Combat Hospital Review: Welcome to Kandahar

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There's always been something about war shows that I've been drawn to. As a kid, I couldn't get enough of M*A*S*H. Much later, I adored China Beach, so it's no surprise that I was quick to watch ABC's new summer drama, Combat Hospital.

The "series premiere" is set in a military hospital outside of Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2006 and follows doctors and nurses from several Allied, English speaking countries. 

In Kandahar

We follow Canadian surgeon Major Rebecca Gordon as she arrives via military transport. You'd think that landing in the middle of a war zone would be the focus of her attention. Instead, she's trying to take a pregnancy test while they land.

I'm sure it's a hell of a long flight. Does she really have to wait for them to be doing evasive maneuvers while they land to perform that test?

That first scene tells me not to take
Combat Hospital too seriously, although that doesn't mean it can't be entertaining.

The entire cast is very likable. Elias Koteas is the tough but fair Colonel Marks and I'm happy to see Luke Mably back on screen after The Gates. Will his civilian neurosurgeon Dr. Simon Hill be the Hawkeye Pierce of Combat Hospital? The pilot leads me to think so. Again, that isn't a bad thing, it's just that I don't think they'll be any surprises here.

The premiere gives us the cliched storyline of the wounded soldier who doesn't look like he'll make it but the doctors pull him through, only to have his buddy die from injuries that appear much less severe. 

Then we get the enemy soldier whose life is saved only to be whisked away by some Blackwater types, literally through a hole in the wall. Unfortunately, it feels as though we've seen this all before.

The one bright spot was the off base women's clinic set up in hopes of helping the local woman of Kandahar receive adequate health care. There's only a brief mention of it and then the storyline is pushed aside for a possible enemy attack, but it has potential to be a more interesting subplot. It gives me hope that this show can be better than its pilot.

Combat Hospital appears to be a light summer drama, where I was hoping for something more substantial. But if it's willing to be a little more creative and take some chances, there may be more story potential than we see here.  I'll be tuning in next week to find out.


Editor Rating: 3.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.0 / 5.0 (124 Votes)

C. Orlando is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow her on Twitter.


I absolutely loved China Beach so I was hoping I would be pleased with this show as well. However, Koteas comes across as a Chris Maloney wannabe, and the actress playing Rebecca Gordon is unrealistic, even insipid. Adam Beach's appearance was a bright spot though. His acting is so excellent, the audience really cares about his character where if something happens to any of he others, we won't really care.


get some of that baby dropping brown dust, add some perspiration stains and some dirty clothes,


Impressive first shot at life in KAF. No show could ever truly depict life here. KAF is something that has to be lived and experienced to be really understood and appreciated.
As for the errors get over them. No show is ever going to live up to everyone's expectations. The writers have used some poetic licensing in some areas that do not affect the realism of the hospital. As for the smallness of the trauma rooms and OR (except for the white wall) they looked realistic of what was there at the time.
Thanks for the great show. I can almost see myself in one of the scenes. Hope there is a lot more to follow.
Hope the show carries on for a while.


Well, I have been here in KAF since July 2007(straight through) and after reading some of these comments... Im not sure if these people were really here or they didnt note that the series take place in 2006 and that Role 3 and this base had been under different commands including Canadian and it was NATO. My coworkers and myself watched the episode here in KAF and had a great time and lots of memories were exchanged. Thanks for the great work. Looking forward to more!


Vapid. I'd leave only that word here, but the page will not allow it.


The noise level is so high we couldn't hear what the actors were saying. Music is supposed to be in the background, not competing.
Otherwise it is worth a second watch.


Whoa there, I take back my comment about yanks, actually thinking about it and reading all the comments I think this is down the the advisors not doing their homework. I agree that if they had better ex or current military advice then I wouldn't spend so much time looking at the errors and maybe watch the show. Not even close to generation kill quality (interogative hahaha)


I was really annoyed when Pedersen introduced herself as a Major yet was wearing a DPCU Lieutenant's rank slide. C'mon guys I expect this poor attention from the Yanks but not Canada.


I would have to agree with some of the comments on this post and disagree with others. I was at KAF in 2008 and served at the R3 MMU as a Canadian (civilian) augmentee specialist physician. The physical set on the show is pretty true to what the R3 looked like back then. It was basically a collection of plywood buildings with shipping containers and canvas extensions, tents, and blast barriers. The hospital was under Canadian command until 2010. That explains all the Canadian uniforms and flags guys. Helmet and frag vest in the CT scanner control room during a rocket attack is completely reasonable. The guys working in the OR during attacks just wore scrubs and hoped for the best. Although one of the show's tech advisors was a CDN CF MD there ARE a lot of glaring errors relating to medical aspects of the show and many military aspects as well. I was expecting much better attention to detail. This show would have benefited from a few extra thousand dollars worth of wardrobe details to add to realism, better acting from the extras, and definitely some better writing. Even coating everyones clothing with a thin layer of dust could have helped (anyone who's been there knows what I mean). I do hope this show improves as I think the work done by the people that served there deserves a bit better.


There are a lot of things that people have pointed out as errors that aren't. First for Chris Lyons, I understand that you've been to Role 3 but while it is true that the hospital is a brick and mortar building today, in 2006 when the series is set (and it is stated in the first minute of the show) it was a temporary structure as depicted. It was not until 2009 that funds were allocated for the current structure. As for technical advice, the show's technical advisor is Major Marc Dauphin MD (Canadian Forces Medical Service), who was the last Canadian to command the Role 3 hospital before the new structure was built. According to Dauphin, the incident with the snake actually did happen. From 2006 to 2009 the hospital was a Canadian base, and in fact command of Kandahar province was held by Canadian officers. Major Kincaid is a CANADIAN officer - different rules, just ask the people I know who are or have been in the Canadian military.

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Combat Hospital Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Rebecca: You were right. Nothing prepared me for this place.
Marks: What can I say. Welcome to Kandahar.

Rebecca: I know what a combat landing is. I read the manual.
Flight crew: Did the manual say many of our passengers throw up?