Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cast Away

After all that malarkey last Friday week I figured it was best to put my feet up and have a relaxing couple of days, then just keep my head down and carry on with the minimum of distractions once Monday rolled around. Midweek I even made time to pick up some over–the–counter Diphemhydramine Hydrochloride to help counter the continued bout of insomnia that has taken root and made things interesting.

According to a label on the box I was made aware the sleeping tablets “may cause drowsiness”. Unfortunately, this turned out to be the result rather than a warning, leading to a pretty wretched night where I was still unable to sleep but too dozy to get anything productive done. Still, that didn’t stop me leaving the computer on, opening iPlayer and watching the next two episodes of Outcasts, which I had happily ignored during their initial transmission. This wasn’t because I felt I had been too harsh in my initial assessment and decided the drama deserved another chance, but simply that I was desperate to find something that would help me fall asleep.

I still didn’t find any of the characters engaging, which wasn’t much of a surprise, and couldn’t really give a damn about anyone or any thing. But it was worth watching such appalling nonsense, when there was nothing better to do, in light of reading Stephen Gallagher’s insightful evaluation of where the BBC’s attitude to recent science fiction drama has gone hopelessly wrong. Obviously a bit more thought in the preparation of Outcasts wouldn’t have gone amiss to bolster the inadequate scripts, but story aside, the inherent problem with each episode appears to be the lack of a decent budget, limiting the sets, locations and speaking parts, and too short a filming schedule.

I was having a chat with a pal last weekend, and the conversation eventually wound around to the sheer ludicrousness of Outcasts – and this was before it was revealed that one of the more idiotic characters had brought his music to the planet on vinyl of all things, and was acting as some sort of resident DJ. Regarding the lack of characters – or at least speaking roles – I mentioned to him that in the first episode, where the dull President and less than competent Head of Security seemed to be doing everything, it was akin to putting out yet another hospital drama but this time having the hospital administrator and a resident porter perform the surgeries.

On top of that was the general lack of cutaways or different set-ups in a particular scene to either include additional visual information to clue the audience in on the situation. Even though it wouldn’t solve the inherent problems, surely the insertion of a single shot of an armed member of the expeditionary force standing on a gantry atop the main gate, watching Jamie Bamber’s character enter the settlement, help to say a lot more about the living conditions of the colonists than the inconsistent blather than followed. At the very least, a few more set–ups would have helped create the requisite sense of urgency, rather than stick with the practice of plonking the camera down in one spot, have the actors say what they have to say, and end up with the all too familiar quite slow and occasionally tedious footage that blights far to many British dramas.

Even if a lack of both time and money helped account for Outcasts’ piss–poor presentation, rather than just laying the blame at bad writing, it’s too late now. I’ve seen far more than enough and as the ratings declined with each successive episode – starting out with 4.4 million viewers and ending this week’s fourth episode down to 2.2 million, where it was comprehensively trounced by both the final episode of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings on Channel Four and The 2011 Brit Awards, televised on ITV1 – apparently so has everyone else. So I suppose it came as no surprise that on Wednesday The Guardian reported that after next Monday’s fifth episode, Outcasts is being shunted to a late–night slot on Sunday evenings for the remainder of the eight–part run.

While it looks like Danny Cohen, BBC1’s new controller, don’t want the show stinking up the schedule on his watch, it’s typical that drama controller, Ben Stephenson, shrugs off making a bad call by declaring:

“BBC1 and BBC drama support creative risk. Sometimes this means that talented people make shows that don’t engage enough of the audience. I have so much respect for any writer who has the nerve and confidence to create their own original world and serve it up to an audience.”

Those are fine words indeed, but wouldn’t a well thought out, “original world” be far preferable to one slapped together by a bunch of jerry–builders? I suspect the simple–minded “loyal, core audience” little Ben goes on to talk about shouldn’t hold out for a second series, although it appears that Elisabeth Murdoch’s Shine Limited, which bought Kudos back in late 2006, is trying to interest daddy Rupert’s News Corp on staging a possible buyout. Smeared onto a Sky channel like some homemade dirty protest to the HBO back catalogue bulking out Sky Atlantic’s schedule, surely Outcasts would only prove that in terms of quality drama there are times when the US and UK really are oceans apart.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Perhaps the best thing I did on Friday was accidentally give my right kneecap a sharp whack against the column of storage boxes behind the desk because it took my mind off the ache behind my left shoulder blade that came from managing to snatch a few hours sleep on the sofa just before sunrise. That, in turn, had taken my mind off the nagging pain in my chest that I’d first become aware of in the early evening of the day before.

