It would usually matter far more that a writer had left crowbar marks on his work, showing where he had levered meaning into place, but Century proved to be an unusual mixture of realistic obliquity and mannered fable, a hybrid which was permissive of such touches. The narrative begins with its feet on the ground - a drama about the tyranny the future can exercise on the present, exposed through the experience of a clever young doctor - but it keeps threatening to lift into the gravity-free realm of a symbolic dream. It is the sort of film in which you encounter hallucinatory scenes: a woman carefully eats marzipan fruit as a man in the salon nearby lectures on eugenics to tea-sipping ladies; two researchers stand in the pouring rain, speculating about diabetes, as brilliant streams of dye from a nearby workshop trickle between their legs.
At the Whiteweather Institute, Paul Reisner meets another man who is eager to hurry our journey into the future, Professor Mandry, a scientific magus who manipulates a team of young male acolytes by playing on their rivalries and ambition. The institute, fantastically located both at the heart of the Victorian city and in rural parkland, appears to be a realm of freedom, a place where sexual and intellectual inhibitions have been released. Paul begins to fall in love with Clara, one of the laboratory assistants and a young woman whose moral assurance is a willed form of anachronism - she has arrived in the late 20th-century decades before her contemporaries. But the liberality of the institute turns out to have malevolent forms; Professor Mandry has been sterilising the local poor - cruelly protecting an idealised future at the expense of an imperfect present. Poliakoff, who has always been interested in ideas of progress and technological change, implies that the same human energy which moves society's clock onwards can easily mangle those who get in its way, that the presumption that one can securely predict the future can easily poison our immediacy. The humane triumph of the drama occurs when Paul finally persuades Clara to surrender her conviction that their relationship will not work. "Say it Clara," he insists, "Say you don't absolutely know it won't work. Say it before midnight." When she does, the future is open again instead of closed, whatever doubts and uncertainties might slip through that opening.
If Century was history as argumentative fantasy, A Royal Scandal (BBC1) offered you history as a funhouse mirror - a familiar image distorted into a comedy of half-recognition. "When I am Princess of Wales I want to be loved by the people," says Caroline of Brunswick, a flighty girl who will have to deal with preferred predecessors, unsympathetic relatives and a husband who does not love her. Before long, the royal couple are competing for public opinion - "I don't want a peaceful life - I won't go quietly," snaps Caroline, after deciding to fight back against the weapons of protocol. Sheree Folkson very wisely presented this collage of history quotations with a formal symmetry - a gavotte of historical record rather than an attempt at dramatic realism. It included a wonderfully caricatured performance from Richard E Grant as the Prince -essentially a succession of disgusted looks, modulated by intoxication, nausea, self- pity and rage - and it conducted itself throughout with a quite delicious courtliness.
Life & Style blogs
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers
Airline food across the classes: Ever wondered what the other half are eating?
Coachella Festival 2015: from Kendall Jenner to Alexa Chung, stars and festival-goers parade their boho best
What do the emoji on Snapchat mean?
Huawei P8 review: best phones nobody's seen from the biggest company nobody's heard
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Driving while dehydrated can be just as dangerous as drink driving, study suggests
- 4 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
- 5 One Direction: Louis Tomlinson launching his own record label, has already 'signed two acts'
£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...
£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...