The Ark, BBC1,TV review: Domestic drama missing the heavenly spectacle

This Noah didn't seem like much of a religious fanatic, he seemed like a normal dad

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The Independent Culture

David Threlfall is a less ruggedly handsome Noah than Hollywood's Russell Crowe, perhaps, but he might also be a better one. BBC1's one-off film The Ark opened with Noah sifting dry earth through his hands while contemplating a cloudless sky, just as you'd expect an antediluvian patriarch to do.

He then surprised us all by dive-bombing into the creek, where his four sons were happily shirking the afternoon's agricultural labour, to join them for a splash and swim. This Noah didn't seem like much of a religious fanatic, he seemed like a normal dad.

That's very typical of the way that former EastEnders scripter Tony Jordan writes period characters. In his First World War drama The Passing Bells last year, the cockney colloquialisms of German soldiers were irritating and jarring, but these contemporising touches seemed to work better in the ancient desert.

It definitely helped make The Ark less stiff than the average biblical adaptation. Emmie (Joanne Whalley), for instance, was just as sceptical as any wife would be when her husband came home and announced he was giving up work to devote himself full time to boat-building. But the drama also lost something with this approach.

Apparently, the Beeb's special-effects budget wouldn't stretch to an epic aerial shot of the animals marching in two-by-two (hurrah, hurrah) and the much-anticipated flood, when it finally came, took place almost entirely off-screen. Finding the human truth in biblical stories is important, but not at the expense of some heavenly spectacle.