Dr. Ruby Walker (Amrita Acharia, Game of Thrones) is a junior doctor working at a hospital in England, but following a bitter breakup with her longtime boyfriend Marcus (Tom Canton), she decides she needs a change in her life and applies to work at an upscale, modern medical clinic in India. Much to her surprise, when she arrives, she is picked up by a flirtatious ambulance driver named AJ Nair (Sagar Radia) and is taken to an underfunded public hospital called The Good Karma Hospital, chaired by AJ's father, Dr. Ram Nair (Darshan Jariwala), but run with an iron fist by the formidable Dr. Lydia Fonseca (Amanda Redman, New Tricks).
Ruby is convinced there is some mistake, but alas, all incoming doctors must spend their first year at a public hospital and Good Karma could really use the extra help. They are overrun with patients and have only Dr. Nair, Dr. Fonseca, and the handsome but incredibly cold and condescending Dr. Gabriel Varma (James Floyd). At times, Ruby feels overwhelmed and ready to throw in the towel, but Dr. Fonseca knows just how much fire to apply to Ruby to bring out the fighter in her and she decides to stay on.
She encounters many heartbreaking cases, while working at Good Karma, from a charming young teen who is stabbed in the street, to a poor man and woman who must make a decision about keeping their newborn, to a young girl who has a baby out of wedlock, to even a poor layman who is injured by a careless driver and could lose an appendage because he is too poor to afford to fix it. Each case both frustrates Ruby and reaffirms her desire to do good and to stay at Good Karma. Plus, the sexual tension between her and Dr. Varma is so thick you could cut it with a scalpel.
Dr. Varma has his own issues and likes to keep people at a distance, as does Dr. Fonseca, but she is having a secret affair with the scruffy but adorable local barkeep, Greg McConnell (Neil Morrissey, Line of Duty, Striking Out). Mari (Nimmi Harasgara) is the hospital's head nurse and she keeps things going for Dr. Fonseca, but as we find out, her good intentions and giving the benefit of the doubt can sometimes bite her in the backside. AJ is quite the womanizer, but gets a shock when one of his lady friends doesn't get back on her plane to England, but stays so they can be together. Talk about cramping his style! Finally, his father, widower Dr. Nair, is working with an attractive marriage matchmaker to get AJ paired off to a suitable bride, but the boy is incorrigible and she suggests Dr. Nair jump back into the dating pool. Perhaps romance is on the horizon for him in the near future.
Aside from the various case-of-the-week people that come to Good Karma, there is also a patient that comes under Dr. Varma's care when she faints at her daughter's destination wedding. Maggie Smart (Phyllis Logan, Downton Abbey) has a brain tumor, but she is keeping it secret from her daughter and husband. She becomes so enamored with India at her daughter's wedding that she convinces her husband Paul (Philip Jackson, Agatha Christie's Poirot) to stay for a bit longer, actually intending to stay there until the tumor takes her. Dr. Varma doesn't agree with her choices, but decides to assist her and to care for her in the best way he can, so that she can live out her days in joy, as long as she tells Paul the truth. As you can imagine, the news doesn't go over really well when her family finds out, but Maggie's story is a genuinely sweet journey.
The Good Karma Hospital: Series 1 takes place in a fictional seaside town, but is actually filmed in lush and gorgeous Sri Lanka. The beach scenery is breathtaking, and the bustling city and marketplace is bursting with color. It looks lovely on Blu-ray, especially when the community celebrates a holiday called Holi and colorful powdered paint is thrown on everyone; it is rather beautiful.
All of the characters in The Good Karma Hospital: Series 1 are delightful and endearing, even cranky Dr. Varma. Everyone serves their purpose, whether it is in saving lives, getting people to the hospital, or even dispensing advice while pouring them a beer; each person is integral to life in and around the Good Karma. There is a short series of featurettes including the cast discussing their roles, the medical aspects of the show, and Indian culture, and while all are interesting, the show is the real star here.
If you enjoyed The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, you will probably really enjoy The Good Karma Hospital: Series 1. It is bittersweet, since not every medical story has a happy ending, but there are beautiful lessons to be learned and an interesting and colorful culture to be explored here. I can't wait to see where the show goes next.