Cable’s Arts & Entertainment network continues to provide interesting alternatives. The latest example is “First Born,” a challenging and intriguingly off-center, three-part drama from the BBC airing on consecutive Saturdays and adapted from Maureen Duffy’s futuristic novel, “Gor Saga.”
Tonight’s premiere (at 7, repeating at 11) almost immediately probes the sometimes clashing agendas and interests of science and humankind, laying the foundation for a tale about genetic experimentation that is captivating and intensely disturbing.
British government scientist Edward Forester (Charles Dance) finally achieves his dream, the creation of a “new species--one with man’s intelligence, but without his homicidal aggression.” A female gorilla secretly impregnated with human sperm has given birth to a male hybrid that Forester names Gordon. However, Forester’s decision to spare the human-like infant--whose only outward simian manifestation is thick body hair that soon disappears--will return to haunt him.
In the coming years, Forester will be consumed by his terrible secret and his attempts to hide the truth from his own wife (Julie Peasgood) and from Gordon (Jamie Foster), who grows into a relatively normal teen-ager, unaware that his mother was a gorilla. The tension builds when romance blooms between Gordon and Forester’s daughter.
Although marred by unexplained gaps and a terribly hokey sequence involving kidnaping, blackmail and fiery death, Ted Whitehead’s script is an otherwise gripping, twisting, provocative and ironic exploration of moral and scientific issues. The performances are excellent, Philip Saville directs suspensefully and, all in all, “First Born” is absolutely first-rate.