What to say if you liked it
A chilling game show dramatisation of a national catastrophe that accurately portrayed fictional events as presided over by a bunch of realistic amateur megalomaniacs.
What to say if you disliked it
An alarmist fantasy that callously cashed in on public insecurities over implausible disasters, the possibility of which are often exacerbated by irresponsible journalism.
What was good about it?
• The three “ministers” represented three distinct areas of human nature – the gruff northerner who would shoot civilians without a thought, the procrastinating blonde who cared too much for the media perspective, and the pompous philosopher who believed that thousands dying from a plague was preferable to shooting a few to contain the outbreak as this would assuage his guilt over the whole affair.
• The stark choices that the ministers were faced with didn’t enable them to shirk morally questionable choices such as condemning the patients in the infected hospital to death by quarantining it.
What was bad about it?
• The self-appointed intellectual minister (imagine Anthony H Wilson pontificating about human life in the same haughty manner he reserves for music) perfectly demonstrated why philosophy and government are incompatible by persistently obstructing the practical options favoured by the other ministers.
• Amanda Platell, one of the advisors, kept appearing like a recurring morality beacon imploring the ministers to consider the human cost of their actions when in every case her pleas were the incorrect choice.
• The choices offered to the ministers were too basic, and left little room for innovative thinking on the ministers’ part. And each time they queried the chance of doing something outside the narrow parameters, the ministers were told to hurry up and choose one of the options.
• With reports from BBC hacks, such as Sophie Raworth, it sometimes appeared to be little more than a big-budget corporation training exercise for a national cataclysm.
The advisors often sought to influence the ministers through vague disinformation, such as when the scientists discovered the virus was genetically different to what they had seen before and there were mutterings of Soviet experiments on germs.
• The scoring was rigid and immoral. The ministers handled six dilemmas right and two wrong. Sophie Raworth then popped up to say that 17 people died in the plague outbreak (perhaps including the four shot by police) as if to present some kind of points tally for the team in human life, which was a little sordid.
• After the show ended the audience were offered help if they “had been affected by the contents of this programme”, which is mediaspeak for trying to justify a cheap sensationalist ratings ploy as an educational necessity, like soaps do when they feature mass murderers.