Nonsense. In this tale by Manchester-based writer Russell T Davies (Queer As Folk), the Son of God returns to Earth and lands in Manchester. He performs a couple of miracles, convinces the world that he’s genuine, and stays in Manchester, telling the human race that they’ve got to come up with the Third Testament in five days or face the Day of Judgement. In the end, the future of God, humanity and spiritual belief is resolved in the kitchen of a terraced house – in Manchester. Yeah, right.
The film’s dogged parochialism was mixed with bouts of global-scale ambition to produce something a bit like a final-year Film School project (“OK, so now he’s worshipped by the whole world, but he’s still living in the local police station because they said we can film there till the end of the week”). It had a script to match, with gems such as “The existence of God has destroyed us, so it stops, ‘cos I say so”. And although the acting was fairly well controlled at the start, it got a bit wild towards the end, especially Christopher Ecclestone’s boggle-eyed rendition of Son of God Stephen Baxter, which veered between the Fast Show’s Bobble-hat (“aren’t miracles great?”) and the Todd Carty school of silly expressions during the close-up scenes.
This might all have been forgivable if the drama had had anything to say, but it patently didn’t. Instead it conveniently cast Baxter as an unknowing Messiah who didn’t really understand the divinity that was being downloaded to his head, so couldn’t give much insight into it. It also interleaved irreverence, solemnity, symbolism and comically extant glinty-eyed devils so that, conveniently, you couldn’t pin down whether it was supposed to be literal or allegorical, serious or satirical, devout or sceptical. To a believer it was probably mildly blasphemous; to a non-believer it was simply cobblers.
ITV kept Monday’s part two under wraps, previewing only Sunday’s opener. We soon saw why, as it slid downhill from Sunday’s promise of Armageddon to an anti-climactic ending in that backstreet kitchen. Baxter’s almost-girlfriend Jude (Lesley Sharp) slept with him, then resisted the temptations of the Devil (aka the fat, glinty-eyed bloke she’d previously met through a dating agency), and decided that the Third Testament should take the form of her administering rat poison to the Messiah, so that God, the Devil and Religion could die once and for all, leaving the human race to at last grow up and fend for itself. It was, at last, an idea, but too little and much too late, after nearly three hours of largely meaningless tosh.
The Second Coming was basically a local-precinct buddies movie with a ludicrous premise – Trainspotting meets Linda Green, with dashes of Merseybeat, Roswell, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Ken Russell’s The Devils thrown in. Some might call that challenging eclecticism; others might call it “throw the bloody lot at them and they’ll never suss it out.” In fact it was easy to suss – it was a fake, vacuous fantasy posing as meaningful drama. After the recent Unconditional Love – another triumph of sensation over substance – it’s the kind of thing ITV1’s blockbuster slot is becoming known for.