Noah's Ark television review
by David Aaronovitch
14 September 1997
... When ITV companies approach the ITV network controller with
a proposal for a new drama series starring a vet, "No!"
he or she should scream, "Go away! I do not want yet another
show with tinkly piano and wistful clarinet; with opening titles
of sheep a-grazing, Land Rovers a-cornering and smiley empathetic
doctors a-grinning. And I particularly don't want one about a father-and-son
relationship, showing how they find each other through crisis and
then hug. Spare me scenes of clever cats, wounded badgers and delivering
foals in the old barn. If I ever witness another craggy farmer on
the verge of tears, or another nubile vet's assistant give the unmarried
doc the admiring once-over in the middle of a hamster's appendectomy,
I shall spew. So please, please, please fuck off!"
But they didn't say that, and so this week we got Noah's Ark
(ITV, Mon). The writer, Johnny Byrne, has also written Heartbeat
and All Creatures Great and Small and was clearly told this
time to produce something less intellectually demanding, less complex,
less dark. And he has succeeded, for compared with Noah's
Ark Heartbeat is positively Strindbergian. In
fact nothing on earth is less complex than Noah's Ark. There
are transparent, monocellular organisms in the depths of the ocean
that hold more surprises, more secrets, than this vapid new drama.
For one scene, however, I will always remember it with affection.
It was when inevitably father and son were taking
it in turns to stick their arms up to the shoulders in a mare's
fanny. Two main shots of the two opposed ends of the horse
were used during this sequence. The first was of the lachrymose
owner holding the horse's bridle, and comforting a seemingly unworried
and calm gee-gee. The other was a shot of the horse's flank, with
the vet at the far end, his head leaning against his equine patient's
substantial derriere, grimacing as (presumably) his hand encountered
slimy entanglements deep, deep inside.
But if the head of the horse was pretty still, its rear was completely
inert. It didn't move at all, not even to breathe. Now, horses are
not exactly like us they are more stoical but even
so, imagine for a moment that some burly chap has his arm halfway
up one of your (unanaesthetised) passages, and is pulling and pushing
with all his strength. Would you not at the very least
allow yourself a little shiver? A shuffle from leg to leg, perhaps?
No, you have anticipated me the answer is: not if you were
stuffed, you wouldn't.