Robert (Rory Kinnear) is a surgeon in Victorian London - an era when surgeons were the rockstars of their day.
Robert is a domineering, showman surgeon - a rock star of his age - who is almost as brilliant as he thinks he is. He can pack out an operating theatre and take off a leg in 92 seconds. But after a botched amputation, Robert is put under pressure by the royal physician, Dr Hendrick. So John, a drug-addled dentist who is trying to create the world's first anaesthetic, convinces Robert to use potentially lethal ether in a prestigious and pioneering operation.
Meanwhile, Caroline, Robert's headstrong wife, finds herself frustrated with her lot as a housewife and seeks help from Robert's friend William - a kind but anxious alienist - an early psychiatrist - who understands her better than her own husband does. He wants to help her with phrenology treatment, but that involves touching her on an intimate area - her head. The lines are blurred when it becomes clear Caroline wants more than just psychiatry from William, and he finds himself torn between being a friend to Robert and a doctor to Caroline.