COBRA, Sky One (3 stars)

COBRA, Sky One

A tense, nervous head-spinning thriller series with a regrettable blindspot on class

When the prospect of not being able to charge your mobile phone from bed is enough to ruin most people's day, imagine Britain with no power at all. No lights, no computers and, scarier still, no functioning air traffic control. This is the situation which Prime Minister Robert Sutherland finds himself in, a man in charge of a very modern crisis brought about by the unavoidable natural event of a solar storm (a whole new thing to add to your list of contemporary worries).

With four major conurbations suffering a blackout, and only three spare electricity transformers to get things back up and running, Sutherland has a very difficult decision to make: who to keep in the dark. Foolishly, he picks Northumberland, and from there on in he's managing one shitstorm after another as public anger grows while he has to deal with a Home Secretary so right-leaning he's almost out of the frame. Crisis aside, Sutherland has problems at home, with a daughter who accidentally overdoses her best friend.

Robert Carlyle is caustic but kind as Sutherland (a million miles away from Begbie) and Victoria Hamilton is smart and sassy as his Chief of Staff, battling her own personal issues when an old flame pitches up to threaten her marriage. At times, watching COBRA is like simultaneously bingeing on four disaster movies at once, so high is the stress level. For that, writer and creator Ben Richards is to be applauded: he knows how to get us where he wants us.

But there's something discomforting about all the boorish, racist, mob-handed and, at times, self-defeatingly stupid behaviour being attributed to the working classes, while the sensible, level-headed middle classes attempt to sort out their mess. Showing the human kindness that would also follow a crisis could have evened that out.

Episodes watched: 4 of 6

COBRA starts on Sky One, Friday 17 January, 9pm, with all episodes airing on NOW TV.

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