TV Reviews: Network First (ITV) and When Rover Met BMW (BBC2)

Thomas Sutcliffe
Sunday 23 October 2011 00:26

The SAS bandwagon now being too crowded to admit new passengers, Network First (ITV) found itself clinging to the rear axles with "The Widow, The Terrorist and The SAS", a catchpenny title which did no great disservice to the tone of the succeeding film. It told the story of Barry Davies, an ex-SAS man who helped to storm a hijacked Lufthansa plane in Mogadishu 18 years ago after Palestinian hijackers had murdered the pilot. Three of the terrorists were shot dead within seconds but one survived, a young woman called Souhaila Andrawes who, after serving one year in a Somali jail, was pardoned. She eventually made her way to Norway where she was, at the time of filming, fighting an extradition application by the German government. The film followed Davies in his meetings with Andrawes, one of the hostages and the widow of the dead pilot. Why were these encounters taking place? Because otherwise there wouldn't have been a television programme. They were confrontations arranged for the convenience of the programme makers and, the uncharitable thought occurred, to boost the sales of Barry's book.

This may be a little unfair. Davies himself seemed less interested in the bang-bang aspects of the story than the touchy-feely elements. "I do feel that being in the SAS suppresses feelings that you would usually have," he noted at one point, suggesting that it may not be long before the SAS Therapy Handbook makes it into the bookshops (working title - Pull your bleeding socks up!) It is possible that his diligent pursuit of other participants was self-interested only in the more benign sense - he was looking for personal not financial growth. The meeting between the unrepentant terrorist and the widow, however, arranged here as a last act cliff-hanger, was pure emotional artifice - a mixing of volatile chemicals to see if they might explode.

The results of the experiment were less than spectacular. "They discover that time does not cure all ills nor resolve the moral contradictions," announced the voice-over towards the end, an unremarkable apercu that was hardly worth the wait. Barry still seemed to think there was some complexity here, though by now it had become clear that a training in the accurate delivery of stun grenades isn't the best preparation for the subtleties of moral philosophy. "If anybody ever did anything like that to my children I would track them down and kill them," he said bluntly, after listening to a hostage's account of the terror the passengers had been put through. He seemed to have conveniently forgotten, for the moment at least, that he was actively helping to thwart a far milder form of retribution.

If you felt any doubts yourself about the wisdom of exacting justice 18 years on, of separating a crippled woman from her 10-year-old daughter, they were pretty much resolved by the unappealing sight of Souhaila Andrawes preaching the virtues of forgiveness to the murdered captain's widow. Before this awkward encounter Frau Schumann had been surprisingly unvindictive - doubtful that any practical purpose would be served by extradition. After it, though, she wanted some legal conclusion to the story. That change of mind was understandable. Andrawes' failure of moral tact in that meeting - the absence of any sense that she wasn't in a position to make demands - demonstrated an unbroken continuity with the self-absolving violence of the young hijacker. Because she had comprehensively forgiven herself, you felt that any additional mercy you might bring to the scene would simply be redundant.

When Rover Met BMW (BBC2) hasn't always been the easiest watch - struggling against the flow of most people's prejudices about the seductive thrills of manufacturing industry. But the series has consistently rewarded the patient viewer, offering a sharp and revealing take on business psychology. For connoisseurs of the cult of upper management, that strange world of superstitious invocations ("synergy, hallowed be thy name") and regular blood sacrifice ("the CEO is dead, long live the CEO!") last night's concluding episode was a treat.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments