Primetime dramas are often seen as something only parents enjoy (and fall asleep in the middle of) but this week, a new series hits our screens which will shake up that narrative. Comprising five hourlong episodes, The Nest is a thought-provoking watch about the current state of surrogacy treatment in the UK, and will likely provide some much-needed drama in your self-isolation TV routine.
Dubbed an ‘emotional thriller’, the BBC series follows a wealthy married couple as they struggle to find a suitable surrogate to carry their child. Starring Martin Compston (Line Of Duty) and Sophie Rundle (Peaky Blinders), the drama explores the agonising intricacies of the surrogacy system and the emotional toll that infertility can take on relationships.
As with all good dramas, the show’s subject matter is entirely reflective of the real world. While statistics about the number of children born through surrogacy in the UK are lacking, data shows that 368 surrogate-related parental orders were made in 2018 (although there isn’t actually any legal obligation to file one). That number, which has tripled since 2011, is evidence of the increasing popularity of surrogacy in the UK, with many couples using the fertility method as a way to start a family after recurrent miscarriages or IVF failures.
Surrogacy was legalised in the UK in 1985 (2010 for LGBT+ couples) and current law dictates that couples cannot pay their surrogate (beyond reasonable expenses). This restriction makes finding a surrogate that much harder for couples, with an increasing number opting to find surrogates abroad, where prices for surrogacy services range anywhere from £34,000 to £85,000.
For Dan and Emily (Compston and Rundle), their surrogacy journey eventually leads them to make an under-the-table deal with an 18-year-old from Glasgow. Having recently left the care system, Kaya (Mirren Mack) is intent on creating a life of her own, which after a chance encounter with wealthy Emily in a car park, seems all the more possible. Her plan? To carry the couple’s child in exchange for something she needs.
Although it tackles a weighty topic, the drama is in good hands as the creation of Three Girls writer Nicole Taylor. It’s clear that the script has benefited from a female perspective, conveying the emotional weight of infertility and the pressure felt by surrogate mothers in equal measure. However, the most interesting parts of the drama lie in the unanswered questions. Did Kaya really meet Dan and Emily by accident? How did the couple actually make their riches? Is Kaya revealing everything about her turbulent past? The number of paths the series could go down at this point seems infinite.
Still, like all good TV, the drama has its downsides too. While the show’s premise is promising, it does fall into predictable ‘rich vs poor’ tropes. The class divide present throughout seems based on stereotypes, perpetuating the idea that those on the poorer side of town are always looking for a way to ‘get out’. This is shown best when Kaya leaves her council flat in the city to stay at the couple’s gigantic lake-view house in the countryside. Although presumably intended as a nod to the vast wealth inequality in Scotland, it feels like a somewhat insensitive and played-out approach.
Overall though, the series succeeds in its exploration of family, wealth, trust and power. Whether it’s the conflicting emotions felt by intended parents or the surrogate mothers themselves, the storyline showcases the unique perspectives of all parties involved, making for a well rounded and thought-provoking first episode. If The Nest ends up falling prey to sensationalised storylines as the series progresses, it at least stands firm as a venture into unexplored territory, something primetime TV can always use more of.