Saved by a Stranger

Photograph: BBC
Rating 7.8
Streamer BBC iPlayer
Seasons 1
Episodes 4 x 60 mins

There’s a reason why videos of people reuniting are always plastered over socials – there’s just something completely gut-wrenching at watching folks get back together after time apart, no matter the reason. And this new series is tapping into our love of these stories, and documenting the reunions of people who are connected by one shared experience that has changed their lives forever.

Unsurprisingly, things get very emotional. Each episode takes on two stories – the first followed Emina who was looking for Doctor Savic, who helped her flee war-torn Sarajevo when she was just four years old, along with her mother and her sister Edina, who has Down’s syndrome. After multiple chats with people who had a loose connection to or knowledge of her, they are finally able to reunite with Dr Savic, who was as delighted to see them as they were her – it turns out, she had saved multiple children but this was the first time she’d heard from a family since.

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The second story concerned Karl, who was on one of the trains that got targeted in London’s 7/7 bombings – 26 people on board were killed, and he described how he lay there, feeling he would also die, when a woman held his hand and told him that they were going to live. Karl talks of the guilt he feels at surviving, and how his relief of getting out meant that he pushed back the woman who comforted him. But having lived through this experience in the dark, reuniting the pair is complex, and even when they find someone with a near identical story to his, they can’t be sure that this really is the woman he shared that moment with.

Anita Rani is the perfect host for this kind of show – she’s got that kind and gentle energy to her, helping her to have difficult conversations with people and further unpick their stories. And she also shows herself here to have a great journalistic sense, as she roots through archives to find these people, tracking down individuals who may have clues.

This series will no doubt bring people to tears, as it gives plenty of room for discussions on trauma, memory, and hope, and how one single event can change the course of someone’s life.

Saved by a Stranger has received only praise from the critics, with The Telegraph’s Anita Singh saying “It is a simple premise, but one that works. Rani is an empathetic host and a good interviewer.” In The Guardian, Rebecca Nicholson says the series “shows the best of human nature, often emerging from the ruins of the worst of it.” She continues: “Saved by a Stranger is profoundly affecting, in all sorts of ways. It demonstrates people at their very best, and shows we are capable of offering and accepting moments of kindness and humanity in unimaginably horrific situations.” And The Times’s Joe Clay says whilst watching, “The tears flowed on screen and on the nation’s sofas. Even in the darkest moments, humanity prevails.”

First shown April 2021.

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