I’ve mentioned before that growing up in the Westcountry, particularly the years on the farms, we would only bother to seek any kind of medical attention if a limb had been torn off or a relatively vital organ coughed up. Anything less could either be patched up at home, treated with an asprin, or ignored and expected to be gone the next day, because running to the doctor with trivial ailments always seemed to be a waste of everyone’s time.

While there are the odd occasions when I find sitting for extended periods of time uncomfortable due to previously damaging my coccyx – although I’ve thankfully stopped suffering the incapacitating back pains that resulted from the same injury – and untreated ankle ligament damage put paid to any jogging, so far this kind of arrangement hasn’t turned out that badly. Of course if I had gotten the diagnosis and treatment for the kidney stone a lot sooner I would have saved myself the sort of pain that was so acute that I was physically tearing my hair out as I lay in bed, pleading for it to stop, but I guess you can’t get it right every time.

Compared to then this chest pain felt like a minor inconvenience. But having put up with it for around 24 hours, and after a bout of coughing had me doubled over, I figured it was best to call the local medical practice for advice before they closed for the weekend, especially since my GP now had me dropping by on a regular basis to check my blood pressure amongst other things. Part way through explaining the symptoms I was instructed to get up there as soon as I could. Once the on–call doctor pressed her stethoscope to first my chest then back, I realised I’d obviously resorted, unconsciously, to shallow breaths throughout the day – even when sparking up – and couldn’t take any of the deep breaths as instructed.

Optimistically, I’d left the flat with the computer, television and most of the lights on, expecting to be back in time for the second half of a repeat of The Crystal Maze on one of the more obscure digital channels. I’d also left my mobile phone by the computer keyboard, but I did have my Oyster card, so when she decided I needed to go to the hospital I asked which one so I’d know which bus to catch. Obviously there was more urgency required than leaving it in the hands of the 221 so while I waited in reception she made the call, even though there’s an ambulance station across the road that I could walk to, to grab a ride, and have a sneaky gasper on the way.

Before I could suggest the first part on that option a cute paramedic looking for someone with acute chest pains came barrelling into the practice, loaded down with her kit. Finding a free office, she sat me down and started laying out her instruments on the desk. Pulling up my tee-shirt, she eyed my chest and declared she’d have to shave it. With a flourish, she swept a disposable razor back and forth with the dexterity of Don Diego de la Vega, exposing the pink flesh covering my breastbone then began to attach the first of four Skintact pads that would encircle my heart. The remainder where pressed to my wrists and ankles, then I was wired up to her portable ECG machine.

It was only last month that I’d had my regular blood tests for cholesterol and diabetes and whatever else, and the results had been fine. The ECG results were inconclusive, even with one done for luck but my blood pressure was up and my temperature was at the low end of the high range. When the GP came in to study the read–outs an ambulance crew were hovering behind her so I was bustled off to their waiting ambulance. Heading to the hospital without the need for sirens, the driver was cut up by an articulated lorry on one of the main roundabouts. Meanwhile the paramedic sitting in the back with me finished filling out my details as I apologised for wasting their time if it turned out to be nothing.

Back in early 2009, when the pain from the then undiagnosed kidney stone became unbearable during the Spring Bank Holiday Monday, I’d phoned the A&E department to see if was worth coming in or whether, if they were overflowing of people blown up by barbecues, I should tough it out for another day. It was suggested I come the next day of I could wait. Never that keen on Friday nights out at the best of times, I was concerned I’d be processed through an A&E full of end of week revellers who had come a cropper from their revels. Instead I went straight through to admissions and was sent up to the Clinical Decision Unit, which was fortunate.

There I went through a repeat round of the same tests, the only difference being that I was surrounded by sick people in the CDU, and one of the blood samples was taken from my left index finger rather than my right. Then came another ECG, so it was good the Skintact pads had been left in place rather than ripped off and replaced. Then another attendant in a white smock, obviously looking for something to do, hooked me up to the blood pressure cuff again. After that someone more senior in a dark blue smock took me to a curtained–off cubicle and, while a person in the next bed along sounded like she was slowly being disembowelled, explained that they would have to wait until the X–ray to see whether I’d need to be kept in for the night or not.

