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CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Brian gets spaced out, but it’s a bit of a black hole 

Universe (BBC 2) 

Rating:

Police: Hour Of Duty (C5)

Rating:

Professor Brian Cox, with his aviator sunglasses and impeccably conditioned hair, is the coolest vicar on the planet.

He invoked the language of the King James Bible on his interstellar documentary series Universe (BBC2), to recount what he called ‘surely the greatest story ever told’ — the creation of everything.

‘Out of the maelstrom, the first gods emerged, and there was light,’ he declaimed in a breathy whisper. Swirling images of throbbing galaxies glowed like stained glass, to a soundtrack of swelling electronic choirs and growling church organs.

For nearly 20 years, with his BBC shows, Father Brian has been promoting science as a religion for the 21st century. This was his most blatant evangelism yet. 

Describing stars as deities, he said: ‘We don’t need to invent imaginary gods to explain the universe. We can replace them with the real thing.’

Professor Brian Cox (pictured) invoked the language of the King James Bible on his interstellar documentary series Universe, to recount the creation of everything

Professor Brian Cox (pictured) invoked the language of the King James Bible on his interstellar documentary series Universe, to recount the creation of everything

No TV channel would dare preach Christianity with a fraction of the fervour that Cox devotes to science. 

On primetime telly, Christians are often depicted as bigots and weirdos — such as the menacing Martin Shaw and his brethren in the crime drama The Long Call.

But science is a religion without morality. 

‘Life is just chemistry,’ Brian declared blithely, refusing to confess that some viewers might believe it’s something rather more than ‘just’ that. 

Nor does he acknowledge that Christianity, Islam, Judaism and the world’s other major religions have supplied the framework for all civilisation.

Amoral science, on the other hand, in the space of 200 years has produced nuclear weapons, mass extinctions and a climate crisis.

Father Brian would never admit this. Zealous priests don’t question their calling.

Much of his sermon was vague poetry. He talked of ‘the cosmic web’ and ‘interlocking filaments of dark matter’ that formed ‘the scaffolding of the universe’.

There was little lovely on show in Police: Hour Of Duty (C5), as officers in Derbyshire fought an endless battle with drugs gangs and petty crime

There was little lovely on show in Police: Hour Of Duty (C5), as officers in Derbyshire fought an endless battle with drugs gangs and petty crime

‘Planets are the canvas on which the stars can create,’ he said. ‘We are sitting in a very real sense inside a giant steam engine powered by the furnace of the sun.’

It’s gibberish, really, but undeniably beautiful to watch. Brian witnessed sunrises over deserts and walked besides bubbling geysers of mud in lava fields.

‘We’ve seen galaxies collide, black holes devouring star systems,’ he gasped, bringing overtones of sci-fi to his gospel. 

Vivid computer graphics painted a spacecraft skimming the surface of the sun, and imagined distant solar landscapes worthy of the covers of prog rock albums.

Father Brian ended with a warning that all life is meaningless and that every one of the trillions of stars will eventually die. 

Strangely, he seemed to find this comforting. What I find comforting is the knowledge that he’s certainly wrong — like every preacher who has ever claimed to possess the one true answer to the universe’s mysteries.

Meanwhile, like the illuminations in a medieval Bible or the frescoes in an Italian Renaissance church, it was lovely to see. 

There was little lovely on show in Police: Hour Of Duty (C5), as officers in Derbyshire fought an endless battle with drugs gangs and petty crime.

One raid on a terraced house in Chesterfield found a wizened junkie and his dog, surrounded by the paraphernalia of heroin dealing. 

Mark, the druggie, didn’t seem even mildly surprised as coppers in riot gear cut their way through his front door with an electric saw. His dog, a Staffie, was more alarmed than he was.

As they led Mark away in cuffs, he shook his head. ‘That’s a brand new door,’ he grumbled.

I suppose his last door got bashed down too. Probably Mark, like Father Brian, finds life a bit meaningless.

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