The Last Enemy, BBC1

by | Feb 17, 2008 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

A giant sloth of a thriller moving slowly towards nutrition but at such a ponderous pace that it’s in danger of losing grip and tumbling into the blanket of anonymous foliage beneath.

What was good about it?

• The quality of the acting is the life jacket that kept our interest in this opener afloat instead of drifting off and drowning in the depths of apathy.

• Benedict Cumberbatch starred as Stephen Ezard, a mathematical genius who returned to the UK after four years abroad isolating himself in China to attend the funeral of his brother Michael. As The Last Enemy is set in one of those apocryphal ‘near-future’ scenarios, Cumberbatch captured Ezard’s bewilderment at stepping back ashore a Britain very different from the one he left.

• The biggest alteration is the imminent launch of Total Information Awareness, which aggregates all the various databases about British citizens so that the powers that be know where they are and what they are doing 24 hours a day.

• Cumberbatch skilfully elicits Ezard’s half-hearted opposition to this new system by claiming he is apolitical, even when the company behind it offers to fund his mathematical research for the next three years. But, beguiled by the errant Yasim (his ‘dead’ brother’s widow) he agrees to help test TIA using it to track her down and her role in the disappearance of a dead woman who ostensibly died from a lethal illness.

• While all this may sound as exciting as Spooks, it only really came alive in the last ten minutes as Stephen tracked Yasim down only to stumble upon a double murder of a professor who was helping Yasim and his secretary by the shadowy David Russell (Robert Carlyle).

• Annamaria Manica as Yasim, who was compassionate towards her dying patient and dispassionate initially to the inquisitive Stephen.

• The music that, much like classic children’s TV series Bod, gives a flavour of what you can expect from each character. For example, David Russell was announced with an ominous but not overtly sinister fanfare,while the armed-to-the-teeth police squad had an industrial anthem to suggest their mechanical adherence to the government machine.

• The allusions to classic totalitarian parables such as 1984 and The Trial, were sparse and seemed to inspire the little bit of world we saw of The Last Enemy rather than simply be a vampiric derivative.

• As the plot strands coalesce into one coherent whole, it should become more addictive but if this was on ITV1 it would already have been pulled from next week’s schedule and replaced by fat British people sunbathing in Spanish villas while gossiping about celebrities and cosmetic surgery.

What was bad about it?

• Much of the first episode concerned Stephen investigating the circumstances of his brother Michael’s death in Afghanistan. He was told that his jeep drove over a land mine, but this was implausible for two reasons.

• Firstly, Max Beesley is too much of a ‘name’ actor to be relegated to a part that, from what we saw of him in this episode, could have been performed by an extra. And secondly, a beardless Michael appeared in the opening credits presaging an inevitable return later on in the series.

• The main flaw of The Last Enemy is that it is supposed to act as a cautionary tale of the near future largely through the launch of the TIA network. The drawback, however, is that the TIA system is rubbish. It needs Stephen to hunt down Yasim for the authorities led by Patrick Nye (David Harewood) to even sniff where their quarry might be despite the fact they’ve got a camera on every street corner. They are also unable to track down David Russell, no matter how imperious his reputation for covert assassinations. And the biggest error is that the information on TIA is wrong – Yasim’s passport had her date of birth in July 1984, but on TIA it was listed as January 1982.

• Very little actually happened, and while this may indicate a slow-burning plot, it was made to move all the more cumbersomely by extended scenes of someone using a database. Anyone who has watched other people using databases should know that they are the most soporific visual hazards known to man after the Brit Awards.

• And there was little hint of how British society had changed after the ‘Victoria Bombing’ other than armed police officers running aimlessly about like Stormtroopers on the Death Star and ID cards being a necessity but that didn’t seem to bother anybody. What’s more the Victoria Bombing killed 213 people, and while that is a terrible loss of life we’re sceptical that it’s atrocious enough for a fundamental shift in public perceptions of the terror threat or to quell their appetite for surly defiance of such cowardice (unless of course, The Daily Express/Talk Sport coalition won the general election, but this was unlikely as Yasim was Eastern European and she would have been executed in Dover under such a regime) to swallow the security measures that appear to have been put in place by the sitting administration.

• Stephen has just attended his brother’s funeral, and even though he doesn’t like him much is still in a state of grief, much like Yasim. So why do they hop into bed together with hardly a second’s thought or respect for the (presumed) dead? It was a glaring plot device to compel Stephen to get involved with the TIA to push it through legislative barriers in order that he could use it to track down the absent Yasim. But please don’t try and dupe us that his obsession was born of beautiful love, it stemmed from an ugly dramatic necessity.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

17/02/2008

Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!

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