Nuclear test veterans and their families still need answers 70 years on, the creator of Call the Midwife has said as the new series explores the devastating impact down the generations.
In the first episode, the BBC1 drama returned to its story of test survivor Derek Fleming and his wife Audrey as they start a family.
Last year 7.3 million viewers saw the young couple lose first son Christopher, who was born without legs below the knee and died soon after.
This time they face up to a genetic curse covered up by the authorities as they struggle with fears for the future health of their new baby Elizabeth.
The story comes in the 70th anniversary year of Operation Hurricane, Britain’s first bomb test.
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Writer and producer Heidi Thomas was inspired by a neighbour in her Suffolk village who became infertile after serving at the tests.
Some 22,000 men took part in 45 tests, and 600 radioactive “minor trials” on trigger devices, in America, Australia and the South Pacific between 1952 and 1991. Under 3,000 are thought to still be alive and their children report 10 times the normal rate of birth defects.
The Mirror has campaigned for the families since the 1980s.
In November PM Boris Johnson finally agreed to our call to meet them but it has yet to take place.
Heidi said: “As the Mirror campaign has shown, this is not over. There are still questions that need to be answered.”
It is only the second time the drama has repeated one of its storylines, the first time being the Thalidomide scandal.
Heidi, 59, said: “Derek is living with most of his stomach removed, baby Elizabeth looks perfect but many well become ill. Audrey will never be able to rest, or stop worrying about them, or forget Christopher.”
Ex-Navy chef Doug Hern, 85, was a script consultant on the storyline. He was 21 when he saw five H-bombs at Christmas Island and later lost his teeth and developed bony spurs on his ribs. His daughter Gilly died at 13 of Cushing’s syndrome, a rare cancer.
He said: “One of the things they did well was to show that, even if your child looks healthy as a baby, you spend years fretting about what might go wrong.”
Heidi’s script showed Dr Turner, played by her real-life husband Stephen McGann, meeting a wall of silence from the Ministry of Defence as he fights for Derek’s medical records. It also paid tribute to veteran families, who collected anecdotal evidence to build into statistics still used to argue their case today.
Heidi says: “They’ve become the heart of the story they’re still telling now. This is how change happens and how reparation takes place. There is no better reason to do a TV drama.”