What to say of you liked it
A chilling succession of scenarios of how the world might be cast into devastating destruction, or even utter annihilation.
What to say of you didn’t like it
A scaremongering checklist of ways to wilfully terrify the public with ludicrously lame catastrophes. Tony Blair was no doubt an avid viewer, and next week will be pontificating on the Tories’ poor record on comets and the Lib Dems’ willingness to let asylum flu bugs into the country to wreak havoc.
What was good about it?
• The repetitious Groundhog Day-esque scenario of Dr Howell’s journey from his London flat to take a flight to New York to conduct a controversial, and potentially earth shattering, experiment called the TBM. Each time his quest was diverted by a different disaster such as a tsunami, a supervolcano, a superbug or a comet so that it comically resembled Wile E Coyote being thwarted in his importuning efforts to snare Roadrunner.
• Some of the special effects, such as the La Palma tsunami wave swamping New York office buildings, were very effective.
• Many of the tall stories were at least accompanied by genuine scientific evidence on how the disaster may unfold, or how it transpired on occasions when it has occurred before.
• The viewers’ credulity wasn’t stretched to the elastic limit of awarding veracity to the visions of Nostradamus or that Irish priest who has apparently predicted the pope after next will be Satan – obviously errant tripe unless George W Bush converts to Catholicism. Or the bizarre rumour we once heard about a wine press in Moldova being able to destroy the universe (admittedly we may have been drunk).
What was bad about it?
• Some of the imagery was a little melodramatic such as the huge cruise ship swept two miles inland by the tsunami while the population looked on from the rooftops and some unscrupulous salesmen staked out the site as a tourist attraction (maybe).
• We’re sure we’ve mentioned this recently, but while all these cataclysms are possible, they have also been possible for any period of time in the existence of
humanity and to start worrying about them now (as the programme definitely encouraged) is a little pointless. It all seems to be rooted in the media’s cold turkey caused by the end of the Cold War. Before 1989, it was easy to luxuriate in heroin highs of the very real threat of nuclear Armageddon, but since then there has only been the dull, cheap methadone substitute of imagined calamities like these dredged up from the past and extrapolated to the near future.
• The way in which each catastrophe was played out partly through the microcosmic eyes of a normal person was akin to those dreadful TV movies about a potential
plane crash (Terror At 40000 Feet etc) where you are introduced to the cipher passengers with a hint of their character which will define them for the rest of the movie (“Hi, I’m Bill and this is my new wife Kim. She’s nine months pregnant but we’re returning to New York as I want him to be the president one day”).
• To properly terrify the viewer, they must first care about the people in the story like in When the North Wind Blows. When the world was sucked into the black hole caused by the abortive TBM experiment, the obliteration came as a blessed relief.
• At the conclusion of each section, the scientists would chant Tony Blair’s favourite mantra of “It’s not if, but when”, which had the effect of immediately neutering their views.
• The way the scientists sought to revise history to make their apparent fantasies about future disasters even more doom-laden such as the boffin who claimed that the previous estimates of the post-World War One flu bug of 20 million deaths were “too low” and was nearer “50 million”.
• All the tragedies happened in the Western world – the comet hit Berlin, the supervolcano was in Wyoming, the superbug afflicted London, while the tsunami and the TBM experiment destroyed New York – all of which trivialised the recent tsunami in South East Asia as if to say the deaths of 200,000 people wasn’t big enough to be included in this catalogue of calamity.
• It’s only a month since Supervolcano and we’ve yet another docu-drama about the Yellowstone Park behemoth. This supervolcano is such a publicity whore expect it to turn up in Hell’s Kitchen and watch as Gary Rhodes and Jean-Christophe Novelli serve meals on time to prevent it blowing its top. Now that would be a real Hell’s Kitchen.
• And even more incredible were the BBC News reports, which littered the drama like dead tramps, reporting that the majority of visitors to the Yellowstone Park were unaware of the supervolcano.
• The possibility the world will end because television viewers would be numbed to a state of permanent inertia through abysmal scaremongering dramas was omitted.