FROM what perspective does God see us? Many a sermon has played on the contrast between the two divine viewpoints: lawgiving Mount Sinai versus the loving grandstand of the cross — actually, I’ve never heard one, but I’m filing it away for future use — but the less theologically acute presumption is that God looks down from heaven and watches us, scurrying little ants, wrecking his good creation.
The series Earth from Space (BBC1, Wednesdays) convincingly demonstrates that this is yet another area in which astonishing technology enables us to take over a dimension previously reserved as a divine prerogative. If you look at anything from far enough away (consider a scale model of the next ghastly retail complex), it looks rather beautiful: it is when we get close up that we see all the warts and blemishes.
And so it is here: what looks from the ever-circling satellites like glorious abstract patterns are zoomed in on to reveal the miserable tale of deforestation, melting icecaps, and encroaching desert. These images help to monitor the full picture in a way that is impossible from the ground: we see the grand narrative, the overarching story. Unfortunately, just as we achieve this capacity, we realise that what we can now observe is, on the largest possible scale, a hastening tragedy.
Universal tragic themes on a small scale energise Don’t Forget The Driver (BBC2, Tuesdays). Here, racism and immigration are become the stuff of sitcom — a not ineffective way, perhaps, of transforming popular attitudes to these moral scourges.
The great Toby Jones plays a coach driver whose life wryly intersects (although he wishes it didn’t) with illegal immigrants, foreigners facing racist violence, vile prejudice, and the generation gap. His essentially kindly nature is neutered by moral and physical cowardice: he would like to stand up to the playground bully, but finds an excuse to hide behind the bikeshed. The comedy is gentle and understated; the seriousness of the subject-matter provides a surprising depth.
D-Day: The King who fooled Hitler (Channel 4, Sunday) told a new story. At the start of the war, MI5 distrusted the monarch: he was an appeaser who would avoid war at any cost — perhaps even sharing his abdicated brother’s suspicious overfamiliarity with European fascism — so top-secret strategy and documents were withheld from him.
What turned the tide was his absolute refusal, as invasion seemed imminent, to escape to the safety of Canada: he, the Queen, and the young princesses practised with machine guns — they would go down fighting, alongside their people. From then on, he became a crucial player in the elaborate and brilliantly orchestrated charade of double- and triple-bluffing misinformation fed to the Germans, utterly confounding them about when and where the invasion of Europe would take place.