I haven’t watched a k-drama since high school, and there are many reasons why, one being the notorious love triangle plot line. So when I came across a medical drama called Doctor Stranger, I thought k-dramas were finally mixing it up and I thought I would give it a chance. I somehow managed to finish all 20 one-hour long episodes, but I felt like it was unnecessarily dragged on and the ending was lackluster.
Doctor Stranger is about a South Korean, Park Hoon, who was kidnapped as a child and brought to North Korea with his father who is a cardio surgeon. He follows in his father’s footsteps and becomes a doctor as well. Hoon manages to return to South Korea and works at a prestigious hospital for the sole purpose of earning enough money to rescue his girlfriend from North Korea. However, there is one doctor at this prestigious hospital who looks exactly like Hoon’s girlfriend; thus, drama, confusion, and a love triangle plot (or should I say square?) ensues.
I think the actors are brilliant. I cannot deny the embodiment of charm that is Lee Jong-suk who plays Park Hoon. Park Hae-jin who plays Han Jae-joon has these subtle expressions that speak louder than his dialog. There is something about his eyes that are very alluring as well. Kang So-ra, who plays Oh Soo-hyun, makes me sympathize with her character a lot, especially halfway through the series. I think she manages to create a realistic chemistry between both male leads. [SPOILER]I was rooting for Soo-hyun and Hoon because they seemed to get along so well with their friendly banter. Heck, he got rid of his perm after she suggested it. Doesn’t that mean anything?![/SPOILER]. However, I have to criticize Jin Se-yeon who plays Han Seung-hee/Song Jae-hee. Don’t get me wrong, her smile is absolutely stunning, but the only expressions she can successfully convey are either perturbed or happy, otherwise she’s stiff.
As mentioned before, the plot could have been condensed. I felt the direction was all over the place, like the director didn’t know whether to focus on the core storyline or diverge into romance or comedy and add lots of filler. This is evident in middle of the series as there were some episodes that solely focused on forcing a love triangle to develop. As a result, Hoon and Jae-hee’s relationship remains static throughout the series, and, in my opinion, boring. Some scenes unnecessarily dragged on. At one point—okay several points—I was so disgruntled that I yelled at my screen to get a move on (I would have fast forwarded but the buffer time was awful so I had to endure). Towards the end of the series, it became a bit unbearable. The pacing was very off and the characters—both main and supporting—were tossed around as if “oh hey, let’s take this guy out because he is useless even though we spent a quarter of the series explaining his backstory, whateves.” “Let’s just focus on these three people and forget the existences of others.” What.
There could have been improvements to the storyline. SPOILER AHEAD: [SPOILER] I would have liked it if Jae-hee did die in the beginning, and they got some North Korean spy named Seung-hee to go under the knife to look exactly like Jae-hee. She attempts to trick Hoon but ends up falling in love with him. If they had kept to the storyline, then I would have liked to see more backstory to Jae-hee and how she came to be. Her taking the North Korean general’s hand means nothing to me!! I mean she can kick butt, but how did she get there?! Speaking of which, can Hoon learn to lock his door and carry some sort of defensive weapon with him at all times?? You’d think that he’d learn after Budapest but I guess not. I would have liked to see more surgery collaboration between Hoon and Jae-joon because two of the top cardio surgeons working together might have helped their character development. I would have preferred Chang-yi not ending up with the playboy intern because she worked loads of jobs to pay off her mother’s hospital bills, and it’s great to see a hardworking female character. I don’t like how she’s reduced to some trophy the playboy intern won or something… that’s the feeling I’m getting.[/SPOILER].
Aside from Jae-joon, I don’t know if I can say there was any character development. I felt like the characters try to progress and develop, only to regress. “WHYYY,” I yelled at my screen.
One thing I absolutely like about Doctor Stranger is the cinematography, especially the lighting and color scheme of the setting/scene. I also really like the OST. The music is beautiful and perfectly sets the pace and mood. My favorite is Bobby Kim’s Stranger.
Another aspect I like about this drama is that it defines terms, often medical, on the bottom left, and it would sometimes have supporting characters further explain certain procedures to help the audience understand what is or going to happen. Who says watching dramas isn’t educational?
I think if you’re into medical dramas, maybe you can give Doctor Stranger a chance, but don’t expect a lot. Doctor Stranger showed a lot of promise and despite a decent cast, I was a bit disappointed with the plot. If it were shorter and had a clearer direction, I would probably be raving.