This is a review of TV series “The Nest” which was set in Glasgow, aired on the BBC, and funded by the Scottish Government. The drama scenes are interspersed with drone footage of fancy hotels, skyscrapers, and music halls along the de-industrialised Clydeside.
A lead character is played by Martin Compston who shot to fame after starring in the Ken Loach film “Sweet Sixteen”. The naming of this character – Dan Docherty – gives a nod to the socialist-realist novels of William McIlvanney. Like Loach’s cinema and McIlvanney’s writing, “The Nest” also exposes tragic socioeconomic issues. However, it champions a different ideology altogether.
Whereas Tam Doherty and Dan Scoular of McIlavnney’s books were working-class heroes, The Nest tries to convince us that there can be no heroes. Dan Docherty had working-class roots, but he climbed the greasy pole and pulled up the ladder behind him. He’s a scumbag property developer and nightclub mogul who practically owns half of Glasgow. He prides himself on gentrifying the east end and on being the largest employer of under 25s in the west of Scotland – even though they’re all exploited on zero-hour contracts. He built a football stadium in a rough area and is therefore considered to be a philanthropist: that is, he wants you to smile whilst he fucks you. He steals three plates of roast dinners with his right hand, and then gifts you a couple of roast tatties, and goes in a huff if you don’t say thank you.
Mrs Docherty is an English musician who lectures at the Royal Conservatoire and enjoys swimming and gourmet cookery. She is ultimately a middle-class freak devoid of a personality; a yuppie with no connection to the local community, other than the cabal of Glasgow “worthies” who her husband keeps sweet by plying them with “gifts” like hospitality tickets for the football, wining and dining. She is an entitled sociopath who believes that her money gives her the right to commit evil. Mrs Docherty is barren and so grooms a poor, vulnerable and isolated 18-year old girl just out of the care system; plying the young lassie with money, the newest iPhone, and designer clothes.
After having been refused by every private medical hospital in the land, the married couple transport young Kaya to Ukraine, with at best her quasi-consent. In a scene reminiscent of the “Handmaid’s Tale”, the Dochertys stood by caressing the young girl as a doctor impregnated her. Kaya was to be their surrogate mother in return for £50,000. The money paid to Kaya was only a drop in the ocean of the Docherty’s wealth – yet no sum could ever have been enough. After the sperm had reached the egg, the Doherty’s could only keep digging to try and get out.
Mr Docherty thought that he had the Mida’s touch – that he could turn everything into gold. Acquiescing to his wife’s entitled delusions turned out to be his Achille’s heel. After stealing the bag of an investigative journalist and rummaging through her papers, Doherty learns of reports that Kaya was a child killer – aged 11 she had stabbed a pregnant woman to death. He grows mad – feeling that he is creating the spawn of a monster. But of course, the real monsters are Mr and Mrs Docherty. Mr Doherty wrestles with the temptation to force Kaya into a private abortion at an incredibly late stage, or even to kill her and frame it as an accident.
As Mr Docherty spread the rumour of killer Kaya, it passed to his nephew, and into high-school gossip. The poor young pregnant woman is driven to throw herself off a cliff and into a river at the Devil’s Pulpit. Kaya is later rescued by this same nephew – a rare decent character, although he naively views Kaya as a feminist icon. Kaya recovers from this attempted suicide in hospital, where her baby is born prematurely by C-section. During this time, the Docherty’s take legal action against Kaya, starting a custody battle. This is ultimately won by Kaya, though she subsequently gave the child over to the Dochertys voluntarily. One should perhaps not pass judgement on Kaya’s decision to not be a mother. However, her entrepreneurial ambitions – in part inspired by Mr Docherty – were surely misplaced.
As the Docherty’s dodgy dealings reach the newspapers, it seems as though his business empire may crumble. The viewers are quickly briefed that his workers struck, that protests occurred and that his businesses were vandalised. However, as shown in a later scene, business evidently picked back up again just fine soon afterwards. Despite their unforgivable crimes, the show portrays the Dochertys as redeemed through parenthood. It is a grotesque sight – the joy of parasites. All of their evils are shrugged off in the name of love; loving one child, after driving another to suicide. Also, abusing thousands of young workers, though of course this seems more banal.
Apart from Kaya, Docherty’s nephew and of course the baby, the only decent characters are two social workers. The reader must decide themselves whether or not they think this is realistic. One of the social workers in particular – who had the aura of a socialist campaigner – frequently confronted Docherty in public places, like David confronted Goliath. Notably however, the directors decided to treat this character to a fall from grace which was completely unrelated and unnecessary to the main plot. The viewer is robbed of having a hero who stood up against the Dochertys. Whilst the young workers would later strike, this was done off camera – and it is implied that they were more of a rabble, smashing windows and setting fires.
Depressingly, the film reflects not only the socioeconomic values of the current Scottish government, but it also reflects the famous ruling-class sexual deviancy. Often technically not illegal, yet most certainly manipulative and sickening. Yet also with punishment limited to brief periods of bad press. All in all, the series is a grotesque piece of liberal bourgeois state propaganda. Obey the state, keep your head down while you whittle your life away to in wage labour, and don’t forget to keep popping out more sprogs. There can be no heroes.