Cobra: Tea crisis or apocalypse? You decide what’s more disastrous for PM Carlyle

Alastair Mckay

There are disasters and disasters.

You might wonder how disastrous a drama about a centrist Conservative prime minister with a non-committal haircut could be, but even thinking about that wouldn’t be an adequate preparation for the travails which engulf Robert Sutherland (Robert Carlyle) in writer Ben Richards’s near miss.

The concept is bold. There is extreme space weather. The sun has removed its hat, releasing flares. An incoming plasma field will arrive on earth in one of two states. It will have a north or a south orientation. One of these is good, the other less so.

“There will be just 30 minutes where we’ll know if the storm will fuse a few kettles … or send us back to the Stone Age,” someone explains, which is helpful and terrifying. Could Britain cope with a kettle fusion event? Is this really how people will talk when we face oblivion?

Possibly it is, though the bureaucratic Jaws-banter leaves questions unanswered. Yes, the figurative shark is in the water and the water is in the kettle, but why is the killer plasma targeting Britain? Isn’t the rest of the world bothered?

Carlyle plays a PM faced with a crisis

True, other countries are less dependent on kettles, and there is talk of French planes being diverted into British airspace to avoid the apocalypse, but this seems more like the set-up for a joke than an acknowledgment of global vulnerability.

In a terrifying flash of geopolitics, the bumptious home secretary, Archie Glover-Morgan (David Hart), expresses his displeasure at having to assist the French pilots. Why can’t they go to Germany? “You voted to leave the EU, Archie,” the Centrist prime minister reminds the hyphenated fool, “not the human race.”

Victoria Hamilton stars as the PM's chief of staff (Sky)

It’s a thought, isn’t it? A referendum to leave the human race would probably divide the country 52-48, all over again. Thankfully, we’re spared that humiliation thanks to a passenger plane landing on the A1.

The jet breaks neatly in half, allowing a passing policeman to reunite a mother with her crying baby while the rest of the jet burns, and if that isn’t a metaphor for something it must be a simile. No, it’s a metaphor. Because the prime minister’s daughter has been out taking drugs with her university pals, and one of them is in a coma. The PM’s wife is nagging. “A plane has crashed on the A1,” he reasons manfully. “We have a solar storm that could wipe out the power supply. I just don’t have the time.”

What else? Well, the PM is being defended by chief of staff, Anna Marshall (Victoria Hamilton). She has Judy Murray’s hair and a past as a war reporter which is revisiting her. Known as “total b***h Anna Marshall”, she is the kind of cartoon woman you’d want by your side during a plasma tsunami. She’s using her tennis coach charms to recruit a Labour MP into the Tory cabinet, much to the chagrin of the Brexit plane crash faction.

And then there’s science guy Fraser Walker (Richard Dormer) who must save the world while walking his ailing father’s cockapoo.

Cobra is on Sky One, 9pm tonight or available to stream on Now TV

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