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Entry updated 22 June 2020. Tagged: TV.

UK tv series (2008). BBC, Lime Pictures. Directed by Joe Ahearne. Written by Joe Ahearne. Cast includes Luigi Diberti, Siobhan Finneran, Elyes Gabel, David Gyasi, Martin Shaw, John Shrapnel and Rick Warden. Six 60-minute episodes. Colour.

Father Jacob Myers (Shaw) is a London-based priest tasked with investigating the "causes of saints", a Catholic detective responsible for assessing the veracity of miracles. He has been targeted by the forces of evil (see Gods and Demons) for his nascent abilities as an exorcist (see Horror in SF), marked for removal in what is gradually revealed as the opening moves of an oncoming war between Satan and the Catholic church.

Apparitions incisively applies genre tropes to Religion and Eschatology, respectfully treating Catholic Cosmology as a higher truth beyond Psychology and the quotidian world, with which science has yet to catch up (see Pseudoscience). Despite his deeply-held faith, Father Jacob is a professional cynic, happy to write off supposed miracles as mundane mental illnesses or coincidences, but also ready to discount actual miracles as works of Satanic misdirection. Alternately regarded as too traditional and also as too progressive by his various enemies, his story is riddled with delicious Paranoia, particularly in relation to his baleful superior Cardinal Bukovak (Shrapnel), who is ambiguously presented as either a gruff, careerist bureaucrat or a Satanic agent, depending on one's Perception. The ongoing storyline focuses on those issues of Catholic culture that most reflect the impact of Technology and the modern world, including its attitudes towards sex, homosexuality and abortion, its points both of contention and agreement with Islam, and the pitfalls of Prediction. In its frequent return to Church's history regarding the persecution of Jews, it might also be filed as an oblique off-shoot of Holocaust Fiction.

Of particular note is the storyline's extreme embrace of Memory Edit, questioning the jurisdictional ethics of prosecuting a criminal whose crimes were committed under demonic possession (see Crime and Punishment). With the possessor evicted, the victim is rendered technically blameless, although such an interpretation requires a religious faith not shared by law enforcement. The Catholic church is hence a powerful authority in its native Vatican, but little better than a Pariah Elite in much of contemporary England (Liverpool here doubling for London), where the locals are largely agnostic or atheist, and hence turn to exorcism perilously late in their stories.

Conceived as a vehicle for Martin Shaw, who keeps a "consulting producer" credit, and originally drafted by Nick Collins, credited here merely with "idea by", Apparitions was eventually assigned to writer-director Joe Ahearne, who stamped it indelibly with the narrative hallmarks of his earlier Ultraviolet (1998). Apparitions similarly features an episodic drama about seemingly minor crimes and incidents, combining to reveal an apocalypse (see End of the World) looming in a Slingshot Ending. But whereas Ultraviolet was played glumly straight, with Ahearne complaining that any jokes were removed by his producers, Apparitions retains a subtle, sardonic sense of humour, particularly in the weary complaints of Sister Ruth (Finneran), a nun forced to spy upon Father Jacob by his mistrustful superiors, whose doubts about his competence are slowly dispelled throughout the series. [JonC]


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