Hopefully the answer would be not. But it took so long to get to the X–ray department, one floor down, that I wondered if it would still be night when the decision could be made. Because of course I couldn’t simply walk there myself and had to wait for a porter to sit me down and wheel me there in a wheelchair, and that took longer than any test. Perhaps it was a test to see whether I’d give up waiting, sign a release if necessary and head off home, whether my chest was about to explode or not.

After the X–ray I returned to the CDU ward and was left to wait for the results. When I’d first got there all the cubicles and most chairs had been taken. Pretty soon there was just me and an old man who looked like Dave Bowman before his final transformation into the Star Child. He lay on his bed, staring up as if he could see the black monolith floating above him, while I looked down at the floor, thinking that if that was me I’d want someone to drive a sharp blade between my ribs.

Eventually a doctor who looked younger than the youngest policeman came over and explained that they had checked both the ECG results and the X–ray and he couldn’t see anything serious. Had I lifted anything heavy? No. It might have been something that frivolous because they couldn’t see anything serious, so I was allowed to go. In fact he suggested that if I had a paracetamol at home I should pop one of those before bedtime.

Outside in the cold I sparked up and headed for the bus stop, luckily having enough on the Oyster to get me back home. Instead of paracetamol I managed to track down some codeine, which helped some, although the resulting fuzzy head meant that when I got to the front of the ATM queue here on the Broadway I pulled out the bunch of flat keys rather than my debit card. Before then I turned off the computer, television and the lights. So apparently my heart isn’t broken, which is news to me.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


Back in the summer of 2009, after Tony Garnett circulated an email accusing the BBC of stifling creativity, Ben Stephenson, Auntie’s drama commissioning controller, stuck his little head above the parapet and lobbed back a list of the various new dramas the Corporation would soon have on the screens to placate the critics and prove Garnett wrong. However tempting previews are you never can tell until you see the finished product. I have to admit to being suspicious of Steven Moffat and Mark Gattis’ update of Sherlock Holmes, which, when transmitted, turned out to be one of the best darned things on television. The same couldn’t be said for The Deep.

It was promoted as a drama set on board a submarine trapped beneath the Arctic ice floe, where a team of oceanographers, left with no power and limited oxygen, discover they are not alone. That suggested a whole lot of possibilities, none of them involving a bunch of idiots wasting their time bickering, which was pretty much what we got in the end. Instead of following in the footsteps of the likes of The Abyss and Ice Station Zebra with their claustrophobic angst, what surfaced was a bunch of nonsense that felt like it was influenced by the final couple seasons of Irwin Allen’s Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, which was not good.

Trying to think back to late last summer when it finally pitched up in the schedules, it’s difficult to come up with just one redeeming feature from all five episodes. Just as difficult is trying to think of the worst thing about the show because there’s so much to choose from. There was Minnie Driver, absolutely unconvincing as the captain of the submarine. She might have been the designer as well, in which case she needed to be punched hard in the face because this submersible, named Orpheus (oh, dear God!), made Skydiver seem utterly feasible. It had a moon pool for fucks sake! Then there was the oversized and utterly impractical bridge. And that was manned by, on the whole, a useless (but thankfully disposable) crew who looked like they should have been home revising for their A–levels rather than alternating between hissy fits and hysterics once they were submerged.

The bunch of imbeciles reminded me of the clowns running the Mars base in the Doctor Who episode The Waters of Mars who didn’t have a clue of what to do in a crisis. Oddly enough, one of the television channels was showing Mission to Mars on Sunday afternoon and I caught the last half of it. It’s not a brilliant film, but at least it showed that Brian de Palma might have finally gotten over his Hitchcock fixation. Because of a couple of unfortunate incidents, the crew of the second mission have to run through emergency protocols. They work against the clock, running through all kinds of procedures. Just because they know what to do in these situations it doesn’t mean that everything will go to plan. But what it shows is that the writers have done some proper research.

Yet when the BBC attempts to produce something that comes close to adult science fiction drama it’s happy to produce scripts that sets up a situation and then fritters it all away because the writer hasn’t either put in the research or given proper thought to both the environs and what the characters would actually do in those circumstances. So what it descends into is one faux drama after another. Think about that adaptation of The Day of the Triffids the Christmas before last where Bill Masen has to be rushed to a hospital because Triffoil, the company that farms the violent vegetation, apparently doesn’t bother to have any medical facilities on site. Obviously Masen needs to be in a London hospital so that he discovers the city deserted after the solar eruption, but the reason to get him there is thoughtless and unconvincing, which brings us to Outcasts.

