Telly Checked*: Paradox

Posted on December 16, 2009 by

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To the Batmobile!

Imagine that you fall asleep with your computer on. It’s not hard, I do it all the time. In fact, my laptop is hardly ever switched off at all. Now imagine that when you wake up the following morning, a number of images have been mysteriously downloaded on to your computer from nowhere. The images show pieces of a future event, something terrible that is yet to happen. What would you do about it? How many of you would simply dismiss them as spam and delete them? I probably would.

This is the premise of BBC One’s shiny new drama/thriller Paradox. Pictures arrive out of nowhere on to the computer systems of creepy astrophysicist Dr. Christian King, (Emun Elliott) who is busy monitoring solar flares. He calls in the police, who send DI Rebecca Flint (Tamzin Outhwaite) to investigate. The two share a spot of Hannibal Lecturing before DI Flint takes up the case with her team.

Paradox is now on it’s fourth episode, each one taking place on consecutive days, coinciding with the solar flares. Thus far, it’s proven to be engaging, well-written, and genuinely tense. I started watching it expecting something between Torchwood and House, which is pretty reasonable description, although it doesn’t do Paradox justice. Paradox is one of those rare shows that completely subverts audience expectations at exactly the same time as is plays them out.

For example, at the climax of the first episode, the team fail to save the day. People die. Children die. It was, to me, honestly shocking. I wasn’t expecting it. I never saw it coming. I’m serious here. When you come away from the first episode, you’re gripped. There are so many questions; who is sending the photos? And, if the future can’t be changed, to what end are they sending them?

In the second episode, one of the pictures shows you a member of the team dead. Based on the what happened last time, you now assume that is what will happen. This is further bolstered by the new idea of context. Another person is shown dead- drowned- in the same set of photos, but is saved, getting resuscitated at the last minute. The photo showed him dead and, for a brief while, he was. You now have the further expectation that because the team has cheated fate and saved someone, that team member will die. They don’t. I didn’t see it coming. It flaunted the rules! Suddenly you can change the future! This is brilliant! For the first time in years, a show has come along that is keeping jaded old me on my toes!

One  criticism I do have however, is the way the Police characters are all firm believers in God. It’s not jarring that they do, it’s Jarring that they are the sort of believers who genuinely seem to think the world was made in seven days and there’s an actual God living in the sky. They think he’s sending the pictures. Maybe he is, who knows? (Hopefully, the writers) You’d expect at least one of them to be Agnostic. This means that the Ironically named Christian King is the token Atheist, and in my opinion, only sane character. He also the only one to get any significant character development, which is fine because he’s by far the most interesting character in it. Nearly everyone else is a cliché dropped in to serve their role and keep the plot moving.

This is quality TV. It’s one of the few Television programmes to genuinely be worthy of the title ‘thriller’. If you haven’t been keeping up with it, (and because there is absolutely nothing else on telly on a Tuesday evening, shame on you) I highly recommend you get on to iPlayer and catch up. Thus far, it’s the best thing that’s been on all year. Better (so far) than the Doctor Who specials, which have been a touch hit and miss, and at least as captivating as Series 6 of House. That said, I seriously hope Paradox only lasts one series, two at the most. Something this good shouldn’t be serialised and dragged out like Lost for the next five years. It should, along with the upcoming BBC adaption of Day of the Triffids, Doctor Who, House and The Wire, go down as the best television drama of this decade.

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