Doctor Stranger

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Doctor Stranger is a 2014 medical drama starring rising star Lee Jong Suk; forever second lead Park Hae Jin; beautiful Kang So Ra and fairly new and young actress Jin Se Yeon. The drama garners attention not only because of the main casts, but also the supporting casts such as Kim Sang Joong, Chun Ho Jin, Kim Sang Ho, Choi Jung Woo etc. and famous director, Jin Hyuk, who has previously directed a few popular dramas.

I think what lure me to try out this drama is definitely the love I have for Lee Jong Suk. He was great in School 2013 and I Hear Your Voice, so I anticipated more good stuff from him. I also like Park Hae Jin because who doesn’t love Lee Hwi Kyung in My Love From The Stars? Then there is Jin Hyuk who directed one of my favourite dramas – City Hunter, and because of him, the ahjussi actors from City Hunter also joined the show. I definitely couldn’t say no anymore once I found out Kim Sang Joong will make the guest appearance, too!

Official Title: 닥터 이방인 / Dakteo Yibangin
Genre: Medical, romance, action, political
Broadcast network: SBS
Broadcast period: 05.05.2014 to 08.07.2014
Total Episodes: 20
Director: Jin Hyuk, Hong Jong Chan
Screenwriter: Park Jin Woo, Kim Joo
Official Website: Link

CHARACTER RELATIONSHIP CHART

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PLOT SUMMARY

Park Hoon (Lee Jong Suk) is born in South Korea, but was kidnapped to North Korea as a hostage when he was a boy. The North Korean had a gun to his temple so that his father, Park Chul (Kim Sang Joong) will do all his might to save North Korea’s political leader in the operation. The South Korean politician Jang Suk Joo (Chun Ho Jin) who sent them to the North then abandoned them and order them killed, but the North Koreans decided to keep them alive as they see there is use of a good chest surgeon.

Hoon then becomes a doctor, receiving specail training from his father since young. While living in the North, Hoon meets his first friend and love Song Jae Hee (Jin Se Yeon). Just a day after Hoon proposes to Jae Hee, she and her family are taken away by soldiers; Hoon gets taken to a medical research facility and forced to operate on innocent lives for experiments.

After a series of heart breaking events, Hoon eventually returns to Seoul. He lives a life of stranger in Seoul, then he gets himself suck into the politics at Myeong Woo University Hospital when he meets Han Seung Hee (Jin Se Yeon), who looks exactly like Jae Hee. In order investigate if Seung Hee is Jae Hee, Hoon allows himself to be recruited by Moon Hyung Wook (Choi Jung Woo). Hoon and Han Jae Joon (Park Hae Jin) each form a medical team and compete to win the right to operate on Premier Jang Suk Joo’s heart. While Hoon is in Myeong Woo, he becomes friendly with Oh Soo Hyun (Kang So Ra), daughter of Myeong Woo’s director Oh Joon Gyu (Jun Gook Hwan).

REVIEW

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— May Contain Spoiler —

Frankly, Doctor Stranger started off really well, and one would think with Jin Hyuk and so many good ol’ actors supporting the production, we would get a decent good drama. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Something must have gone haywire after episode 8, as if the latter episodes are written by another writer altogether.

It is obvious because the quality and the way the story presented itself, differ from the first 8 episodes. It is established that there are two writers, so one of them must be the culprit in writing the hide-and-seek plot shown in episode 9, which deteriorated the show tremendously (*Stab *Stab). It seems like the writer (or whoever) is trying to save the storyline in one week, and then in a “meh~ I don’t care mood” for another week. There are also two directors, so that also explain the drop in quality in terms of visual.

For the first 8 episodes, the storyline is fairly consistent and the characters are seen developing steadily. That said, Park Hae Jin’s and Jin Se Yeon’s characters did require more development as the writer initially focus more on Park Hoon, introducing Oh Soo Hyun’s background and establishing Hoon and Soo Hyun’s friendship.

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Park Hoon is a really interesting character to explore; he is fantastic and fascinating for the first 8 episodes. I pretty much want to stab the writer for ruining this character. It’s like I’m seeing déjà vu of Park Hoon as Park Se Joo (Mirae’s Choice), where both become so unlike themselves, and so out of character in the end. Lee Jong Suk‘s performances was superb at the beginning, particularly in the scene where Hoon was given his father’s belongings. That scene was so powerful and compelling. I also believe it was one take all the way because it isn’t possible to connect the emotions and stay consistent if it has to be done from different camera’s angles. Bravado, Lee Jong Suk.

And then… he gets nothing good to work on other than letting us continuously watch him being pushed around like a dummy. 😡 I almost wish he never takes off his scrub and scalpel, because Hoon is only interesting to watch in the latter episodes when he’s in an operation room.