A few clips had appeared in the montages squeezed in between the scheduled programmes to promote the new BBC dramas but they didn’t really show much, which was probably a good thing because are the weeks got closer to transmission the more the previews showed the less inspired Outcasts appeared. On the BBC TV blog, writer Ben Richards explained:

The inspiration behind Outcasts was the desire to tell a pioneer story, and the only place you can do that really now is in space. I wanted to explore second chances, most fundamentally whether humanity is genetically hardwired to make the same mistakes again and again.

That does sound like a pretty good idea to explore. And hopefully anyone interested in that sort of thing tuned in at 9:00pm this evening to watch the second episode of Battlestar Galactica on Sky Atlantic because it took the concept of humanity of making the same mistakes over again and created a work of real genius. As for Outcasts, I’m afraid the reviewer in The Times’ Playlist magazine from this week got it right when they wrote:

Not since Bonekickers has the BBC broadcast such an irredeemably awful series. Sometimes catastrophes on this scale can be enjoyed precisely because they are so dismal, but this one has a kind of grinding badness that defies enjoyment of any kind.

The first episode actually put me to sleep – which is not a good sign – so I had to catch it again on iPlayer. Unlike a new medical or crime drama, science fiction needs not just new characters and situations but a credible environment for the story to play out in. Outcasts told me very little and made me question a whole lot more, simply because nothing seemed to have been thought out. When it came to that early money shot of the Forthaven settlement, my initial question was, where’s the bloody river? Surely fresh water for drinking and to aid sanitation would be a priority to help keep the occupants healthy, along with nutrient–rich arable land. And a nearby forest would be good for lumber.

Finding out that the planet is only being explored by members of the expeditionary force – on foot, no less – it made me wonder why, with no ground transport, there was such a bloody big gate at the settlement. And since they obviously haven’t covered much ground shouldn’t there be some kind of fortification against either an unseen indigenous life form or a carnivorous animal species? And why wasn’t this sort of analysis conducted from orbit when they first arrived, because otherwise it just seems like they plonked themselves down at the first place they landed. And how come the newly arrived settlers in the second ship haven’t spent their five–year journey in some kind of suspended animation, thereby cutting down on the massive amount of supplies needed to sustain them for the trip? Instead they’ve been stuck inside, making babies, which eats into their limited resources even more.

Wouldn’t this have been figured into the back story for the show, especially when it apparently spent three whole years in development?! Because without any rational thought applied all we end up with is inconsequential action and a load of blather rather than proper drama for characters in such a situation. The programme makers obviously want to hold information back to add to the (tedious) mysteries revolving around the colonization, but some sensible details upfront wouldn’t have gone amiss to stop making it appear so bloody amateurish. Maybe they should have watched Battlestar Galactica first, which brought up the issues of how much food, water and fuel the fleet would need and then wove their procurement into the ongoing narrative. Firefly and especially Serenity would have also been worth looking at too.

In the case of the latter, within the first few scenes we get a flashback to River Tam at school where the teacher briefly explains the mass exodus from Earth. Once that’s set up, establishing the circumstances for the audience, we get on with the story. In Outcasts’ first episode, in a similar scene, which would have been the prime time to clue the viewers in, the teacher only tells her class that the key was finding a planet in the “Goldilocks Zone” – one that is “just right” to support human life. Yeah, we got that already. The earlier shots of clear blue skies and reasonably verdant countryside pretty much gave that away, you muppet!

It hadn’t surprised me that the teacher was rubbish because by that point it was already apparent that almost all the people sent out to the new planet seemed to be utterly useless at their jobs, especially members of the security detail who have handed in their guns following new regulations that everyone else blithely ignores. When we’re told that one of the achievements of Hoban, the militant member of the expeditionary force, is that he was the first person to set out and find water, you can only surmise that they’re even more moronic than the morons from the recent remake of Survivors.

In fact just before nodding off I wondered if this was a big joke and we’d eventually discover that all the colonists had arrived on Ship B of the Golgafrinchan Ark Fleet having previously been employed as insurance salesmen, hairdressers, telephone sanitizers and account executives. When I eventually saw the remainder of the episode I was rather disappointed that the ineffectual captain of the second ship wasn’t sitting in the bath saying how much he was looking forward to a nice gin and tonic. When I saw what I’d missed, all I discovered was that they’d killed off the only character with any depth, played by the only actor putting some effort into their role.

