There is a saving grace, naturally. Chickens are not known for their sense of irony or camp so they would be inclined to take everything in Oktober seriously, from the mountain-top medical research establishment into which Stephen Tompkinson blunders to the telepathy-inducing drug with which he is revived after being accidentally bumped off. Chickens would not cluck sceptically at the ease with which a horny English teacher gains access to what is obviously a highly sensitive conference. They would flutter with gratifyingly uncritical anxiety during the action sequences, in which he does various Bondish things, such as crawling through service ducts and clinging to moving trains.
The story began in Grozny, where a contaminated batch of an experimental drug has reduced ten pilots to a state of connected coma. When one is pricked they all wince. This side-effect works across the species barrier too, so that when Tompkinson is injected with the same drug in a lab full of experimental dogs his thought patterns immediately take on a canine tinge. This sounded inconvenient to me - his flight would presumably be hindered by the overpowering urge to sniff every lamp-post he passes. But then the drug works with convenient selectivity, almost never producing the obvious problems of feedback or transmission clutter. The physical action is scarcely more credible than the chemistry - Tompkinson's character has the same idea of hiding as my four-year-old does. If at least 20 per cent of his body is behind an obstruction and he has his eyes tight shut he appears to believe he is invisible. What's more he's usually right - agitated guards rush blindly past to reveal an anxious face peeking from behind a wall just feet away. Stephen Gallagher, who adapted the script from his own novel, obviously has some larger ambitions here - there are quotations from Christopher Marlowe and Walt Whitman - but his bid for sinister import is not helped by Tompkinson's rather guileless manner, which continually tugs your mind back to gentle comedy. I'm afraid that his attempt to look menacingly deranged, in the manner of Jack Nicholson in The Shining, was one of the funnier moments in a largely laughless week.
"Overkill", Horizon's film (BBC2) about bog bodies, came with a complete set of chic style accessories - clashing cuts, menacing close-ups, flaring whiteouts and jolting, hand-held camera. It became rather tiresome after a while but the allusion to the dislocated manner of popular paranormal serials wasn't entirely inappropriate, because this was a film about the ways in which our appetite for sensational narrative can intersect with science. It began with a sensational story itself - that of a murderer provoked into confession by the discovery of what later turned out to be a two thousand-year-old skull - and then meandered rather enigmatically through various European grave sites, those containing bodies preserved by the peat. These objects are profoundly seductive in themselves - a mute physical immediacy which invites speculation about ritual and blood sacrifice. But the facts may be duller; peat burial can affect carbon dating and scientists are occasionally susceptible to wishful thinking. By the end of Philip Martin's film you weren't quite sure what to believe, which was rather the point. Britain's own Celtic blood sacrifice - Lindow Man - might simply be the victim of a historic mugging, as banal as the 20th century one which led to his discovery. And that skull might have belonged to the murdered woman after all. As climaxes go this was decidedly anti- climactic, but then the truth has no obligation to be glamorous.Reuse content