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‘Noughts + Crosses’ Is An Alternative Oppressive Regime Tale – Review

Noughts + Crosses is a six-part episodic Afro-centric adaptation that flips everything we’ve known about the hierarchical relationship between white and Black people. Considering recent historical atrocities, BBC’s timing for releasing this on-screen version of Malorie Blackman’s novel of the same name is impeccable. I mean, have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in an alternative society where the oppressor was actually the oppressed? 

Noughts + Crosses
(Courtesy of BBC)

In the fictional nation of Albion, the melanated people rule! Hailing from Aprica (pronounced almost exactly like “Africa”) the Crosses are Black colonizers who practice heavy discrimination against their white counterparts, the Noughts. The first season awakens with a Nought street party that is quickly halted upon the arrival of Cross police officers. Nought teenagers, Callum (Jack Rowan) and Jude McGregor (Josh Dylan) along with their mate, Danny (Charles Jones ) are unarmed as they are terrorized by their superiors, and soon after, Danny sustains injuries that further shake racial tensions in Albion. 

Callum McGregor comes in the package of a soft spoken, peacefully liberated Nought. Callum really is the child every mother prays for. He finds great honor in serving the nation of Albion in hopes of proving that the Noughts aren’t barbaric monsters, but instead possess the ability to be noble and contributing members of society. As Callum’s rebellious older brother, Jude has his own aspirations of placing the Noughts on the socio-economic freedom map. This plays out in his choice to join the local Liberation Militia (LM). I’ve always thought it to be an interesting dynamic watching two (or more) siblings grow under the same roof, but somehow they end up following such contrasting paths. 

(Courtesy of BBC)

The militant activists are under the command of Jack Dorn (Shaun Dingwall) a twisted leader, who has *spoiler alert* justified the killing of two Noughts, so his intentions honestly seem clouded to me. In the series, the LM was often referred to as a “terrorist group” – prior to actually committing any crimes. We know that throughout history many minority groups whose sole operations were based on peace were often met with rhetoric that referred to them as extremist groups. Therefore, I appreciated the director’s ability to pay homage to name-calling eras. 

Now, remember when I addressed Callum’s decision to serve in the Albion army? Well, Callum was  only met with support from his mother, Meggie (Helen Baxendale) on this decision. I think I can explain why. You see, I recall watching Muhammad Ali’s speeches after he had been called to serve in the US Army. Mr. Ali refused the induction stating that fighting for a country that would not fight for him was absurd. Therefore, I can understand why Jude and Ryan would think that Callum’s loyalty to the nation of Albion was rather strange.

On top of this, Callum finds himself in an interracial relationship with the wealthy daughter of Albion’s Home Secretary, Sephy (Masali Baduza.) To make matters a bit more uncomfortable, Callum and Sephy were childhood friends and interracial liaisons are banned around the nation. 

(Courtesy of BBC)

An anomaly in her family, Sephy often sides with the Noughts and even aids Callum when his family is met with their sequence of tragedies. Personally, I was living for the discrete moments that directors Koby Adom and Julian Holmes chose to address the severity of the savior complex. Though not entirely Sephy’s fault, as this psychological construct seems to be hereditary. Sephy’s Father, Kamal Hadley (Paterson Joseph) finds his purpose in preserving the Aprican culture. Thus, his sole desire is to move up in the ranks and operate as the nation’s Prime Minister. In the process of doing so he makes many friends…and foes. 

Towards the end of the series, Callum is left to prove his loyalty to either the Noughts or Sephy. I won’t blow any more surprises but I will say something to the lovers in the room, when someone shows you who they are the first time…love yourself enough to walk away. 

(Courtesy of BBC)

That being said, back to our original programming. 

Directors Adom and Holmes cooked up a meaty first season with the exploration of segregation laws, a broadening wealth gap and police brutality. Sounds close to home doesn’t it? Apart from the heavier messages presented, I loved the creation of this Black Utopia and there was a presence of esteem for Ryan Coolger’s 2018 feature film, Black Panther

Shout out to the on-screen adaptation writers Toby Whithouse, Lydia Adetunji, Nathaniel Price and Rachel De-Lahay for incorporating indigenous African languages! I heard Yoruba dialect in the fifth episode and I nearly burst into tears. The representation is phenomenal!

Noughts + Crosses is now available on BBC One! 


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