Still, I thought I’d give the second episode a go, not because there might be a modicum of improvement but because there might be an explanation as to why the transport’s lifeboats were called Sub–Shuttles. Instead we heard there had been an uprising in Shanghai, when I’m sure previously someone said the city had been previously nuked. Maybe a gigantic swarm of twelve–foot piranha bees got them. And then Outcasts’ version of the Others turned up. I think they were supposed to be clones but by that point I was trying to figure out 29 Across and frankly couldn’t care about what was dawdling along on the television screen.

With every bit of action undermined by the moronic dialogue, the attempts at drama were frankly underwhelming for the set up and came across as something that could just have easily been played out in a soap opera with characters arguing over their market stalls. By the time I have up, Outcasts just felt like a suit that had come from a tailor who hadn’t got the measurements right. Still, it was nice to see Auntie continue its recent tradition of producing a massive cauldron of shit whenever it attempts adult SF drama. All that should be said of Outcasts is “No, say we all!”

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

After The Flood, The Dud

Nearing the end of January, the bout of insomnia that looked like it was going to see me through the whole of 2011 thankfully abated. I’d grabbed an appointment with my GP to see if I could score some barbiturates but she’d only sent me back home with a sympathetic smile and a leaflet on muscle relaxation and breathing exercises to help aid sleep. In the end it was probably exhaustion that proved to be the eventual cure, but that said I haven’t wholly managed to fall back into a pattern of a good night’s sleep every night.

Whereas before I would carry on writing at the computer, these odd few nights, while I may type in a few notes or continue with my research, I usually spend the time catching up with the television programmes I’ve missed during the past week. Last night, still up and pacing, unable to sleep, I settled down to give the documentary Dambusters Declassified another go. Stuck into BBC One’s schedule in the early hours of the morning, it had first been shown last year at the tail end of the celebrations commemorating the glorious Spitfire Summer of 1940.

Back then I’d tried watching it, first during its initial broadcast and then a couple of times while it languished on iPlayer, but each attempt came to naught. My main frustration had been that rather than being a fully factual piece, which shouldn’t be too much to ask for, Dambusters Declassified was another useless celebrity–centric documentary. Obviously this happens more and more now, and both the BBC and ITV decided their run of programmes paying tribute to the young pilots of the Battle of Britain required Ewan McGregor and David Jason fannying around in Spitfires rather than hearing from any surviving pilots of the day themselves. In this instance, the look back at Operation Chastise was hosted by a dour Martin Shaw, which made it even worse.

Purporting to take a fresh look at 617 Squadron’s attempt to breach the dams in the Rhur Valley using Barnes Wallis’ revolutionary bouncing bombs, Dambusters Declassified hadn’t helped itself from the outset by telling viewers that Michael Anderson’s classic film The Dam Busters, starring Richard Todd and Michael Redgrave, and made when much of the information regarding the development of the Upkeep was still classified, actually took dramatic license with the truth. Even before it got to Shaw, a pilot himself, navigating the flight path taken by the first wave of Avro Lancasters from their base at RAF Scampton, north of Lincoln, across the North Sea to the Netherlands and then on to Germany, that pretty much did it for me the first time around.

Why I carried on watching this time around I’m not sure. maybe it was because this time around the documentary was signed and, as Shaw went on and on about himself I was hoping that the signer would give up translating his worthless blather, curl her fingers into a loose fist and shake her hand from side to side as he prattled on. Back in May of last year, months before that first transmission of Dambusters Declassified, I’d written about interviewing members of the Directorate of Corporate Communication (RAF) and how they would go about assisting film and television projects if they thought the material was worthwhile. At the time they had been working with Tigress Productions to make the excellent two-part documentary The Dambusters, which took a number of NCO air–crew and officers and had them recreate the raid on a specially created flight simulator to show how bloody difficult it had been.

During that interview, Marcia Nash, who at the time oversaw the television side of the department, admitted they were wary of programmes about the exploits of 617, especially when some proposals had come in that suggested they were aiming to be uncomplimentary about the leader of the squadron. “Wing Commander Guy Gibson was a colourful character and had some flaws as everybody does. And in order to preserve his memory it wasn’t in our interest that they do a character assassination.” And surprise, surprise, one of the points raised by Shaw was that Gibson, rather than being like Richard Todd’s portrayal in the film, was a bit of a stuffed shirt who, after a brief failed marriage, sought solace in the arms of another woman. Would the DCC (RAF) have helped with Dambusters Declassified? I doubt it.

