Masterpiece Contemporary: The Last Enemy

Sun, 10/19/2008 - 9:00pm
Sun, 10/26/2008 - 10:00pm
Sun, 11/02/2008 - 9:00pm
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(left to right) Robert Carlyle as Russell, Anamaria Marinca as Yasim, Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Ezard and Max Beesley as Michael Ezard.

©Box TV/BBC for Masterpiece

A mathematical genius takes a wild ride through the boundless paranoia of a surveillance society in The Last Enemy, a five-part thriller set in England in the not-too-distant future. Scripted by award-winning writer Peter Berry (Prime Suspect 6: The Last Witness), The Last Enemy launches the first season of Masterpiece Contemporary, airing Sundays, October 5-November 2 at 9 p.m on WXXI-TV 21 (cable 11) and WXXI-HD (cable 1011 and DT 21.1).

Biometric ID cards, ubiquitous security cameras and “Total Information Awareness,” a program to give authorities unlimited access to personal data, have turned Britain into a virtual police state. And it turns out that Big Brother has even bigger plans for keeping track of citizens.

Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement, To the Ends of the Earth) plays Stephen Ezard, who returns to London to attend his brother Michael’s funeral after four years of seclusion doing mathematical research in China. Michael (Max Beesley) died in a landmine explosion in Afghanistan, leaving behind a band of devoted friends and fellow relief workers who assemble at his graveside.

He also leaves an enigmatic and beautiful wife, Yasim (Anamaria Marinca, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, & 2 Days), a Bosnian physician who starts an affair with Stephen the night that her husband is laid to rest.

To Stephen’s distress, much more gets started besides. A female refugee dies of a mysterious illness in his apartment. Then her body just as mysteriously disappears. Out of the blue, he is made an offer he can’t refuse by a company called Inquirendo that wants his services for diffusing opposition to TIA — Total Information Awareness. But he does refuse and suddenly receives a visit from his old college girlfriend, Eleanor Brooke (Eva Birthistle, The State Within), now a government minister responsible for getting TIA through Parliament.

When Stephen is kidnapped by rogue agent David Russell (Robert Carlyle, The Full Monty), hell-bent on extracting information about the dead refugee, the bewildered mathematician is presented with this riddle: “How many microbiologists does it take to change a light bulb?” The punch line: “Just one, but you’d better ask quick because they’re dropping like flies.” Russell explains that 16 prominent microbiologists have recently died of unnatural causes. Conspiracy? Terrorism? Cover-up? Stephen must enter the sinister cyberworld of TIA to unravel the clues.

Spurred by heightening surveillance and identity laws in contemporary England, Peter Berry crafted The Last Enemy as a cautionary fable of post-9/11 society, where technological and political trends are converging on a culture that is the antithesis of everything represented by Britain’s ancient charter of individual liberty, Magna Carta.

“There are those that argue that the innocent have nothing to hide,” says Berry, “but soon the innocent are going to have to prove that they are in fact innocent — suspects until proven innocent by the data logged on their ID cards. Ordinary citizens will become the enemy — the last enemy.”

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