Playing out like a really long, two-part, public service information film, BBC3’s new drama The Crash begins its run by introducing us to the gang of unsuspecting teens who will eventually succumb to a particularly nasty car accident. This first instalment had the difficult job of introducing us to a group of friends while the prospect of death hung over them like a black cloud, and it’s a credit it to the writers that I found myself genuinely caring by the end.
We have Kate, the good girl off to university, Rachel, her gobby best friend, Lewis, Kate’s boyfriend and the man responsible for the crash, and other assorted friends and family who all congregate when Kate returns from university after three months (why none of the others seem to have been away isn’t explained). She and Lewis are seen getting over-friendly upon her return, but the pleas of friends to head on over to the pub are too strong. Cue a set of circumstances that we must unravel over the next two hours.
After the initial impact and introductions to characters, we flick back to six months earlier when the gang are just finishing school and off to the prom. This is standard teen drama fare, with first heartbreaks and flourishing ambition that we know will soon be a memory, but it’s a 30-minute detour that pays off in the end. The leads may all be young and mostly unknown, but they make you believe in their characters to the extent that, when some of them meet their ends later on, there’s a sense of genuine loss.
Lily Loveless, who has been brilliant in every role she’s done since Skins, was a big draw for me originally, and she, predictably, doesn’t disappoint. Though she’s a background character for most of the flashback action, she is later our main point of contact after the crash. The first to emerge from the wreckage, it might be the case that she was the only member of the cast capable of portraying the confusion, distress and instinct that would come after such an event, but I’m really glad we got to see her in action.
We’re told that the events portrayed are based on a real-world incident so, while the show itself is constructed like a fictionalised drama, knowing this does add a sense of foreboding. The writers carefully showed us the potentially off many characters that later died but, with so many likeable characters milling around, the cliché of a young sportsman cut down in his prime didn’t grate as much as it could have. The body count was quite excessive, actually, and that’s obviously a reality of road accidents that isn’t usually taken up by television.
Why this show exists is a question worth asking, since BBC3 is currently the best in the biz at targeting an exclusively young audience. The trouble is, the stuff going on is far too tame for the Skins crowd, and it might have been better advertised as a ‘parents worst nightmare’ piece than a gritty teen drama. The Crash will prove it’s real worth next week, when we get to see the fallout from the first episode’s disaster and the lives it claimed, so we’ll have to wait and see whether all of this trauma was worth it.
What did you think of the episode? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.