The Last Breakthrough

Reviewed by: Bridget

May 22, 2006

Rating: three-point-five

Chinese Title: "Teen Ngai Hap Yee" (translates to The Heroic Doctors of the World; comes much closer to describing the storyline than the English title)
# of episodes: 30
Theme song: sung by Raymond Lam

Nick Cheung Ka Fai as Wong Po Fun
Sonija Kwok Sin Lei as Hong Kiu
Raymond Lam Fung as Chai Bak Hang (Ken)
Leila Tong Ling as Ha Hiu Ching (Ching Ching)
Sharon Chan Man Zhi as Yoyo
Waise Lee as Jack
Kiki Sheung as Wong Po Hing (Helen)
Supporting Cast:
Bosco Wong Jung Jak as Tung Ji Sum
Andrew Lien Hoi as Hor Jing
Lam Suet as Fun’s mother
Lok Ying Kwan as KK
Mary Hon Ma Lei as Ken’s mother
Law Lan as Ken’s grandmother
Candy Lo Hao Yam as Siu Lam (sister to Jing)
Cameo appearance by Gigi Leung Wing Kei as Ha Hiu Tung

There are already several reviews on this site that summarize the plot, so I will concentrate on the actual analysis.

Evaluation of Cast and Characters

Nick Cheung / Fun
This character has one quality that is also a flaw (from the viewpoint of the hospital he works for): he will use any means necessary to save a life, and will save any life, even if the person is morally bankrupt or a social misfit. He is a wonderful character in that he is the embodiment of what a doctor is supposed to be: he will not discriminate against any potential patient, and he believes in healing not only the physical aspect of his patient, but helps them out with life’s problems as well. In this context, he is truly a selfless character. The best part: Fun wasn’t always like this. He was the typical super-ambitious and bright doctor until the death of his too-nice girlfriend, Hiu Tung. And this is what I find the most real about his character and why we can sympathize with him. In the love life department, though, Fun really isn’t that great. His passive-aggressive attitude towards Kiu in the series is pretty annoying.

Nick is one of those actors who you simply know doesn’t follow the script precisely. He cracks lines that smack of dry wit. Bobby Au-Yeung and Julian Cheung are two other actors who do this as well. Nick breathes life into Fun - he has great comic timing and yet still excels in dramatic scenes. He has much better chemistry with Gigi Leung than with Sonija Kwok… I’d say he has excellent chemistry with all members of the cast except for Sonija. Great performance.

Sonija Kwok / Kiu
Kiu is the most illogical character of the series, and possibly in recent TVB. She is a nurse, and yet is totally unfit to be one, as she cares more for her ill brother than her patients, even when she is on duty. She adores Fun, and yet when she gets a chance with him, she plays hard to get by making Fun woo her. Why does Fun have to be stuck with this woman? He deserved someone like Hiu Tung.

Sonija is the main reason I can’t stand Kiu. Close your eyes and Sonija might not be that bad. What I mean is, she has expression in her voice when she speaks, but once you open your eyes and watch her, you are confused. How does she emote while talking and yet her face is blank? It is simply beyond me. I see no effort, no passion, no spirit. Her ‘best’ performance remains the god-awful Angels of Mission, which didn’t require her to act at all. TVB: Please stop giving Sonija roles. Oh... how good it would be if Gigi Leung was Kiu instead and Sonija died off as Hiu Tung in the first episode. That's what we call wishful thinking, my friends.

Raymond Lam / Ken
Men, take note: Ken is the ideal man. He is exceptionally bright (supposedly a child prodigy who began medical school at the tender age of 15), ambitious, confident, good-looking, witty, and determined in all aspects of his life. If we forget the completely illogical ending where Ken ditches Ching Ching for a year, he is actually the most well-written character of the series and probably in recent TVB. And Raymond Lam brought him to life. He absolutely oozes charm in this role. You see shades of his Ben from Survivor’s Law in here, and yet Ken is such a different character. He has a temper when needed, displays a fiery determination and initiation in his love towards Ching Ching, and yet his moment of weakness when he discovers that he has cancer is very real. Also, I seriously wanted to hug him every time he rejected Yoyo's advances.