Hagiographies make me want to choke on my own vomit, but when it comes to someone like Guy Gibson, they deserve to be honoured with all “sins” pretty much forgiven. Here’s the thing to remember: When Gibson took off from RAF Scampton at 9:39pm on the night of 16 May, 1943, flying AJ–G “George” in the first wave of Lancaster bombers, he had already flown over 170 missions. After flying for over three hours at night, at a height of 100 feet, when he reached the Möhne dam Gibson made a dummy pass first, which enable the sentry gunners a chance to get ready for his attack run, before dropping to 60 feet so that Pilot Officer Frederick Spafford, his bomb aimer, could release the Upkeep. After the second Lancaster, AJ–M “Mother”, piloted by Flight Lieutenant John Hopgood took a hammering from the defences and ultimately went down in flames, Gibson flew in ahead of the third and fourth bombers in an attempt to draw the flak away, going so far as to turn on his navigation lights when it was the turn of Squadron Leader Henry “Dingy” Young flying AJ–A “Apple”.

Once the Möhne dam was destroyed, finished off by the Upkeep released from AJ–J “Johnny”, piloted by Flight Lieutenant David Maltby, rather than head back with the Lancasters that had released their bombs, Gibson headed further into Germany with Young to oversee the attack on the Eder dam, Though unguarded the terrain, with a difficult dogleg approach and a perilous exit due to high ground on the dry side of the dam, gave the pilots little more than a few seconds to line their aircraft up for the attack run. Gibson co–ordinated the attack and it was only after the Eder was successfully breached by AJ–N “Nut”, flown by Pilot Officer Leslie Knight, that he ordered what remained of the squadron home, landing AJ–G “George” back at Scampton just over six–and–a–half hours after taking off. In recognition of his valour and leadership, Gibson would be awarded the Victoria Cross by King George VI, “in recognition of most conspicuous bravery”. He was three months shy of his 24th birthday.

So when someone of that calibre is being criticized for his behaviour by a jumped up little actor, remembered by a generation for having the most awful bubble perm while he ran about firing a pretend Luger, my repeated response to the television was, “Fuck you, you cunty cunt!” at every claim made. Rude, I know, but right all the same. Having said that, by sitting through the whole programme I did learn that Flight Sergeant James Fraser, the bomb aimer of AJ-M “Mother”, who had managed to bail out after Flight Lieutenant Hopgood flew the crippled Lancaster to a height that his crew could safely parachute from, eventually broke during interrogation, revealing plans of the raid; that the Germans had discovered a virtually intact 9,250 pound Upkeep amongst the wreckage of one of the bombers shot down and went on to develop their own rocket-assisted version; that Churchill, expecting a retaliatory attack, had special defences set up around Derwent Reservoir in Derbyshire, which had been one of the practise grounds for the aircrews of 617 Squadron; and that bombing a dam is now illegal under the Geneva Convention because of the loss of life it can cause to the civilian population.

Unfortunately, rather than going into any real detail, this information was brought up and then quickly tossed aside so that time could be wasted as Shaw got into a twin–prop and showed that he could hardly navigate his way out of a paper bag. The programme makers had got special dispensation from the British and Dutch governments to fly at 100 feet over the countryside and coast just to show how bloody scary it is during the day time let alone at night. In fact Pilot Officer Geoffrey Rice, flying AJ–H “Harry” in the second wave of bombers, lost his Upkeep after clipping the North Sea and had to return to base. When Shaw and his pilot eventually got to the Möhne dam they flew over at regulation height, not even lining up on the towers because that would probably be frown upon, making the whole venture pretty pointless. I think Shaw then burbled on about war being bad and the bombers crews being very courageous but by then I was alternating between feeling the need to sleep and losing the will the live.

It all ended with Shaw flying in one of the two remaining Lancasters still in service, and taking part in last year’s Battle of Britain fly–past celebration, proving that in the end the whole show was just one big jolly for the actor, while the audience got the short shrift. If the programme makers wanted to do something different why didn’t they cover the further operations of 617 Squadron that gained them a reputation for accurate night–bombing, whether it was using the 12,000lb High–Capacity bombs on the Dortmund–Ems canal, the part the bombers played in Operation Taxable as part of D-Day, the three attacks on the Tirpitz, or their last operation, attacking the Eagle’s Nest at Berchtesgaden.

Eventually I went to bed wondering if we’ll see something like that in the future. Instead I suspect it’s more likely we’ll be watching Barney the Dinosaur present new evidence on the Big Bang. I haven’t seen next week’s listings yet. Maybe that’s what next Tuesday night has in store for me.