So George Gently has MS

Hi folks,

My husband watched George Gently last night and it transpired that he has MS, I’m wondering how it will be treated and whether he will stay on as an inspector of police. After all the series is set in the 60s before DMD’s were available.

Wendy x

I haven’t watched the episode yet, and will catch it on iPlayer - so don’t spoil it for me.

But I’m also curious how he would have been diagnosed back then, as they didn’t have MRI either (to my knowledge).

Obviously, people did still get diagnosed before MRI technology - my great aunt was one of them. But if we think it’s hard to get a diagnosis today, imagine how hard it must have been back then, when they couldn’t do a scan, and say: “Yup, found it!”

My GP has even said: “Of course, in the past, you wouldn’t have been diagnosed” - which is probably true - at least unless I got a lot worse than I have been so far. But I’m not sure if that’s a comfort or not. In some ways, ignorance is bliss, but I would have lived for years (more than those I already have, I mean) feeling ill, but being told there wasn’t anything wrong.

MRI at least proved I wasn’t imagining things, but as I didn’t opt for treatment anyway, I’ve never been sure if the knowledge is a blessing or a curse. If nobody had told me it was anything to worry about, I might have carried on believing it wasn’t. I suppose if I eventually couldn’t walk at all (no way of knowing when or if that’s going to happen) I’d have had to accept it couldn’t be part of natural ageing, and there must be something else wrong. But if I stayed much as I am today, I’d just be left with he thought: “It’s a pity I’m not ageing very well.” - which is what I’d assumed (and been told) prior to diagnosis.

If a 70-year-old (though I assume he’s meant to be younger in the story) began to feel unwell in '69, would MS realistically have been suspected, or would it have been dismissed as age-related?



OK, I know, I know.

Thanks for not spoiling it!

I’m glad you found it convincing, though. TV dramas are often hard to swallow when it’s anything you’ve had direct experience of, and you end up shouting at the telly: “No, that wouldn’t happen like that!” Had to give up on the second series of Broadchurch for that reason, because having studied law, the liberties they took with how the legal system worked were just too ludicrous to accept, even with a bit of dramatic licence. Once part of it makes no sense, you lose faith in all of it.

I’ll be pleased if Gently isn’t like that.



George Gently looks like he has MS. I was diagnosed in 1973 and like him the diagnosis was on clinical symptoms; Evoked Potentials; LP and history only never had an MRI.

I’m sure Martin Shaw will give a good account but no one except us knows the real rigors. I can’t see it being MS though; perhaps CIS otherwise can’t see the entertainment.

I hope I’m wrong and thank the BBC for highlighting MS in a prominent programme

Thank you for your replies, I found it interesting and yes it if wasn’t for the MRI I would still be thinking it was too much stress as most other people thought it was, or a back problem, (a woman I met at an MS meeting had an unnecessary back op which turned out to be ms).

You are right in a way Tina, sometimes ignorance is bliss and I lived with lots of minor symptoms for years and they didn’t really bother me.

I would always wonder why I feel wobbly and fall over, it would probably have been put down to clumsiness as it was in the past and goodness knows how I’d deal with the nerve pain or the soles of my feet burning. Or ms hug that’s gripping me right now, Thank goodness I’ll never know.

I must say I am a fan of Martin Shaw sighhhhh

Wendy x

just watched it on i-player!

i kept saying “oh i did that too!”

memories eh?

I’ve just watched it too, but could not relate strongly to his symptoms, as I’ve never had ON, and didn’t have a noticeable issue with clumsiness or dropping things (I would say there’s been more of the latter over the years, but not in the early days).

Having said that, I realise that due to the extremely variable nature of the disease, they wouldn’t be able to pick symptoms everybody has, and those symptoms I did have, such as numbness, would be very difficult to show on film, unless you rather artificially inserted it into the dialogue, so the character told you what he or she was feeling.

On the whole, I thought they did it well, even though I never found myself saying: “Yes, it was just like that!”. Overall, I thought they went for “less is more”, so didn’t dwell overmuch on exact symptoms or diagnostic procedures (although we know he had an LP). I think the more detail they try to cram in, the more chance it won’t ring true to anyone in-the-know, so they left it at enough to understand what’s going on, without overdoing it.

Now they’ve started, though, they have to carry it on for another three episodes, so it will be interesting to see whether they show him as being largely OK, and choosing to keep quiet about it, or facing increasing difficulties, to the point he can’t keep quiet any more - and perhaps can’t keep his job.

It paves the way for a dramatic dilemma about whether he has to quit in the final episode, but if they give him RRMS, they can still leave it open for another series, as they can say he made a brilliant recovery! Crafty dramatic choice, to give the main character MS, as you can have it turn out however you like.



I was extremely moved by the revelation that George Gently has MS. It haunts me this morning. My father was a police man - a true and just man who stood for a morality in policing - so very GG. He was diagnosed late 60s ( see all the parallels mounting up!) - although had to make an appointment with a private doctor before finally being told what he had. And of course it was devastating. I remember him coming home from work totally deflated: he had read the report from his superior regarding his promotion to Deputy Commander ’ blah blah I would have no hesitation in recommending Ch Sup Sh------- if it wasn’t for his health issues.) and that was the kiss of death. He managed to get to minimum retirement by fulfilling a predominantly desk job dealing with police discipline.

So I await with interest to see how this plot line develops and is handled.

i also hope it has a positive affect in bringing MS to the fore front of general awareness.

How interesting! I haven’t seen G G for ages, but now I know about the MS, I will watch out. There must be a lot of differences from “treatment” then and now. I bet that this was just a case of resting.


Yes I quite agree with you Tina they have handled it well so far, it will be interesting to see how it pans out, oh and I never had ON either (unless you count me telling family that whilst sitting in the Blue Water shopping centre everything looked a bit weird and blurry and my husband saying something like “it’s all in your head” which technically it was of course).

Oh dear Paisley it must have been an awful shock for your dad and the family back in the 60s.

I am a fan of any work that Martin Shaw appears in), I loved Judge John Deed too but do agree with you Moira that treatments must have been very different then.

Don’t know where I’d be without the drugs to help me live with the everyday symptoms.

Wendy x