KILL the Christians (BBC2, Wednesday of last week)
decided that its subject-matter was too stark to benefit from a
watered-down title; and I will accord it the same respect by
eschewing, for once, a generalising scene-setting sentence or two
to open my review.
This was a sober and sobering account of the decimation of
Christianity in its ancient heartland. Jane Corbin's admirable
programme was not a socio-historic-aesthetic lament at the loss of
treasured heritage: it treated the faith and practice of Christians
in Syria facing the deadly onslaught of IS as something entirely
We saw worship in ancient monasteries, churches, and refugee
camps - worship not seen as some quaint survival, but considered as
worthy of respect as pastoral care for refugees and orphans. One
crucial setting was St Matthew's monastery, a pilgrimage centre for
Christians whose liturgy still preserves Jesus's own language,
Aramaic. It lies on the very front line of the fighting; so hardly
any pilgrims dare now to make the ascent. The Muslim Kurdish army
commander whose men are struggling to keep IS at bay spoke of their
determination to protect the Christians - his brothers as he called
them - to rebuild peaceful co-existence.
We were not allowed to forget that the jihadists have murdered
far more fellow-Muslims than Christians; but there is a particular
irony in Western governments' reluctance to name the destruction of
Christianity for the crime against humanity it surely is.
Here, for once, Christian priests, Orthodox and Catholic, were
treated as heroes for their deter-mination to serve and save their
people. For some clergy, the only hope remaining for the survival
of their communities and traditions of worship and belief is to
leave behind their ancient homelands and seek refuge elsewhere.
Nadine, who is 13, and whose intelligence and piety shone out, was
given the last word: a prayer for peace.
We have seen four of the new series of Inside No. 9
(BBC2, Thursdays), Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith's
extraordinary 30-minute black comedies. I think they are even
better than the first bunch - an amazing feat of sustained
imagination, as each inhabits a world completely different from any
of the others'.
The horrific possibilities of a night journey in a Continental
couchette; a spoof Witchfinder Generaldrama; and a humdrum life
told in flashback scenes have each employed contrasting styles and
production genres. Last week's Cold Comfort was a
technical tour de force, where all we saw was footage from
fixed DVD cameras monitoring the working of a Samaritan-like call
There was a main picture, plus three smaller images to the side
of the screen, like a sideways predella in a medieval
altar-painting. The point of this became clear only in the final
moments, as the true ghastliness playing out under the guise of
generous help for neighbours in distress was revealed. We realised
we'd had all the clues throughout, and should have put two and two
This is TV to relish, playing games with us, a grinning skull
mocking and teasing our expectations and preconceptions.