New Worker Banner

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain


Crimes at sea

REVIEW by Ben Soton

Vigil: six-part BBC TV drama series. BBC1, 9pm, Sunday August 29, Monday 30 August, and continuing on Sundays. Also available on BBC iPlayer. Stars: Suranne Jones, Rose Leslie, Shaun Evans, Paterson Joseph and Martin Compston.

UNDERWATER adventure is a genre that’s been around for over 150 years. Jules Verne kicked it off in 1869 with Captain Nemo and his Nautilus in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas and hundreds of books, films and documentaries have followed set in both World Wars, the Cold War, and fantasy and science fiction scenarios.Vigil

BBC1’s latest Sunday night drama, partly set on a nuclear submarine, raises issues over Britain’s so-called independent nuclear deterrent, the Trident nuclear weapons system.

In episode one a sailor, Petty Officer Craig Burke (played by Martin Compston), is found dead and a civilian police officer, Amy Silva (played by Suranne Jones), is sent aboard to investigate. Tension mounts between Silva and senior members of the crew who view her as an interfering outsider. In an earlier scene Burke had raised concerns about the sub’s descent causing the sinking of a fishing trawler.

Back on dry land Silva’s partner, Kirsten Longacre (played by Rose Leslie), discovers that Burke was in a relationship with an anti-nuclear campaigner, opening up possibilities for a conspiracy or cover-up. Meanwhile, events on the sub show that those in charge of this highly dangerous and not to mention expensive piece of kit (according to CND the total cost comes to £205 billion) are not as competent as they should be.

The series is a reminder that Britain has not faced the threat of invasion for 80 years, whilst raising issues around the dangers of this country’s independent nuclear deterrent in the form of the Trident submarine. Firstly, it is not independent but under de-facto US control. Secondly, in terms of deterrent, it is comparable to using a hand grenade to swat a fly. In other words, more of a danger than a deterrent.

After watching this drama, I’m relieved that this country’s risk of invasion is so small – but one might ask the question that if Britain is in any danger at all why does it have so many troops stationed abroad?

As the series continues it transpires that a foreign sub may have been responsible for the sinking of the trailer. In total, six world powers have nuclear submarines: Britain, the USA, France, People’s China and India. Any of these states, with the likely exception of China and India, could have had a submarine in the North Sea at any time. But the opening credits of the drama show footage of the Russian President Vladimir Putin giving viewers the idea that the responsible vessel must have been Russian.

Could this be part of the New Cold War against Russia (and China) with the narrative that Britain is not adequately defended with naval personnel involved with naïve but well-meaning peace campaigners, thus encouraging viewers to support increased defence spending and a further crack-down on dissent and protest?