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A disturbing view of the future

Doomsday Preppers (National Geographic, Sat), Doctor Who (BBC1, Sat): It seems the apocalypse just can't get here soon enough for the subjects of Doomsday Preppers, National Geographic's ropey series about "ordinary people taking extraordinary measures to protect themselves".

You got the distinct impression that, were civilisation as we know it to collapse tomorrow, Mike Mester would relish it. Mike, an Atlanta suburbanite whose day job, if he has one, was never specified, is a man on a mission.

"We're preparing for civil unrest caused by global economic collapse," he said solemnly but with a small twinkle of excited anticipation in his eyes. At first sight, much of Mike's preparations seem to consist of storing food -- which, judging by his shape, is something he's had plenty of practice at.

So far he's amassed three rooms of canned goods, which he estimates would be enough to keep him, his wife Lisa and their several children alive for three or four years without them ever having to leave their home.

Since Mike has been squirrelling away food for over a decade -- "The game-changer for me was 9/11," he said -- some of it is already well past its sell-by date. Not that this worries him or his wife Lisa, who proudly displayed jars of homemade meatloaf so old it looks like it's already passed through the human body. "It actually tastes delicious," she said. I'm sure it does, provided your taste runs to botulism.

Mike has also been stocking up on petrol, for the inevitable (in his head, anyway) day when fuel supplies run dry. He keeps 50 gallons in the garage -- enough for him to drive 800 miles. But it seems petrol "goes off" after about three months, which means Mike is constantly replenishing his stash.

The petrol will come in handy if Mike ever has to drive to the rescue of his son, Ryan, who's attending university 250 miles away. But distance is no impediment to the dedicated prepper. Mike regularly Skypes Ryan to make sure he's keeping up to speed on his own preparations for doomsday.

When the other kids in the neighbourhood are playing ball and riding their bikes during the holiday, Mike's children are out collecting leaves which, once they've been composted, can be turned into briquettes.

"My children understand, they see what's going on in the world," said Mike, who believes that when civil unrest kicks off, it will start in the urban centres and spread to the suburbs.

Doomsday Preppers is the kind of series that invites you to mock, but things took a disturbing turn when we got to see Mike's hefty collection of rifles and pistols, which every member of the family has been taught to use during trips to a local shooting gallery.

This, you suspect, and not sitting in a bunker eating rotten canned food by the light of homemade briquettes, is what Mike and others like him are really about.

As documentary-making, Doomsday Preppers is a joke. As a warning against the dangers of unregulated gun ownership, it's deadly serious.

The last episode before the Christmas special of Doctor Who did what no series about an ancient alien in a bow tie travelling the universe in an old police callbox should rightly be able to: it strummed at the heartstrings.

The excellent 'The Angels Take Manhattan', featuring those scary statues that creep up on you when you take your eyes off them running amok in the Big Apple, marked the much-publicised departure of Amy and Rory (Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill).

In another example of writer/showrunner Stephen Moffat's willingness to push the boundaries of early evening television, the pair had no choice but to leap to their deaths from the roof of a skyscraper (don't think too deeply about this, okay!), thereby irreversibly locking themselves into a Doctor-free life in the New York of 1939.

I can imagine many young fans -- and a few older ones, too -- struggling to suppress a tear.



Doomsday Preppers 1/5 Doctor Who 5/5


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