor's pilot sets the tone for the show tremendously. The acting is strong, the cast suitable for their roles and, though its PR-based get-out clause was a little disappointing, the tale of Shaun is well woven with believability and emotion. I also defy you not to weep at some point.
So if The Good Doctor - from the mind of House creator David Shore - steals your heart like it did mine, tuck in for 18 uplifting, heartbreaking, shocking, hilarious, sad and beautiful episodes this season. If you hate joining new shows because they may be cancelled, let me tell you that a second season for The Good Doctor next year is practically a foregone conclusion.
- Aired on Sky Living, October 27 2017 at 21:00.