Intelligence is a British sitcom written by Nick Mohammed, which returned with a cli-fi special for season three. Please note that the following review contains spoilers.
About the cli-fi episode
The show is set in CySec, which is a department of the government’s surveillance centre. The cli-fi episode features newcomer Jennifer Saunders in the role of Joanna Telfer-Fotheringham, who is the British Energy Minister. She’s also sisters with Sylvestra Le Touzel in the role of Christine Cranfield, who is the head of CySec. We learn that the sisters have animosity towards each other and haven’t spoken since their mother’s funeral.
It becomes clear that Telfer-Fotheringham is a fairly unpleasant person, who has no concerns about lying to other politicians and the public. Telfer-Fotheringham is also a climate change denier, who has falsified climate data to mislead an upcoming G7 climate summit. She intends to show that climate change isn’t as serious as it is, and it’s up to the CySec team to foil her plot if they’re to save the world.
Jerry (played by David Schwimmer) and Joseph (played by Nick Mohammed) therefore go undercover as climate scientists at the G7 climate summit, to switch the false climate data for the real climate data, before Telfer-Fotheringham delivers her presentation. Things end up going pear-shaped with the plan and it’s left to Tuva (Gana Bayarsaikhan) to save the day. By switching the data, she lampoons Telfer-Fotheringham who is speaking lies about climate change and telling the audience that there’s nothing to worry about, meanwhile the (real) alarming data is shown in the presentation behind her.
The episode also takes on the rise of AI and the risk it poses to a wide variety of jobs, when it’s mentioned in a meeting that Cranfield is going to lose her job to AI.
This episode seems to have been scripted on the real life challenges that climate scientists and communicators have faced. The fact that a politician is openly denying and lying about the climate crisis is nothing new. As such, Saunders’s character could have been based on a combination of politicians.
We know that fossil fuel companies have funded political campaigns and that there’s a cosy relationship between these entities in several countries. As such, the episode’s reference to Telfer-Fotheringham’s political party receiving donations from energy companies is pertinent to say the least.
It’s an episode which offers the opportunity to reflect on the fact that we’ve had 35 years since Dr James Hansen’s Senate testimony, to get politicians to tell the truth about the climate crisis and act accordingly with the emergency we face.
This sitcom is another great example of how comedy is being used to address the climate crisis, alongside Netflix shows such asThe Pentaverate and Don’t Look Up. These shows also use laughtivism to explore the biggest challenge humanity has faced, in a way that a wide audience can engage with.
It’s also worth pointing out that sitcoms have had success at addressing major global issues in the past. A key example is that of the hole in the ozone layer, which was caused by CFCs. In 1974, the American sitcom All in the Family mentioned the ozone layer crisis and the source of the problem (CFCs). This episode has been credited by some as a major factor in their decline.
I therefore hope sitcom writers, producers and directors create more cli-fi shows, as history has shown us that these types of programs can ultimately change the world.
My new cli-fi children’s picture book is Nanook and the Melting Arctic. Nanook is a caring polar bear who lives in the Arctic. But when his igloo starts melting, Nanook must find a way to save his friends and his home. He knows that the people who can help are also those who’ve caused the problem and he must find a way to convince leaders to act on the climate crisis. You can purchase Nanook from Amazon’s global stores including Amazon UK and Amazon US.