Review By Paul Mount, 4 out of 5 They said it would be controversial. They said there’d be an uproar. They said there’s be questions asked in the Houses of Parliament. Learned clergeymen would be all over the television and in the Press railing against this disgusting, blasphemous so-called drama. But there was nothing. THE SECOND COMING sort of came?rond went with more of a whimper than a bang. It’s a damned shame and yet another condemnation of Britain’s witless, detective saturated television. Viewers have become so desensitised by our clueless schedules than innovative, quality programming is routinely ignored or just plain unwatched. So it has been, yet again, with Russell T. Davies’s remarkable THE SECOND COMING.

Big-eared Steve Baxter (big-eared Christopher Eccleston) works in a video store in Manchester and he goes boozing and clubbing with his best mates, including Judith (Lesley Sharp) who could be more than just a mate if he’d just take off his blinkers. But suddenly Steve is blinded by the light and he wanders off into the wilderness (Saddleworth Moor) for forty days and forty nights and returns to civilisation proclaiming to be the Son of God. But Steve actually is the Son of God and he’s come to sort things out. Or rather, he’s come to challenge Man to find a Third Testament, a template for the future of Man. And if he doesn’t find it? Well, that’d be Judgment Day then?

Russell T. Davies is one of the best writers working on British television today. I still have fond memories of his amusing children’s adventure series from the early 1990s ?DARK SEASON (starring a young Kate ‘I-was-in-TITANIC-you-know) Winslet was a sort of junior DOCTOR WHO ?and whilst some of his subject-matter isn’t to my taste, he knows how to tell a good yarn. His scripts are naturalistic and well-structured and he has the ability to turn a mirror on modern society and forces it to ask a few uncomfortable questions in search of a few uncomfortable truths. Here the very nature of religion comes under the spotlight; what would happen if it was all true, if there really was a God and His son is back, in twenty-first century Manchester of all places, ready to put Man back on the right track? THE SECOND COMING is a strong, powerful piece of work and the ambivalence to it shown by the British public is as breath-taking as THE SECOND COMING is as a piece of modern drama.

Shown over two nights on ITV, the first half of the story is riveting as humanity comes to terms with the return of the son of God. To prove his point, Steve performs a spectacular miracle ?he plunges Manchester City’s ground into daylight in the middle of the night. He then issues his demand to the confused world and sets a chain of events in motion which he’s been through before and which he really can’t stop. Part two is perhaps less impressive. Despite the very palpable sense of doom as Armageddon approached, the pace of the narrative falters a little, there’s some undeniable padding and the ‘some years after’ coda is unnecessary and rather distracting. But despite its relatively few shortcomings, THE SECOND COMING is an important work. Christopher Eccleston yet again proves his mettle as just about the finest working actor in Britain today and Davies favourite Lesley Sharp gives able support as the confused Judith. THE SECOND COMING does what really good drama should do; it’s entertaining, it’s thought-provoking, it’s thrilling. Bear in mind that, at the time of writing, I’ve just read of a new BBC drama series starring Felicity Kendall as a gardening detective. Please treasure productions like THE SECOND COMING because, in the UK at least, they’re few and far between and things will get a lot worse before they even start to get better.

THE DISC: Quite a nice release for a low-key, cheap DVD title. Davies and Shergold provide a warm and informative commentary track and there’s about thirty-seven minutes of deleted scenes and ‘hilarious’ outtakes. Well worth another look.

More to explorer