The Water Board
There was something perversely comforting about the clocks going back, even if it means the nights now start drawing in and the weather on Sunday, with its leaden skies gave a sterling indication of what’s in store in the months to come. Summer, after all, appeared to be over long before the time change. The suddenly empty flowerbeds in St John’s Wood Church Gardens, previously awash with bright colour, were evidence that it was time for change.
Autumn always seems a good time to take a breath and pause, however briefly, before we hurtle towards year’s end and before everything gets draped in the sickeningly shiny festive accoutrements. In that brief moment, if we pay enough attention, nature burns around us in russets and burnished golds beneath the blazing sunsets. Of course I’d probably have change my tune if I’d come back home sodden and chilled to the bone that has been falling this evening.
Of course the largest benefit autumn brings is that, after the dry spell in the television summer schedules, finally licence fee money put to good use begins to appear on our screens. The shows proffered seem to be all the more remarkable in when compared to the seriously disappointing programming that has arrived in the US in the recent months. It kicked off in splendid style on Sunday evening with the adaptation of Dickens’ Little Dorrit, which was then followed the next night with the new series of Spooks.
When Spooks first appeared in early 2002 it was probably closer in tone to Yorkshire Television’s excellent spy drama The Sandbaggers. As it gradually evolved, by the fifth year the show was veering more towards 24 with bigger bangs and crashes and the odd bonkers plot. This certainly wasn’t a bad thing, and in most instances the episodes had such a breathless pace that they made other contemporary British dramas look like they were standing still.
With the drama returning for a seventh year, Spooks appears to have taken another leaf out of 24’s book by upping the ante in terms of torture. At some point in the new series a flashback with show Richard Armitage’s new character, Lucas North, being interrogated by his Russian captors. Rather than the simple feet in a bucket and electrodes to the genitals route, the sequence will involve waterboarding.
This process involves the detainee being placed on their back with their head lowered and a cloth placed over their airways that is gradually soaked with water. As the cloth becomes saturated it makes breathing impossible without inhaling the water impossible, simulating drowning. The technique is so barbaric that governments around the world actively condemn this method of torture, except in America.
Earlier this year during a congressional testimony, CIA director Michael Hayden, confirmed that the procedure on a trio of al-Qaeda suspects between 2002 and 2003. After Democratic senators demanded an investigation into where the interrogators had broken the law the US Attorney-General refused to define the practice as illegal torture. When Congress moved to outlaw its use they were vetoed by President Bush who claimed it was vital on the war in terror. So that puts the Bush Administration up there with the Spanish Inquisition and the Khmer Rouge as practitioners of waterboarding.
Not to trivialise something this horrific, but with the current furore over the continued boorish, brattish and vulgar behaviour of media goatboys Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand, if the BBC doesn’t finally terminate their contracts then this is what they should get a taste of in the bowels of Television Centre.