If you haven’t discovered The Hour for yourself, now’s the chance. I’m a great believer in free-to-air television but I say without hesitation: if you miss this on the ABC, go buy the DVD.
On the surface, The Hour is a period drama set in the London newsrooms of the BBC during the Cold War era. Television is relatively new and Britain’s public broadcaster is still playing catch-up from the days of the newsreel. In the first episode a handful of journalists realise this new medium could be so much more than another way of announcing actors’ engagements. Plans are laid, management backing sought and before long ‘The Hour’ is launched, the ancestor of all current affairs programs. You would think that the news itself would provide enough action to be going on with – Egypt forcibly nationalizes the Suez Canal! – but the real drama emerges when the stars of The Hour begin to test the boundaries of press freedom.
There’s a bit of home-spun wisdom that regularly ricochets between my script writing self and my researcher wife: “No-one does action like the Americans; no-one does drama like the Brits.” The Hour is a case in point. The characters are multi-faceted and intriguing; the developing plots engaging and unpredictable. As journalist Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw) digs around a story that suggests MI6 is killing off academics, you sincerely believe every episode might be his last – despite the fact he features on the DVD cover of Series Two. But the power of The Hour resides more in the characters’ motivation than the stories themselves.
Will truth prevail?
The Hour’s journalists would have got on well with Shakespeare; both believe in the irrepressible nature of truth. The playwright famously wrote, “Truth will out” for The Merchant Of Venice, a convoluted plot involving all manner of deceptions that demonstrated even the most complex of cover-ups would eventually come to light. The Bible records Moses issuing a similar warning to the tribes of Gad and Reuben who had promised to assist their brothers:
“But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out.”
It’s not just luck when a series of seemingly unconnected events in The Hour reveal to the hero that the bad guy had a previous relationship with the ‘suicide’ victim. Secular drama turns on the certain knowledge that for some reason facts, both good and bad, will one day surface. The Christian knows that ‘reason’ is God. We may read stories that seem to show evil men and women walking away scott-free, but wait a little longer. My experience of only a few decades has shown me that the truth eventually bobs to the surface. Still waiting? Wait longer still with the same confidence. God has promised that He will one day bring to light every dark deed and reward men accordingly – and this should have a profound effect on the way we behave.
The good journalists of The Hour pursue the truth because they believe justice cannot be done without it. Good Christians pursues justice because they know God cares about the truth.
Watching The Hour with your kids
pThe Hour is great fiction to share with older teens who have an interest in mysteries or period drama. Between the episodes, try one of these:
- Why is Freddie so obsessed with getting to the bottom of a story?
- Why do we feel it’s so important that the truth comes to light?
- Who’s keeping tabs on the stories that even Freddie can’t follow – in real life?