Raymond gives an absolutely winning performance as Ken. He’s come such a long way from the immature, restless Ha Tou he portrayed in A Taste of Love. Here, he has great chemistry with the entire cast, especially Nick Cheung and Waise Lee. A lovely and engaging performance. He also sounds wonderful singing the theme song and could probably give most Hong Kong teen-idol singers a run for their money. Only ballads though, Raymond sounds awful singing fast songs (i.e. Twin of Brothers).

Leila Tong / Ching Ching
Why that horrific hairstyle?! It ages Leila by a decade at least and she is almost ugly here, which is depressing because Leila is actually a pretty albeit baby-faced actress (she was beautiful in Twin of Brothers). But gah, that hair! Why why why?! Anyway, Ching Ching is not a particularly outstanding character and there is nothing outstanding about Leila's performance. I feel that she does better in minor and/or secondary roles, such as her adorable portrayal of Hor Yun's younger sister in Take My Word For It. She gives an average performance here, because she is missing that extra warm-hearted energy that I see in Ching Ching. However, her scenes with Nick Cheung and Raymond Lam were great. Was that a moustache I saw on her in some scenes? Wax, wax, wax, because it gets distracting.

Other Characters

So you thought Belle from Triumph of the Skies was annoying? Wait until you watch Sharon Chan in the role of Yoyo, who gives new meaning to the word annoying. She also gives new meaning to the words pathetic and desperate. I seriously wanted to kick her every time she appeared. I also wanted to force her body through a paper-shredder when she actually had the audacity to try blackmailing Ken into becoming her boyfriend if she underwent her operation. And her hair was also butt-ugly. On second thought, Sonija's hairstyle was ugly in here too. Someone fire TVB's hairstylist for this series please.

Andrew Lien was likeable as Jing and Bosco Wong was terrific in his secondary role as Tung Ji Sum. Gigi Leung is also surprisingly effective in her one-episode stint, and the older actors (Waise Lee, Kiki Sheung, etc) are dependable as well. All-around solid acting.

The Loot Bag

1. Lung Sing Clinic - TVB has always been a master at portraying bonds and friendships and Lung Sing is the epitome of this: one big happy 'family' with doctors and nurses working towards the same goal of helping patients at a lower-than-average cost.

2. Lifeforce - Kudos to TVB for giving us a series with a meaningful message through its portrayal of Lifeforce, an organization akin to Doctors Without Borders. Its scenes really make the audience appreciative of their superior material conditions and makes us realize that not everyone in the world is as lucky as we are. And that we need to help when we can. After the full-of-schemes War and Beauty, The Last Breakthrough reminds us that human compassion does indeed exist.

3. The cinematography - Breathtaking scenaries of Africa; arguably the best overseas scenes in recent TVB series.

The Barf Bag

1. Yoyo - Go away, you stupid girl. That's all I have to say.
2. Why is Helen the only female doctor here? We live in the 21st century!
3. Can't TVB come up with a better way of breaking up a couple than cancer?! Kiu with ovarian cancer and Ken with liver cancer... some creativity please?!

From the Grapevine

If you ever wonder where Raymond Lam gets his charm, watch an interview with him. I did while watching this series and in real life he is witty, friendly, and has a great sense of humour. And charming. So darn charming that I am surprised he doesn't use it to his advantage to chase after every skirt in TVB. His businessman dad is apparently filthy rich, but his family supports his acting career because in his words (jokingly), "I have a younger brother who can take care of the business".

Nick Cheung recently married former TVB actress Esther Kwan and they have a daughter together, while Sonija Kwok briefly dated Deric Wan while they were filming some unknown series. Gigi Leung's career originated in singing, and she dated singer-actor Ekin Cheng for several years before ending the relationship recently. And here's my story of a "celebrity" sighting - I saw Waise Lee at a Chinese restaurant a few years ago! Wooooohoo.

To Watch or Not to Watch, That is the Question

The relationships aren't particularly creative, but the doctor/Lifeforce premise is, so if you are a fan of the 'profession' series then give this a try. And Raymond Lam alone is worth your time!

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