The Second Coming

The Second Coming


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

What would happen if God loved us so much he sent his only son - again? It's an interesting question and one which Russell Davies uses his ambitious and thought-provoking screenplay to explore.

Steve Baxter (Christopher Eccleston) is just an ordinary bloke, a bit nerdy and not very bright, but ordinary nevertheless. His friends Peter (Ashen Bhatti), Judith (Lesley Sharp) and Fiona (Annabelle Apsion) are equally ordinary. So when, after an alcohol-fuelled snog with Judith, he disappears into the wilds of Saddleworth Moor for 40 days and 40 nights only to return to civilisation, where he is nearly hit by a car, everyone, including himself, is a bit confused. "Jesus!" exclaims the driver, who narrowly misses killing him. Oddly enough, he's right.

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Christ returning to earth initially sounds like a great idea but, through the characters of Steve's friends, Davies and director Adrian Shergold explore the many ways people can become affected, when faced with faith as a reality. Peter is a believer at heart, brought up a Christian; he doesn't question Steve's new abilities, particularly after he creates light out of darkness in a football stadium. Fiona is having a lot of trouble at home. She checks her husband's pockets every time he walks out the door and leads a brittle existence with her children. She is struck by total religious fervour even though she never really had faith before and her intensity is scary. Judith, meanwhile, is the ying to Steve's yang. She doesn't hold with religion and certainly doesn't hold with Steve being the Son of God. So, when he announces to the world that they have to write a third testament in five days, or face Armageddon, it is obviously going to take a lot to convince her to come along for the ride.

There is more plot to this drama than a field full of allotments and yet Davies never forgets to keep his characters real, helped by an incredibly strong cast, particularly Eccleston and Sharp, who make for compelling viewing. Steve may be Christ, but he is also an everyday bloke, tempted to use his newfound powers and occasionally in danger of letting pride come first. Not everyone is happy about a saviour appearing, either. These disaffected "devils" are lost souls, encouraging others to despair, headed up by the incredibly watchable Mark Benton, as Johnny Tyler, a terminal loser with an increasingly sinister edge.

Through the concept of time ticking down to Judgment Day, Shergold keeps the pace racing along and, although the series was shot for television, its production values are so high you would be forgiven for thinking that you are watching something produced for cinema. Davies doesn't skirt round the issues, but rather offers them up for debate. By cleverly intercutting actual newsreaders with the actors, Shergold achieves a documentary feel, which never dips into parody, although it is easy to see how, if less sensitively handled, it could have done.

There are a few problems, one of which Davies freely admits on the accompanying commentary. Basically, they cut a day out of the plot, which scarcely matters as it was originally shown over two nights on TV, but will probably become more obvious on a single DVD.

Originally, The Second Coming was scheduled to be made by Channel 4, but since its transformation into "the new Channel 5," it is scared of projects like this, which seems a huge shame.

It is a feather in ITV's cap that it was prepared to invest in such a fascinating and thought-provoking script, while managing to keep cliche under wraps. Let's hope it marks a second coming for serious television drama, too.

Reviewed on: 23 Mar 2003
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God sends his son back to earth to find a third testament for mankind before Armageddon strikes
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Director: Adrian Shergold

Writer: Russell T Davies

Starring: Christopher Eccleston, Lesley Sharp, Mark Benton, Ashen Bhatti, Annabelle Apsion, William Travis, Peter Wright, Rory Kinnear

Year: 2003

Runtime: 144 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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