The Politician’s Husband Review: David Tennant and Emily Watson shine in this engaging and well-written drama

by Matt D

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This does truly seem to be the year of David Tennant. He has recently wowed us all with his brilliant performance in ITV’s Broadchurch while we’ll soon see him return to the Tardis for the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. In between these two projects, Tennant stars in The Politician’s Husband a drama which looks at how politics can affect a seemingly strong marriage. The series, which is written by Paula Milne, is a companion piece to 1995’s The Politician’s Wife and stars Tennant as Cabinet Minister Aiden Hoynes.


The opening of the episode sees Aiden travel to Parliament in order to tender his resignation. The expositional news report-style introduction informs us that Aiden is married to junior minister Freya Gardener and together they have two children. In parliament, Aiden bashes the prime minister’s policy on immigration and makes an impassioned speech about the state of the government. In theory Aiden had hoped that this speech would’ve let to his leadership bit but instead it seems to have ruined his career. Aiden feels further betrayed when his supposed best friend and fellow minister Bruce Babbish speaks out against him during an interview. Aiden confronts Bruce who reveals that he got him to resign in order to get rid of the competition. Thankfully Aiden has the full support of Freya who enjoys having him home more so they can look after their children together. While Aiden gets on with daughter Ruby fine, he struggles to connect with his son Noah who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome. Aiden finds it hard to adjust to living the life of a back bencher and dealing with petty enquiries from his constituents. However Freya is later given quite a big opportunity, when Chief Whip Marcus Brock offers her a position in the cabinet. The only catch is that she has to publicly disagree with her husband’s stance on immigration, essentially making him seem like an even bigger fool.

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At first Freya decides to turn down the offer as she wants to stay loyal to her husband. However Aiden later agrees that she should take the new position and work to bring down Bruce herself. He admits that the best course of action is that Freya should work alongside the government before later agreeing with her husband’s stance on immigration a little further down the line. Aiden believes that this is the only way that he can make a return to the government and tells his wife that they must to bad things to get into power before doing good when they get there. So while Aiden continues to fill his days running and attempting to bond with Noah, Freya is now the main focus in the political world. Later Bruce takes Freya out for lunch and voices his surprise over her taking the position. He does say that it’s good to see her out from her husband’s shadow while at the same time he rightly guesses the reasons for her taking the position. This first episode ends with a shock as Freya publicly disagrees with Aiden’s stance on immigration during a high profile interview.

A drama centred around politics is always a hard project to get off the ground. I feel this is mainly due to the fact that a lot of people are alienated by politics as a subject in general. Indeed there is a lot of political dialogue to get your head around as you try to work out which minister is which. However The Politician’s Husband is as much about dynamic in a marriage as it is about political ambition. As we learn throughout the piece, Freya has put her political aspirations on hold to be a wife and mother. It appears that she has always been considered the brighter of the two and so this new opportunity is her chance to finally shine. The pivotal scene in The Politician’s Husband is when the Hoynes are in bed together and Freya turns the tables by positioning herself on top. It’s also clear that Aiden’s been the top dog from the get-go as he has a fancy office in the house while his wife is relegated to the garden shed. The other interesting element in the Hoynes family is the fact that they have a handicapped son. I think it adds a different dynamic to the show as Aiden has to try and bond with Noah now that he’s spending a lot more time at home. To me these scenes are some of the episode’s best and prove that this is a series about domestic politics as much as it is about national politics.

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While Paula Milne has created some great characters, I feel that some of the dialogue is fairly clunky. There’s far too much exposition for my liking and I didn’t believe a lot of what was said in the government scenes. Milne’s strengths lie in the dialogue between Aiden and Freya rather than writing convincing lines for characters such as Bruce and Marcus. Thankfully The Politician’s Husband is bolstered by a fantastic cast who excel in their respective roles. David Tennant proves what a great screen presence he is by portraying a character that is a million miles away from Broadchurch’s Alec Hardy. Tennant’s Aiden is an ambitious man who isn’t above using his wife to get back the power he feels he deserves. He is great at portraying both his strength as a politician and his weakness as a father to Noah. Emily Watson is predictably brilliant as the multi-dimensional Freya who turns from loving wife to political animal within a couple of scenes. Jack Shepherd lends brilliant support as Aiden’s father who is often able to give his son a reality check when he needs it. Meanwhile young Oscar Kennedy is captivating as the damaged Noah and I felt he definitely held his own when acting opposite Tennant. The only issue I had was with Roger Allam’s casting as Marcus Brock. While Allam is a fantastic actor, there’s no getting away from the fact that he starred as Peter Mannion in The Thick of It and therefore I find it very hard to take him seriously.

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Overall there was much to like about The Politician’s Husband. I enjoyed how the programme was much more than just a political drama as it focused as much on Aiden and Freya’s marriage as it did on their political ambitions. While Milne’s script may be fairly patchy in places, she is able to present an intriguing story with some fully-rounded characters. Tennant is on form once again, as is Watson, and proves what a versatile actor he is. From watching Tennant in the Politician’s Husband it is clear why he is appearing on every TV drama at the moment and why 2013 will continue to be his year.

What did you think to The Politician’s Husband? Did you enjoy the performances? Leave Your Comments Below.