Tune in, switch off - Getting physical

11th December 2009 at 00:00

How is this for a new concept: preventative policing? No, it's not setting up Neighbourhood Watch schemes or putting extra bobbies on the beat. This is about the perfect solution to any crime. You solve it before it happens and then try to change the course of events. Imagine that burglary you might have next Thursday. The good news is that they have caught the perpetrator.

Paradox (BBC One) is a new time shift drama that plays on our credulity about the endless possibilities of technology, based on the premise that images of the future can be downloaded. We can all think of events in the past that we would like to change. With this system, you sort them in advance. Nothing beats good planning.

The programme even has a real physicist consultant who claims that if fourth and third-dimensional space combined, events normally separated would occur simultaneously. I checked this out with an A-level science class, who politely told me where to go on the space-time continuum. The writer, who claims that it is all plausible, is called Lizzie Mickery. And that is what she is taking. Not to mention the fact that it has all been done before in Minority Report.

DI Rebecca Flint (Tamzin Outhwaite) was the detective investigating an explosion that had not happened yet. It would take place in 18 hours. Start the clock ticking and the adrenalin flowing. No chance to snooze either as the flashing red numbers on screen looked just like my alarm clock.

Dr Christian King, world-renowned astrophysicist, was the informer, either a mad terrorist or a future gazer. Despite his name, he rejected all talk of God, claiming mankind to be a planetary aberration. His frisson of flirtation with Flint was as sparky as a meteorite, as he dreamed openly of making delirious love to her. Still, she didn't make an arrest, though I think she would have relished putting him in handcuffs.

He showed her photographs of the devastation, but was it a hoax? It looked like a bomb so Flint had to convince others, including her Scottish slouch of a colleague, to get stuck in. But were they in a police drama or a sci-fi thriller? Was she Dr Watson or Dr Who? If "God created economists to make weather forecasters look good," as one character quipped, these sci-fi detectives must do the same for real police officers.

Like those accidents in Casualty that you can see coming even if you are not a fortune teller, a propane gas tanker trundled along with a sleepy driver whose sat-nav had failed. In this race against the clock, time won. Flint arrived at the scene seconds before the lorry hit a railway bridge, blowing up a stationary train on the tracks above, all as predicted. I will never complain about cows on the line holding up my journey again.

But space-time continuum theory is my new excuse for missing deadlines. If I could sort those time dimensions, I would get twice as much work done. And so would Year 11. Dream on.

Ray Tarleton is principal of South Dartmoor Community College in Ashburton, Devon.

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