Top Guns: Inside The RAF
Computers hate us. You can’t blame them — all that intelligence, crammed into a tiny circuit board with nowhere to go, it’s inevitable that their little electronic brains will seethe with resentment.
All they can do to relieve their frustration is make our lives more difficult. That’s why today’s cars, with microchips to control everything from the air conditioning to the indicators, are constantly inventing new ways to break down.
You can’t put a bag on the back seat without triggering the seatbelt sensors, or reverse into a parking space without setting off more alarms than a radioactive leak at Hinkley Point.
The anti-theft siren is programmed to erupt at 3am on every third Monday, and the satnav wrecks your favourite song on the stereo before announcing, ‘In 800 yards, take the fourth left on the second roundabout.’
So you have to feel for Typhoon pilot Buzz, leading an intelligence-gathering flight out of Cyprus and over Syria, in Top Guns: Inside The RAF (Ch4). When the sensors go wrong in a fighter jet, that’s a genuinely scary moment.
You have to feel for Typhoon pilot Buzz, leading an intelligence-gathering flight out of Cyprus and over Syria, in Top Guns: Inside The RAF. When the sensors go wrong in a fighter jet, that’s a genuinely scary moment
The mission started quietly. Refuelling in midair, the pilots had little more to worry about than the contents of their packed lunches. The Coronation chicken was all right, but the mayo in the wraps was a bit sloppy, apparently.
But when they spotted a Russian cargo plane, both fliers lost their appetites. Get too close, and the Russkies might assume they were trying to start World War III.
Then the sensors in the wingman’s cockpit started bleeping, to indicate an incoming missile. Unable to shut off the erroneous alert, the pilots had to make a snap decision — did they assume the worst and eject?
They played it safe and returned to base. Buzz had spent part of the previous day training for a bail-out over enemy territory. He had a pistol and a pocketful of banknotes. That might be all right for a crashlanding somewhere only moderately dangerous, like Glasgow city centre on a Saturday night, but it’s not going to help if you’re stranded on foot in Isis-held territory.
Buzz was a crack shot with his pistol, and behind his shades he looked the part too. He was proud of his name. ‘There’s a lot of famous aviators called Buzz, like Aldrin . . . or Lightyear,’ he said. ‘It’s like Cher, or Adele.’ Well, they’re all one word . . . but what about Biggles? I’m not sure ‘Adele of 266 Squadron’ has the same ring.’
The three selfish siblings in The Inheritance (Ch5) were horrified to discover their dad (Larry Lamb) had been flying his own secret missions, bailing out of marriage to their mum during her last battle against cancer, to go looking for love.
Though there’s nothing original about this domestic drama, it’s fast-moving and packed with enough sub-plots to carry us along in a rush (Pictured: Robert James-Collier in The Inheritance)
Until dad was found dead on the hall floor, boozed up to the eyeballs, his children had no idea he’d remarried. Now they suspect their secret stepmum Susan (Samantha Bond) of murdering him.
Though there’s nothing original about this domestic drama, it’s fast-moving and packed with enough sub-plots to carry us along in a rush. After last week’s opener, I was worried the pace might slacken but, instead, it simply picked up.
The scheming trio — Gaynor Faye, Jemima Rooper and Robert James-Collier — are all so intent on double-crossing each other that it’s starting to look as though Susan might turn out to be the heroine of the tale, not its villain.
But the real scene-stealer is Kevin Whately, as a short-tempered farmer (and Susan’s ex-husband) who greets callers by waving a double-barrelled shotgun. He reminds me of James Bolam at his most cantankerous, and there’s no higher praise.