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Oh Soo Hyun is the same case, too. The show starts her off really strong by first introducing her background, make us enjoy her interactions with Hoon, and watch her swallowed the tears when Han Jae Joon pushes her away. That fighting-back-her-tears scene from Kang So Ra gave me a deep impression. I enjoy her scenes with Hoon at the beginning because they were meaningful, as Hoon helps her find her strengths and become more confident. But again, everything goes wrong after episode 8 and Soo Hyun starts fluffing around, non-stop crying (again, so out of character) from being rejected by Hoon. I do get she needs time to recover but narratively, it did not seem like the feelings she has for Hoon is so strong that it’d render her incapable of doing anything else.

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Park Hae Jin is actually a good actor with plenty potential; however, it’s quite sad he wasn’t given enough to work on or the chance to shine like Hoon did (for at least the past 8 episodes). We do get to learn about Han Jae Joon a lot more after episode 8, but I didn’t like the writer’s approach in unravelling his story or exploring his character. He was given his own moments, which I still find lacking feels from narration’s point of view. He did have a few scattered scenes here and there in latter episodes, where he displays Han Jae Joon’s complexity, mixed feelings and suppressed emotions. So not all is lost for his part.

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As one of the more important characters in the storyline, Jin Se Yeon has the most underdeveloped characters, followed closely by Park Hae Jin’s. I can only assume this is because the writers are trying to keep Song Jae Hee/ Han Seung Hee as mysterious as possible, and for as long as they can. Whatever the reason is, it doesn’t help the viewers relate to her, or her actions. The writers did not explore or try to introduce Jae Hee/Seung Hee the way they tried with the other 3 characters, so I personally find it difficult to feel anything for the character. It also didn’t help that Jin Se Yeon’s acting is the weakest among the others. At times and with the help of others, I can see that she did fairly well in displaying her emotions but majority of the time, she wasn’t successful in conveying what she is feeling across to the viewers. She is better at acting happy, cheerful and cute, but her weaknesses surface when she is required to do heart-broken, angry or complex emotional scenes. She has room for improvement when it comes to acting.

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To be fair, this show has all the right (crazy) elements to do well and be interesting throughout. The writing is what really went wrong for the show. First of all, the writers could not make a firm decision on which pairing they want their characters to end up with. They kept toying with the viewers on the possibility of Hoon with Jae Hee/Seung Hee, and Hoon with Soo Hyun. I cannot speak for anyone else, but I was more convinced with Hoon and Soo Hyun at the beginning, because I could see the chemical/physical reactions happening but narratively, it wasn’t possible because Hoon has given his heart to Jae Hee. So what is left is for the show to convince me Jae Hee/Seung Hee does match with Hoon, but the show did the poorest job on it.

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I actually thought Jae Hee and Hoon were super duper cute when they were in North Korea, but what was shown in episode 1 wasn’t convincing enough to show their strong bonds. As I’ve mentioned above, Seung Hee is underdeveloped and so is her relationship with Hoon. I usually wouldn’t bat an eyelid and deny a kissing scene but I actually thought in terms of how it was played out in that scene, the kiss seems unnecessary. I thought a tight hug would have sufficed in depicting their reunion; there was no built up of desire, and it lacks the feel of longing from both characters, thus, the kissing scene seems awkward (Note: the kiss isn’t bad although Lee Jong Suk needs more practice).

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Secondly, the writers did poorly in story-telling and developing the characters in depth. Initially, the writers were overly ambitious and want to incorporate all genres – romance, medical, spy and politics. I say they can do it, if they hadn’t wasted time in playing hide and seek for episode 9 (it still boggles me with the writing and direction!), or give extra screen time to a narratively unimportant side character like Kim Chi Gyu (Lee Jae Won), and made a key side character completely disappear (I then found him cameo-ing as a scholar who gets assassinated in Joseon Gunman). 

I feel pities for the actors, especially the older ahjussi because they are very good and experienced actors; it pains me that the writers under-utilise them.

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I definitely enjoy the first 8 episodes, where I had cried my hearts out for the father and son – Park Chul (Kim Sang Joong) and Park Hoon. There were scattered moments in latter episodes that I find they were decent, if not good. I kind of get what the writers want to convey, or attempt to convey, but they definitely did a very poor job in it. I hadn’t watched many medical K-dramas, but I’m getting the impression that K-Drama Land still lacks the ability to make a generally good medical drama, or I just happened to pick all the bad eggs e.g. Dr. Jin and Good Doctor. 😦

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I did get to the point where I didn’t care which girl ends up with Hoon, and I was all ready for him to be single and alone taking care of his mother. My care factor of the show decreases, but I soldier on because I wanted to know whether the ending will differ from the novel; more importantly, I want my review to be as objective as it can be and justifiable based on finishing all 20 episodes.

Judging from all aspects, Doctor Stranger is definitely not good, and does not deserve the TV ratings it garners for the last 12 episodes thanks to the poor writing. But it definitely isn’t the worse K-drama I have seen, and it may not be as bad as the others on the same time slot; however, I cannot be the judge of it since I didn’t watch them. I had dropped Triangle after episode 1 because it wasn’t gripping and it wasn’t good, writing-wise, and I don’t know if it had become better since.

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Well, the show is over so I’m happy that the actors can all move on and put this behind them. Hope to see them in better quality projects next! ❤

Source: Weibo @ RemedyChina | Noodles | SBS

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